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Forcepoint LLC
Formerly called
Websense, Raytheon|Websense
Joint Venture[1]
Industry Information security
Founded 1994
Headquarters Austin, Texas
Key people
Matthew Moynahan, CEO
$328 million (2015)[2]
Parent Raytheon

Forcepoint, previously known as Websense and Raytheon|Websense, is an Austin-based company owned by US defense contractor Raytheon, in a joint venture with private equity firm Vista Equity Partners,[3] specializing in computer security software.[4] It offers businesses and government institutions services for content security[disambiguation needed], data protection, cloud security, network security, analytics, webfiltering, and cross domain access and transfer to protect organization's networks from cybercrime, malware, and data theft, as well as prevent users from viewing sexual or other inappropriate content and discourage employees from browsing non-business-related websites.[5] Forcepoint uses a combination of classification engines, filtering categories, data fingerprints, and word filters selected by customers.


Forcepoint was founded by Phil Trubey in 1994, and went public in the year 2000.[6] Forcepoint offers security services.[7]

In October 2011 Facebook began working with Forcepoint to assist Facebook in filtering links to malicious websites and malware sites.[8]

On May 20, 2013, Forcepoint was acquired by Vista Equity Partners and taken private for $24.75 per share,[9] for a total purchase price of US$906M.[10] With the closing of the transaction, Forcepoint was no longer a publicly traded company, and its stock was delisted from NASDAQ. The company's main operations moved from San Diego, California to Austin, Texas.

On April 20, 2015, defense contractor Raytheon and Vista Equity Partners entered an agreement to form a new cybersecurity company, combining Raytheon Cyber Products with Websense, Inc. Raytheon had an 80.3% stake, with Vista Partners LLC holding the remaining 19.7%.[11] The Wall Street Journal reported the purchase, commenting that Raytheon was betting it could use its military cybersecurity skills to sell to banks and retailers where other defense peers have struggled to profit. Websense was to form the core of the joint venture with forecast sales of $500 million for 2015 and margins of around 20%.[12]

In January 2016 it was announced that Raytheon|Websense was renamed Forcepoint.[13]

Security software[edit]

Forcepoint may be implemented as a software application, computer appliance or cloud-based service operating at the transport layer as a transparent proxy, or at the application layer as a web proxy.[14] In each scenario, the effect is that it can inspect network traffic to or from the internet for a targeted group of people.

Forcepoint allows system administrators to block access to websites and other protocols based on categories.[15] These contain lists of sites that may be blocked at will, either at specified times or permanently.[16]

As of 2010, Forcepoint was used by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.[17]

Among other things, the software tracks individual internet usage to collect and report on any browsing behaviors that deviate from the standards set by the library, government or other employer, and its reports can be data drilled by "risk class, category, URL, application, user, workstation, dates, and more."[18]

Forcepoint maintains R&D facilities in San Diego and Los Gatos, CA; Reading, England; Sydney, Australia; Raanana, Israel; and Beijing, China. The company reported 500 R&D employees in 2012.[19]

Blocking errors[edit]

A comparative study in 2002, looked at how blocking pornography websites affected the search of legitimate health-related information. When configured at the least-restrictive settings (only blocking sites in the category of pornography), all blocking software blocked the least number of health-related sites, and blocked most of the pornography. As more restrictive settings were tested, the health-related searches were considerably impeded, while the efficiency of blocking pornographic websites increased only marginally. Forcepoint had similar results with the other programs.[20]

In a 2005 report the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union called Forcepoint a deeply flawed technology.[21] It further notes that, although the blocking technology has improved over the years since 2002, it still remains a "blunt instrument" and that in public libraries equipped with Forcepoint people of all ages "are still denied access to a wide range of legitimate material." [21]

A 2006 report by Brennan Center for Justice says that web filtering programs used in schools were error-prone. For Forcepoint it discovered that a page discussing pornographic content had been blocked despite not containing any pornography, and a whole website had been blocked because one of its pages had sexual content.[22]

In 2007 Norman Finkelstein[23] and Noam Chomsky[citation needed]'s websites were blocked by network administrators blocking the 'racism/hate speech' category for approximately 24 hours until Finkelstein complained.

A 2008 study on the use of Forcepoint within the Technical Colleges of Georgia found that only two categories were blocked in all of the colleges surveyed, and that 39 categories out of the 43 listed were blocked by some, but not all, colleges, with numbers ranging from two colleges blocking a given category to 23 out of the 24 respondents.[24] The software offers clients an optional continue button which permits users to access an otherwise blocked category if it is work related.[16]

For approximately 24 hours in 2009, Forcepoint classified router company Cisco's website under 'hack sites'.[25] Forcepoint has a submission form on the website to report mistaken categorization, although it is only available with an account.[26]

In 2011 it was reported by a blogger that Forcepoint would block pages that contained pornographic links anywhere in its content, even in the comments section; "a malicious attacker could get your whole site blocked at any time by the simple procedure of leaving dangerous, malicious or pornographic links in a blog's comments".[27]

The blocking categories can contain errors, and can be used, accidentally or on purpose, to prevent people from seeing legitimate content. For example, Forcepoint categories include: "Professional and Worker Organizations", "Social and Affiliation Organizations", "Political Organizations", "Advocacy Groups", "Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest", "Sex education", "Traditional Religions" and "Non-traditional Religions and Occult and Folklore".[28] In response to a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union in 2011 (part of their "Don't Filter Me" project), Forcepoint clarified its definition of the "Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest" category, after it became apparent that some administrators mistakenly believed that this category had to be enabled to ensure that sexually explicit websites were blocked in schools.[29]

Usage by governments[edit]

The ability of public libraries, governments or other employers to block content based on ideology has proved controversial due to the subjects being blocked are controlled by an organization or even a single individual. The blocking of sites can exceed that which is required by bodies responsible for the oversight of these institutions, and, in the case of educational institutions, criticism has been leveled at the decision making process.[24]

Due to these problems, a report issued in 2002 referred to Forcepoint as "censorware,"[30] although Bolo Bhi[who?] did not concur in 2012.[31]

In 2004 Amnesty International listed Forcepoint as one of several foreign companies that had reportedly provided technology that was used to censor and control the use of the Internet in China.[32]

The OpenNet Initiative reported in 2004 that Forcepoint technology was used by the government in Yemen to enforce censorship of the Internet.[33]

In 2008 it was denounced again by the Yemen Times.[34] The company has a policy of not doing business with governments that force censorship of the Internet or oppress rights. The only exceptions are for preventing minors from watching adult content and for child pornography.[35] In 2009 Forcepoint issued a statement that it was discontinuing the database downloads to the Yemeni ISP, due to the violation of its stated policy,[36][37] but reporters from ONI infer that Forcepoint software was still being used by Yemen's ISP, YemenNet, to censor Internet access as late as August 2010.[38] Forcepoint was finally discontinued in Yemen sometime around January 2011 [38] and apparently it is no longer being used in any Middle East or North Africa country.[27]

On November 1, 2011, Forcepoint General Counsel, Michael Newman, released a public letter to "challenge all other American technology vendors to join us in prohibiting repressive regimes from using American technology to prevent open communications."[39] The letter's call for action included, "If you are an executive at a security company that makes software that can be used to censor Internet activity in repressive regimes, we ask that you support the right course of action and stop selling repressive tools to oppressive regimes."[39] The company joined the Global Network Initiative the same year.[40]

In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted, "Websense [Forcepoint] is pointing the technology sector in the direction of promoting freedom; BlueCoat represents the aiding oppressors. The choice for other tech companies is clear, and kudos to Websense for leading the way."[41] In March 2012, the EFF also praised Websense for denouncing Pakistan's censorship plans.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Raytheon Reports Solid Fourth Quarter and Full-Year 2015 Results (press release)". PR Newswire. January 28, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Nidhi Subbaraman, Websense Plugs Data Leaks, Plays Malware Guard On Mobiles For The Office= Fast Company 
  5. ^ Ken Presti, Websense Updates Malware, Data Theft Defenses = CRN 
  6. ^ "He's All Business On the Internet, Phil Trubey Unveils His Latest Venture Even Though He Could Retire Today". San Diego Business Journal. 2000-12-11. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  7. ^ Orans, Lawrence; Firstbrook, Peter (25 May 2011). (PDF) (Report). Gartner via McAfee Retrieved 27 March 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Sarah Perez (3 October 2011). "Facebook Partners With Websense To Protect Users From Malicious Sites And Malware". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Websense Signs Definitive Agreement to be Acquired by Vista Equity Partners". 20 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Jolie O'Dell (20 May 2013). "Websense, publicly traded since 2000, goes private in $906M buyout". Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Raytheon and Vista Equity Partners enter agreement to form new cybersecurity company (Press release)". Forcepoint. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  12. ^ "Raytheon to Plow $1.7 Billion Into New Cyber Venture". 2015-04-19. (subscription required (help)).  Alternative source for WSJ article
  13. ^ "Raytheon-Websense is Now Forcepoint". Forcepoint. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "Explicit and Transparent Proxy Deployments". Websense. 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  15. ^ "URL Categories". Websense. 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  16. ^ a b "The Websense Master Database". Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  17. ^ "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services". 11 February 2010. 
  18. ^ Websense: reporting tools.
  19. ^ Michael A. Newman, Chief Financial Officer (2012-12-31). "UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, FORM 10-K, Websense". 
  20. ^ Richardson, Caroline R.; Resnick, Paul J.; Hansen, Derek L.; Derry, Holly A.; Rideout, Victoria J. (2002). "Does Pornography-Blocking Software Block Access to Health Information on the Internet". Journal of the American Medical Association. 288 (22): 2887–2894. doi:10.1001/jama.288.22.2887. 
  21. ^ a b The Rhode Island affiliate; American Civil Liberties Union (April 2005). "R.I. ACLU releases report on "troubling" internet censorship in public libraries". Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. 
    * full report.
  22. ^ Marjorie Heins; Christina Cho; Ariel Feldman (2006), Internet filters: a public policy report (PDF), Brennan Center for Justice, pp. 38–39  intro
  23. ^ Websense filtering out this site, official website of Norman Finkelstein, "Reader letters: reply from Websense stating that has been reviewed and now categorized as 'News and Media'"
  24. ^ a b Stanley, Carol; Jerry, Stovall (2008). "The Blocked Blog (or Websense and the Technical Colleges' Fight for Academic Freedom)". Georgia Library Quarterly. 45 (1). Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  25. ^ John Leyden (2009-03-20). "Websense mistakes for hack site". The Register. 
  26. ^ "Tools and Policies". Websense. Retrieved February 19, 2012. 
  27. ^ a b West Censoring East: Or Why Websense Thinks My Blog is Pornography, Jilian C. York (coauthor of the 2010-2011 ONI report), March 28, 2011 "I will say that Yemen has stopped using [Forcepoint] and we're not aware of any other countries–at least in the Middle East and North Africa–that use the software."
  28. ^ "West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011y". OpenNet Initiative. March 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-28. 
  29. ^ "Don't Filter Me!" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  30. ^ Peacefire WebSENSE Examined
  31. ^ Sana Saleem (2012-03-02). "Thank You Websense, From Pakistan" (Press release). Bolo Bhi. 
  32. ^ China: Controls tighten as Internet activism grows "Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, Websense and Sun Microsystems", citing Amnesty International: People's Republic of China: State Control of the Internet in China, ASA, 17/007/2002, November 2002.
  33. ^ Internet Filtering in Yemen in 2004–2005: A Country Study. OpenNet Initiative.
  34. ^ Jane Novak (6–9 March 2008). "Internet censorship in Yemen". Yemen Times (1135 (volume 8)). The government ISP automatically denies Internet requests from Yemeni users by using Forcepoint and Antlabs to filter Internet content. Forcepoint enables the government to block websites by category and to define specific Internet sites to block 
  35. ^ "Websense Issues Statement on Use of its URL Filtering Technology by ISPs in Yemen", Official blog, Websense, August 17, 2009 
  36. ^ Mike Newman (20 August 2009), "Websense Sets the Record Straight on its Anti-Censorship Policy", Official blog, Websense 
  37. ^ a b West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011 , March 2011, Helmi Noman and Jillian C. York. "From this we may infer, but not definitively establish, that Forcepoint categorizations were still being received and updated in Yemen as of August 2010."
  38. ^ a b Newman, Michael (2011-11-01). "Websense Statement on Improper Use of Technology for Suppression of Rights and in Violation of Trade Sanctions". Websense. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  39. ^ a b Jillian C York. "Filtering Software Companies Should Follow Websense's Lead". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  40. ^ Sutton, Maira; Timm, Trevor (2011-11-07). "This Week in Internet Censorship Egypt Imprisons Alaa, Other Pro-democracy Bloggers". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering, Ronald Deibert, John G. Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski, Jonathan Zittrain, MIT Press, 2008. ISBN 0-262-54196-3, ISBN 978-0-262-54196-1

External links[edit]