Stocks everywhere fell this week as Russian troops gathered on the Ukrainian border and finally launched a full-scale invasion. The US S&P 500, the European Stoxx index, and Japan’s Nikkei index were all down roughly 5% since Feb. 18, although the S&P pared its decline after US president Joe Biden announced sanctions against Russia on Feb. 24.
One sector has seen its shares soar, though. Investors are betting that cybersecurity firms’ services will soon be in high demand as Russia unleashes a barrage of hacks designed to destabilize Ukraine and the US considers responding with retaliatory cyberattacks against Russia.
Shares of Cloudflare, a California-based company that provides cyberdefenses for websites, rose nearly 18% after Putin unleashed Russian military attacks by air, land, and sea. Cloudflare helped Ukraine’s government fend off Russian distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which involve sending a torrent of bot traffic to a website in an effort to knock it offline. The company told the AP that the Russian attacks were “relatively modest compared to large DDoS attacks we’ve handled in the past.”
So far, Russia’s cyber offensive has strictly targeted Ukrainian financial institutions, government offices, and contractors that work closely with the government. Although at least some of those contractors are based in Latvia and Lithuania, the attacks haven’t spread much beyond Ukraine’s borders, as they did during the 2017 NotPetya attack.
Even so, American and British intelligence officials have warned businesses to prepare immediately for broader attacks. Foreign businesses could be directly targeted by Russian hackers in retaliation for harsh economic sanctions, or they could be swept up as collateral damage in poorly targeted hacks meant to hit Ukraine.