It's pretty clear that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) needs help. The company has grappled with a barrage of controversies around data privacy and security over the past two years, creating widespread backlash from politicians, government agencies around the world, and most importantly, users. While one measure that would help is if CEO Mark Zuckerberg resigned as chairman in order to empower the board to perform its oversight responsibilities, the likelihood of that happening is remote.
Instead, the social networking giant is shopping around for a splashy cybersecurity acquisition to strengthen its security operations.
Facebook has never made a specialized cybersecurity acquisition
The Information (subscription required) reported over the weekend that Facebook is interested in scooping up a cybersecurity company, which would not only improve security but also ideally send a powerful message that it is taking it more seriously. It's been just a month since the company disclosed a major security breach that compromised the personal information of 30 million users.
Facebook has already approached several unnamed cybersecurity companies to discuss a potential deal, and believes that it might close an acquisition by year's end, according to the report. Some cybersecurity stocks -- like FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, and Fortinet -- are rising today, possibly in response to the news. Facebook had previously credited FireEye with helping identify malicious actors on its platform in August when it removed hundreds of related Pages, groups, and accounts.
Despite a long list of acquisitions throughout the social giant's history, none have explicitly focused on beefing up cybersecurity. The closest purchase was Confirm.io earlier this year, a start-up that was developing biometric identification technology that could be used to verify and authenticate a person's official government-issued identification. But even that deal was only tangentially related to security; Facebook definitely needs something more specialized to secure its platform of over 2.2 billion users.
And it needs to
Anything that will improve Facebook's security is a good thing, and the company has deep enough pockets that it can consider relatively larger deals. Facebook had $42.3 billion in cash at the end of the second quarter ($14 billion of which is held overseas), but the company also likes to use stock as currency for acquisitions.
People have trust issues with Facebook, and any acquisition that helps the company regain trust among consumers by meaningfully improving security will be well worth the price tag. That's especially true when you consider how much Facebook spent on acquisitions like WhatsApp, which cost a whopping $22 billion and still has yet to justify that price. Facebook continues to say it takes security seriously. Now it needs to show investors it means it with tangible action.