This sector could have a half million job openings and opportunities for older workers


Although the coronavirus continues to rattle global markets and industries, some analysts expect to see greater demand for advanced manufacturing talent in the U.S. as the pandemic diminishes. That could create opportunities for older men and women, including white-collar professionals struggling to find jobs.

Before COVID-19, there were 500,000 manufacturing jobs open in the U.S., according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “We’re going to have a need very quickly to ramp up on hiring in those facilities that may have been shut down during the crisis or that need to expand operations,” said NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons in a recent press conference.


“The fact that one can get a certificate in about nine months and totally re-career into a nearly guaranteed job is an incredible opportunity for an older worker.”


— Nora Duncan, Connecticut state director of AARP

As manufacturers frantically try to keep up again with demand for essentials and lifesaving PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for health care workers as cases rise across the country, their innovation and high-tech problem-solving could help dispel misconceptions that all manufacturing jobs are dirty and physically demanding, said Sara Tracey, project manager of workforce services for the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association in Akron, Ohio.

Manufacturing jobs and what they pay

Entry-level manufacturing jobs in industries such as aerospace, technology and defense include CNC operators, set-up technicians and programmers, as well as inspectors, higher-end assembly technicians and quality assurance.

The pay typically ranges between $35,000 and $65,000, including overtime and benefits, said Richard DuPont, director of community and campus relations for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Conn. More experienced professionals can earn upward of $95,000.

80% of older Americans can’t afford to retire – COVID-19 isn’t helping

In Ohio, manufacturers have been training and moving some workers into higher positions so the companies can hire and train new candidates for vacated ones, Tracey noted. Resources such as the Making Ohio website let people explore careers in manufacturing, including robotics, automation and 3-D printing.

Industrial maintenance is an important career pathway these days, as well, Tracey said. This sector is expecting more retirements in the near future, which will create jobs from “traditional machine mechanics to troubleshooting state-of-the-art electronic or robotic processes,” Tracey noted.

Also see: Cannabis, whiskey, and mobile bike repair: These entrepreneurs are thriving in the pandemic

Connecticut, among other states, now offers training programs with community colleges, state manufacturers and other organizations.

From banking to precision tools

This kind of training helped Allison Clemens-Roberts, who is over 50, find work after losing her clerical job in the pensions department of a Connecticut bank in 2017. A severance package gave her time to look for work, but she couldn’t find even temporary employment. She blames age discrimination by white-collar employers.

“There’s no way to hide how old you are. They can ask when you graduated from school,” Clemens-Roberts said.

But while she was out of work, Clemens-Roberts received a postcard from AARP offering a 25% tuition scholarship on advanced manufacturing programs at Goodwin University, a career-focused school in East Hartford, Conn.

She wasn’t interested until her husband Frank saw a TV commercial touting the benefits of Goodwin’s manufacturing and other programs.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you think about changing careers?’” Clemens-Roberts recalled.

So, with several months left on her severance, she enrolled in a full-time, six-month CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machining, Metrology and Manufacturing Technology certification program. It would prepare her for a job working with automated machine tools which requires mathematical skills, attention to detail and critical thinking.

SectorWatch: 80% of older Americans can’t afford to retire – COVID-19 isn’t helping

Scholarships cut Clemens-Roberts’ tuition bill from $7,000 to $3,200. After a two-month paid internship at TOMZ, a manufacturer of precision components for major medical devices in Berlin, Conn., she was hired in April 2019. Six months later, TOMZ reimbursed Clemens-Roberts $1,500 for her education tab.

Clemens-Roberts said her family is now in a better financial position than when she was working in a bank, living paycheck-to-paycheck. Considered an essential worker, she has kept her full-time job through the pandemic, except for three days in March.

“I never thought I would go to college and participate in a graduation — in cap and gown,” Clemens-Roberts said. “That was a big surprise. And [actor] Danny Glover was the speaker. A bucket-list experience.”

There’s “obviously age discrimination, among other things, at play” for job seekers over 50, said Nora Duncan, Connecticut state director of AARP. “The fact that one can get a certificate in about nine months and totally re-career into a nearly guaranteed job is an incredible opportunity for an older worker.”

While AARP helped Clemens-Roberts pay for the tuition initially, the internship helped her get hired as a machine operator.

Older and younger manufacturing workers helping each other

The search for skilled manufacturing labor across the country is creating opportunities for workers of all ages, said DuPont. And older and younger generations working together are assisting each other.

The older students help younger classmates with life skills, while younger students can help with technology,” said DuPont. “Together, they make excellent teams.”

Don’t miss: How will the robots see you through the pandemic?

Just ask Fernando Vega, 62, who is now a quality inspector at Forrest Machine, in Berlin, Conn. It makes precision-machined parts and other components for the aerospace and commercial industries. In the 1990s, he was a quality inspector before recessions and outsourcing forced him to consider other careers.

He tried working for a nonprofit and though Vega found the work rewarding, it wasn’t financially sustainable.

So, Vega went back to school in spring 2018 to study advanced manufacturing at Goodwin.

“I was in a class of 18, and at first everyone kept to themselves. But when it came time to read blueprints, there was some panic and I said, ‘Don’t panic, I’ll show you.’ The [younger] students helped me with trigonometry, and then we started to work together.”

Vega has worked at his manufacturing job throughout the pandemic. At one point, he was putting in 50 hours a week, but that was reduced to 40 hours plus overtime.

Vega recalled promising his mother that he would go to college. “But that was a long time ago,” he said. His mother never got to see him graduate but Vega feels he’s fulfilled his promise — not only to her, but also to himself. “I love my job,” he said.



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These 2 stocks will profit from transformative tech trends


The information technology sector has soared this year as the stock market has recovered from the doldrums of March, aided by massive government and central-bank stimulus. But the long-term cloud technology trend that has fed so much success for the largest tech companies can no longer be considered new and transformative.

Gerry Frigon, the chief investment officer at Taylor Frigon Capital Management, pointed to distributed computing as a critically important area for investors to think about. Another trend is probably already on your mind: the boom in working from home and the communication systems that make it possible.

He has two stock picks that he believes will capitalize on these trends: Tower Semiconductor
US:TSEM
and AudioCodes
US:AUDC.

Taylor Frigon Capital Management, based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., has about $280 million in assets under management. The firm’s Core Growth Strategy has performed very well against the broad market, as you can see below. The strategy focuses on finding innovative companies with excellent growth prospects that are “not yet well-recognized or fully valued.” Technology stocks made up 54% of the portfolio as of June 30, and five of the 10 largest holdings had market capitalizations of less than $5 billion.

Distributed computing, or the mobile edge cloud

The traditional cloud model of having computing done on a server run by Alphabet
US:GOOG
US:GOOGL
unit Google, Amazon.com
US:AMZN
or Microsoft
US:MSFT
won’t work quickly enough for the new array of hands-free devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and automated vehicles, Frigon said during an interview.

He also said that the development of 5G networks is really about “the movement of the cloud to the edge.”

”The paradigm of the past 15 years will start to break down,” he said, citing George Guilder, the author of the book “Life after Google.”

With every automated vehicle becoming a mobile cloud, computing speed will be critical.

“The laws of physics limit what can be done at a distance because of latency problems — the speed of light,” Frigon said. Automated cars provide a perfect example of the need for distributed computing: “If a deer runs in front of your car, the processing has to be done instantaneously, or close to it. You don’t have time to go into the cloud to a Google data center.”

The same holds true for automated manufacturing.

Frigon named Tower Semiconductor as an example of a stock held within accounts that follows Taylor Frigon’s Core Growth Strategy. The Israeli-based company has a market capitalization of $2.4 billion and trades on the Nasdaq exchange.

Tower Semiconductor specializes in analog microchips, which can translate binary data (the ones and zeros processed by digital chips) into wave forms (including language) that people can understand. Frigon said the stock is a diversified way to play the mobile edge cloud trend.

Four of the five sell-side analysts covering Tower Semiconductor rate the shares a buy or the equivalent, with a consensus price target of $25.03, according to FactSet. That implies 14% upside potential over the next 12 months, based on the closing price of $22.01 on July 21. Analysts expect the company’s sales this year to increase only 3% from 2019, but for 2021, they expect sales to rise by 8%. The company earned a dollar a share in 2019. Analysts expect earnings per share to increase to $1.03 in 2020 and to shoot up to $1.49 in 2021.

Work and communicate at home

It’s understandable if you think first of Zoom Video Communications
US:ZM
as the play for this trend. After all the stock has risen 314% this year, and sales during its fiscal first quarter ended April 30 were up 169% from a year earlier.

But Frigon suggests AudioCodes. The company provides equipment and services used in voice and video communications over the internet, and counts Zoom Video Communications and Microsoft among its customers. It, too, is based in Israel, is traded on Nasdaq and has a market cap of $1.2 billion.

The company hasn’t yet reported its second-quarter results. For the first quarter, sales were up 12% from a year earlier.

Frigon said he had been holding AudioCodes shares for some time before the COVID-19 crisis because he thought remote working would be a growing trend. “Now it’s on steroids,” he said, adding that AudioCodes’ shares are still “reasonably priced.”

Four Wall Street analysts cover AudioCodes, according to FactSet, with three “buy” ratings and a consensus price target of $41.50 — 6% above the closing price of $39.01 on July 21. Analysts expect a 9% increase in sales this year, followed by a 10% increase in 2021. EPS are expected to increase from 89 cents in 2019 to $1.05 this year and $1.28 in 2021.

Revisiting two stock picks from 2019

Back in February 2019, Frigon named Nvidia
US:NVDA
and QuickLogic as good long-term investments in the semiconductor sector. Here’s how the two stocks have performed since that article was published:


FactSet

That’s an incredible disparity.

Nvidia has been tremendously successful, and Frigon believes the company will remain a key player as much of the mobile cloud will be “driven by its technology.” He also pointed to its market value in excess of $250 billion — unusually large for the firm’s Core Growth Strategy. “To say we still own it gives you some idea of how highly we think of Nvidia,” he said.

Analysts still love Nvidia, with 31 out of 40 rating the shares a “buy.” However, the consensus price target of $406.82 is below the closing price of $413.14 at the close on July 21. The analysts expect Nvidia’s sales to increase by 34% this fiscal year (which ends in January 2021), followed by a 17% increase in the following fiscal year. Per-share earnings are expected to increase from $5.79 last fiscal year to $8.17 in the fiscal year and $9.86 in the following fiscal year.

Frigon called QuikLogic “a real hard-luck story,” because its suppliers in China were affected by the trade disagreement with the U.S. and hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company said it completed an $8.1 million offering of common shares on July 21. Its market capitalization is now only $37 million, but Frigon believes the company is still “right in the sweet spot with respect to what is happening with IoT and low power, high efficiency chips that make possible hands-free and voice-enabled devices.”

“We are very patient with our companies, as long as we think the are on the right side of the paradigm shift. For us to wait years for things to happen is not necessarily a problem. It is one of the reasons we have been able to do what we do.”

Two out of three analysts polled by FactSet agree with Frigon, with “buy” ratings and a consensus price target of $6.17, pointing to 75% upside potential from the closing price of $3.52 on July 21. Sales are expected to increase 23% this year, followed by an expected 80% increase in 2021. The company lost $1.60 a share last year. For 2020, the analysts expect a loss of 79 cents a share, followed by a loss of 1 cent a share in 2021.

Biggest holdings

Here are the 10 largest holdings (out of 47) in accounts following the Taylor Frigon Core Growth Strategy, as of June 30:

Company

Ticker

Industry

% of portfolio

Total return – 2020 through July 21

Vapotherm Inc.

US:VAPO Medical Specialties

5.1%

294%

Compugen Ltd.

US:CGEN Biotechnology

4.7%

169%

Kornit Digital Ltd.

US:KRNT Industrial Machinery

4.0%

61%

Fiverr International Ltd.

US:FVRR Data Processing Services

3.0%

260%

Nvidia Corporation

US:NVDA Semiconductors

3.0%

76%

Carvana Co. Class A

US:CVNA Specialty Stores

3.0%

58%

Repay Holdings Corp. Class A

US:RPAY Commercial Services

2.9%

62%

Wix.com Ltd.

US:WIX Information Technology Services

2.9%

125%

Twilio Inc. Class A

US:TWLO Software

2.7%

165%

Monolithic Power Systems Inc.

US:MPWR Semiconductors

2.6%

40%

 Sources: Taylor Frigon Capital Management, FactSet

Strategy performance

Here’s how the Taylor Frigon Core Growth Strategy has performed, after fees, against the S&P 500 index
US:SPX
and two other S&P indexes over various periods through June 30:

Total return – 2020

Average return – 3 years

Average return – 5 years

Average return – 10 years

Since inception (Jan. 19, 2007)

Taylor Frigon Core Growth Strategy

23.6%

20.7%

16.8%

15.3%

11.2%

S&P 500 index

-3.1%

10.7%

10.7%

14.0%

8.2%

S&P 400 Mid Cap Index

-12.8%

2.4%

5.2%

11.3%

7.7%

S&P Small Cap 600 Index

-17.9%

0.6%

4.5%

11.2%

7.1%

Source: Taylor Frigon Capital Management, verified by Ashland Partners LP from inception through 12/31/2015 and ACA Performance Services LLC from 1/1/2016 though 12/31/2019.

Don’t miss:This index ETF is beating the S&P 500 by excluding ‘losers’



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Micron earnings show spike in memory sales, forecast suggests more of the same


Micron Technology Inc. shares jumped in after-hours trading Monday after the memory-chip maker said sales surged in the third quarter and are expected to remain strong in the final period of its fiscal year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Micron
MU,
+1.35%

forecast adjusted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of 95 cents to $1.15 a share on revenue of $5.75 billion to $6.25 billion, which would be a big gain from a year ago when the company reported earnings of 56 cents a share on revenue of $4.87 billion.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet, on average, were predicting fourth-quarter earnings of 79 cents a share on sales of $5.46 billion, according to FactSet.

Shares gained more than 5% in after-hours trading, following a 1.4% gain in the regular session to close at $49.15.

“As we look ahead at the second half, of course, you know, given the total COVID environment and uncertainties around COVID around the globe, we basically have limited visibility,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, Micron’s chief executive, on a conference call.

“Yet, we do believe that cloud demand in the second half of the calendar year will continue to be healthy for us,” Mehrotra said.

Micron specializes in DRAM and NAND memory chips. DRAM, or dynamic random access memory, is the type of memory commonly used in PCs and servers, while NAND chips are the flash memory chips used in USB drives and smaller devices, such as digital cameras. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been cited as fueling a boost in memory-chip sales, many analysts suspect that may have oversupplied the market, which could bode poorly for the second half of the year — but not according to Micron’s forecast.

The company reported fiscal third-quarter net income of $803 million, or 71 cents a share, compared with $840 million, or 74 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings were 82 cents a share, compared with $1.05 a share in the year-ago period. Revenue rose to $5.44 billion from $4.79 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Analysts had forecast adjusted earnings of 75 cents a share on revenue of $5.27 billion.

Micron had already informed investors that it would outperform its original expectations. In late May, Micron forecast adjusted earnings of 75 cents to 80 cents a share and revenue of $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, up from its forecast of 40 cents to 70 cents a share on revenue of $4.6 billion to $5.2 billion back in March.

For the year, Micron shares are off about 10%, while the PHLX Semiconductor Index
SOX,
+1.14%

SOX,
+1.14%

is up 4%. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index
SPX,
+1.46%

is down 6%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+1.19%

is up 9%.



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What if it was the Marvel Cybersecurity Universe?


The cybersecurity industry has long been known as a battleground pitting black hats against white hats, but what happens when the biggest combatant picks up the Infinity Gauntlet instead?

Cisco Systems Inc.

CSCO, -4.96%

 unveiled its SecureX cybersecurity platform Monday morning, and revealed to MarketWatch that it had code-named the product “Thanos” during development. Thanos is a villain in Walt Disney Co.’s

DIS, -4.29%

 Marvel universe who seeks to destroy exactly half the population of the universe.

For more: Cisco unleashes ‘Thanos’ in hopes for a ‘radical simplification’ of security software

Evil connotations aside, that spirit plays well into what chief information security officers are demanding from their products: Resources are scarce and they’re trying to find ways of simplifying their information-security needs. But the analogy doesn’t play well for Cisco’s enemies in the cybersecurity industry, who in this case would be equivalent to the Marvel heroes who battle Thanos and risk their lives to save the universe from Thanos’s evil plan.

But which company would be equivalent to which superhero? As the security industry prepared for its annual RSA get-together this week in San Francisco, MarketWatch decided to assign heroes to some of Cisco’s biggest rivals in the security sector, and then shot emails to members of the ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF

HACK, -3.31%

to get their opinions on what superhero they would be.

The response was surprising: Some companies that aren’t always known for being very open with the media jumped at the chance to discuss this topic. Palo Alto Networks Inc.

PANW, -2.33%

 even requested a telephone interview with  Matt Chiodi, the public cloud chief security officer, so that he could argue his case for why the company deserved to be Captain America.

“Before Steve Rogers became Captain America he had to go through a transition, and this is extremely similar to what the company is going through now in their move to the cloud,” Chiodi said.

That wasn’t the hero MarketWatch had in mind for Palo Alto Networks, though. Here are the companies’ responses, as well as our picks for them, in rough order of market capitalization; uncredited statements came from spokespeople with no source listed.

Palo Alto Networks

MarketWatch’s choice: Iron Man. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark — the billionaire alter ego of Iron Man — is obsessed with putting a “suit of armor around the world.” That sounds appropriate for the company known best for putting firewalls around a company’s information. Palo Alto Networks also has the largest market capitalization of the independent security-only companies, which lines up with Stark’s status as the richest Avenger.

Company’s choice: As noted above, Palo Alto Networks preferred another prominent Avenger, who used a super-soldier serum to bulk up just as Palo Alto Networks has used mergers and acquisitions of late. “Since we started back in 2005, Palo Alto Networks has always taken a holistic approach to security and so just like Captain America, we’re both leaders who enable others to do their best work and so Captain America specifically fights for American ideals and at Palo Alto Networks we fight to protect our digital way of life,” Chiodi said.

Splunk Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: The big-data specialist has focused a great deal on security in recent years, as its software can give strong and smart visibility to users. Hence, MarketWatch went with Vision, an android with artificial intelligence developed by Stark.

Company’s choice: Oliver Friedrichs, the vice president of security products at Splunk

SPLK, -4.20%

 , instead went with the man who developed the AI that went into Vision.

“Two of the biggest buzzwords RSA attendees will hear once again this year are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Security technology powered by AI is still in its infancy. True AI, like you’d see from Ultron, still doesn’t exist. Machine Learning, and automation, however, are already integrated into a number of technologies, including Splunk’s security portfolio. That’s why Splunk is the Iron Man of the Security Operations Center — our Data-to-Everything platform helps analysts automatically respond to threats in real-time, just like the Iron Man suit enables Tony Stark to constantly evolve and automatically combat bad guys in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

MarketWatch gave Iron Man to a company that didn’t want it, and two other large security companies did.
Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

MarketWatch’s choice: For the Israeli cybersecurity giant, MarketWatch chose Thor, the incredibly strong Avenger from a distant land. Check Point

CHKP, -4.03%

 is also one of the oldest cybersecurity companies, and Thor is more than 1,500 years old, after all.

Company’s Choice: Iron Man, and a Check Point spokeswoman provided an uncredited list of reasons.

• Protector: We protect and save the world from security threats

• Technologist: Innovative always with the latest cutting-edge technology. Just like his (modular) suits of armor always updating and each tackling unique threats like our infinity suite

• Futurist: Plans for the future threats like us with Gen 6. We plan for future threats, and not just protect but prevent

• First: We are the first enterprise Cyber security company which paved the way for others to follow, just as Iron Man was the first Avenger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

Akamai Technologies Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: Akamai

AKAM, -3.39%

 figured out how to shrink the Web, bringing people to the closest infrastructure necessary to perform tasks. Sounds to MarketWatch like Hank Pym, the original Ant Man, who invented technology that could shrink anything.

Company’s choice: Chief Security Officer Andy Ellis, who said he is an avid comic collector, chose an actual computer program.

“In the MCU, I think there’s a perfect character for Akamai: JARVIS (and later, FRIDAY). Like Jarvis, our role is to help someone else achieve their goals, and we provide the support infrastructure to enable our customers to get more done with their limited time and attention than they would have otherwise, by offloading the finer details of execution to us.

“Sometimes we tangle with the really advanced adversaries (“Age of Ultron”); other times we get to bring showy displays of distributed scale (House Party in “Iron Man 3”); mostly we just … get things done.”

Cloudflare Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: Considering Cloudflare

NET, -5.76%

 also builds technology that makes the Web work better, MarketWatch gave them Scott Lang, the new-school Ant Man.

Company’s choice: Dr. Strange.

“He uses his powers for good and chooses to defend the world rather than capitalize on fortune. Cloudflare’s mission is to help build a better internet, and while we’ve built a strong business, we’ve also offered meaningful technology to anyone, for free, because it’s the right thing to do. We’ve been known for democratizing technologies like unmetered DDoS mitigation and Universal SSL, and two years ago announced 1.1.1.1, the world’s fastest DNS service, for free. Like Dr. Strange, we’re nerdy and doing our part to help (build a better Internet).”

Okta Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: Okta

OKTA, -5.08%

 is the security specialist that makes sure a network knows who is in it and exactly who they are. For MarketWatch, that screamed Happy Hogan, the chief of security for Stark Industries who is determined to make everyone wear their security badges.

Company’s choice: Okta wanted a much more powerful Marvel avatar — Captain Marvel.

“We would be Captain Marvel who goes from universe to universe protecting her people, not unlike a cloud identity provider. We provide security for any type of software or hybrid environment. Not to mention, in the most recent film, Captain Marvel protects her people from shapeshifting aliens that steal identities.”

Proofpoint Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: Proofpoint

PFPT, -2.16%

 was a specialist in protecting email from spam and other concerns, but has branched out to prove useful in other areas. Sounds a lot like Hawkeye, the world’s greatest archer who has proved capable of a great deal more than just shooting arrows in his time with SHIELD. and The Avengers.

Company’s choice: Just one hero wasn’t enough for Proofpoint.

“The Marvel Cinematic Universe characters that best represent Proofpoint in the infosec universe are a combination of Captain Marvel and Iron Man,” said Ryan Kalember, executive vice president of Cybersecurity Strategy for Proofpoint. “Like Captain Marvel, we also became a hero and stop attacks before they get to Earth. She started as a pilot, similar to our beginnings as an email security company, and became a superhero after a crash with an alien spacecraft just like we did when email became the number one threat vector and we transformed into a cybersecurity leader. Also, she’s out in the galaxy fighting threats before they get to Earth — the first stage of the attack chain — just like what we do in stopping attacks on people as the first line of defense. We are also like Tony Stark in that we heavily invest in R&D, we believe in AI (like JARVIS), and technical innovation as augmentations, but we always have the person at the center of what we do.”

Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios/Courtesy Everett Collection

He’s Generation Z, he scales walls — this one was just too easy.
Zscaler Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: Zscaler

ZS, -4.86%

is a young, flashy upstart (Generation Z, even!) in the cybersecurity industry, just like Spider-Man, who also likes to scale (walls).

Company’s choice: While the Fantastic Four is not (yet) part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Zscaler targeted that group for its choice. Given how excited at least one MarketWatch staffer will be when the Fantastic Four makes its debut in Disney’s Marvel universe, we allowed it.

“When it comes to superheroes, Zscaler is like Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. Not only is she able to make herself invisible, but she can extend that invisibility to other objects and people, protecting them the latest supervillain. Much like the Invisible Woman, Zscaler approaches security by making applications invisible to the bad guys. You can’t attack what you can’t see. Zscaler cloud security platform sits between users and their apps, keeping customers’ digital identity private while connecting authenticated users to business applications to securely accelerate digital transformation. Every firewall exposed to the internet is an attack surface and has been the source of some of the latest high-profile ransomware attacks and data breaches. By eliminating the need for legacy security appliances and firewalls, Zscaler helps companies eliminate their internet attack surface because when the bad guys can’t see you, whether they’re Doctor Doom or a hacker, they can’t attack you.”

Qualys Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: We gave Qualys

QLYS, -3.03%

 , which is known for its ability to search for and find vulnerabilities in networks, a villain with similar powers: Ultron, an artificial-intelligence system that came to life and seeks to take down The Avengers.

Company’s choice: Qualys said that Chief Marketing Officer Dan Barahona consulted with his children before deciding that his company is “a blend of Dr. Strange and Vision.”

“Vision is known for his ability to see everything, even in the darkest, furthest reaches of the universe (or hybrid IT network). Qualys is all about vision. We help organizations see all assets in their network and know everything about them (type of device, what’s running on them, what vulnerabilities they have, their criticality, etc.). But it’s not enough to have vision, you need action. And that’s where we’re like Dr. Strange, who can immediately teleport to where danger exists and neutralize it. This is our mission as well. With vision we know where danger lurks, but, like Dr. Strange, we can immediately get there and deliver the counterpunch (patches, remediation) to make sure organizations stay safe.”

FireEye Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: This was the first one MarketWatch assigned, because it seemed obvious that the expert called in by even the most powerful companies to figure out what just went wrong would be Nick Fury. Fury is known as a spy with great knowledge of what is happening across the galaxy, while FireEye

FEYE, -3.03%

was the first to detail the Chinese military’s link to hacker groups, and is still known as a strong source of international intelligence. Heck, FireEye and Fury even sound similar, and there’s the whole eyepatch thing …

Company’s choice: Sadly, FireEye did not see eye-to-eye with MarketWatch on this one.

“FireEye is Captain Marvel meets Iron Man. We bring the values of justice, fairness and doing what’s right with the power of technology enhanced by humans to protect our customers and the universe,” said

Tenable Holdings Ltd.

MarketWatch’s choice: Tenable

TENB, -0.48%

 focuses on understanding and minimizing risk for cyber attacks, which sounds to MarketWatch like Iron Man’s more cautious pal, War Machine.

Company’s choice: Vision.

“The Marvel character that best represents Tenable is Vision — Tony Stark’s AI/machine learning software in superhero form. Formerly known as JARVIS, before being transformed into Vision, he helps Tony analyze all of the technical systems for potential risk and vulnerabilities before the team builds innovative tech that ultimately saves the world.”

Ping Identity Holding Corp.

MarketWatch’s choice: Ping

PING, -0.71%

  was taken private after years of investment, then bundled with some other cybersecurity assets before suddenly reappearing on the public markets with an initial public offering last year. Sounds to us like the Winter Soldier, a U.S. soldier who was thought dead before reappearing with some new programming and a flash metal arm.

Company’s choice: The original Ant Man.

“When it comes to cybersecurity, Ping Identity would be Hank Pym because of his intellect and scientific-minded style. He’s one smart guy who was able to tackle a bunch of problems by assembling a skillful team and developing innovative new technologies. At Ping, we approach our work in the same way. We’re dedicated to providing simple identity solutions for complex problems to secure the global enterprise.”

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Sailpoint Technologies gets the character it wanted because, well, just read it!
SailPoint Technologies Holdings Inc.

MarketWatch’s choice: MarketWatch was actually having trouble choosing for Sailpoint

SAIL, -5.26%

  before Mike Kiser, senior identity strategist for SailPoint, sent in a response that was so much more complete and awesome than anything we could have done, that MarketWatch decided to just agree and present it unedited.

Company’s choice: Shuri from “Black Panther,” with the following reasoning.

“‘Guess what I call them? Sneakers!’

“While it might be tempting to choose a more prominent protagonist such as Iron Man or Captain America, this quote epitomizes why Shuri, the chief science officer for Wakanda in Black Panther, would be cast to represent SailPoint in the Marvel Cinematic universe.

“Shuri’s strong combination of unparalleled innovation, a concern for people using her inventions, a fierce commitment to her beliefs, and a sense of delight serves to illustrate SailPoint’s role within the cybersecurity industry.

“First, Shuri delivers unparalleled innovation — in the scene from which this quote is taken, she’s introducing a wide range of incredible technology for use by her brother, T’Challa, showing how far ahead she is than the rest of the world. She’s even been described as (gasp!) smarter than Tony Stark himself (does his suit collapse into a necklace? I think not.)

“This innovation is not for innovation’s sake, however. It is created with a user in mind. T’Challa’s suit, his communication gear — even the shoes that she mentions in the above quote — fit perfectly. (Whether these items would fit anyone or only T’Challa is an open question, but it is never wise to doubt Shuri’s prowess.) She knows that ease-of-use is king, and she eliminates anything that would prevent the use of what she’s created.

“Not merely a technologist, Shuri is also a woman of fierce convictions. Willing (and of course capable) to fight in combat — she takes on Killmonger by herself, who has replaced her brother as the Black Panther — and she more than holds her own. In doing so, she demonstrates commitment to what she believes is right.

“In each of these areas, Shuri mirrors SailPoint in cybersecurity. By rethinking our approach to identity, we are constantly driving ahead like Shuri. Knowing that technology is not an end in itself, SailPoint has approached identity with a user-centric mindset. Furthermore, SailPoint is fiercely committed to what we believe is right — ensuring that organizations are able to protect their identity infrastructure and the resources with which they have been entrusted.

“Perhaps Shuri’s best quality, though, is the delight that she brings. That she would call noiseless shoes ’sneakers’ is hilarious — and captures her excitement about possibilities that she alone can see. All too often in cybersecurity, the focus is exclusively on what can go wrong, on the next disaster looming around the corner. SailPoint is rethinking identity to see, like Shuri, the possibilities. What new ideas lurk nearby? What technology will solve existing problems and open up new opportunities? That optimism is what makes Shuri a fantastic character, and it is what SailPoint aspires to in cybersecurity.”





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Mastercard is pioneering new payment technology that identifies commuters by the way they walk


Commuters may soon be able to ditch their bus pass and access public transport with technology identifying them by the way they walk.

Mastercard

MA, +1.52%

is working with transport firms to develop a new system that would authenticate passengers by their gait.

The payment provider told MarketWatch that everyone has a unique walk, and it is investigating innovative behavioral biometrics such as gait, face, heartbeat and veins for cutting edge payment systems of the future.

Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence solutions for Mastercard, told MarketWatch in an interview: “We are working with transport organizations where your face or gait will authenticate you.

“The way you hold your phone, which ear you use, and how your fingers touch the buttons are all unique to you. We have been testing heartbeat, vein technology, and the way people walk to authenticate people.”

READ: Mastercard says it has a ‘natural hedge’ on coronavirus as much of its China-related volume is online

The gait technology is the most unusual. Closed-circuit television cameras would identify passengers approaching transport barriers. Once the system recognizes the individual, it would let them pass after matching them with an account that is in credit or linked to a valid payment card.

Developing secure payment systems that deliver speed and security is a major challenge for banks and credit card providers, as users migrate online for financial services. Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated technology to assume the identity of customers and providers are seeking high-tech solutions to stay one step ahead.

On Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation produced a report revealing as much as $3.5 billion has been reported lost from suspected internet crime over 2019 in the U.S. There were 467,361 complaints received last year.

READ: Hackers are ramping up attacks on retirement accounts — how to keep yourself safe

Sophisticated attacks, those focused on quality rather than volume, have grown 430% since July 2019, compared with the previous seven months, according to a study by NuData, a company owned by Mastercard.

Instances where a scammer gains control of a customer’s account increased by 330% in the last four months of 2019.

This is despite huge leaps in technology, from customers using just basic passwords to access their accounts, to the use of fingerprint readers built into most smartphones and laptops, as well face identification, and some apps claiming to use retina recognition.

Vascular matching is another innovation Mastercard is exploring. It can identify individuals from the unique patterns of blood vessels that can be seen close to the surface of the skin.

A spokesman said: “We are looking closely at a range of modalities for biometric authentication, including gait analysis, ECG [electrocardiogram] and vein pattern to identify a user.”

Bhalla explained that the rhythm of a person’s heartbeat is also unique: “A user could wear a band around their wrist that measures the pulse and constantly authenticates you.”

Mastercard acquired NuData Security in 2017 and it has been making advances in biometric identification. The payment provider has also been working with academics at the University of Oxford in the U.K. on what it describes as its “top global priority.”

Bhalla said: “The world is changing at a fast pace. Hackers are figuring out how to attack individuals to get their credentials.”

Watch: MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga on Taking Risks in Your Life and Career



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