Cyber firm with fire in its eyes, Facebook faces antitrust suit and … the ASX stocks to watch this week

By Jonathan Jackson. Published at Dec 11, 2020, in Features

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It seems another week, another cyberattack. Ironically, it was a major cybersecurity firm that was hacked.

‘Who you gonna call’ in a cyberbreach or for cybersecurity solutions?

It’s not Ghostbusters, but it is FireEye.

FireEye is one of the world’s most prominent cybersecurity firms with clients as large as Sony, Equifax and the US government.

Hackers accessed FireEye's internal network and stole its red team tools.

“These tools mimic the behaviour of many cyberthreat actors and enable FireEye to provide essential diagnostic security services to our customers,” said FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia.

“None of the tools contain zero-day exploits. Consistent with our goal to protect the community, we are proactively releasing methods and means to detect the use of our stolen red team tools.”

Theft of these tools could be useful in mounting new attacks around the world.

Though unproven, Mandia believes Russian state actors are involved.

The hackers “primarily sought information related to certain government customers”, Mandia said.

“I’ve concluded we are witnessing an attack by a nation with top-tier offensive capabilities. “It is different from the tens of thousands of incidents we have responded to throughout the years.”

FireEye has an array of business contracts across the national security space, which could be problematic. However, former NSA hacker Jake Williams said, “I do think what we know of the operation is consistent with a Russian state actor. “Whether or not customer data was accessed, it’s still a big win for Russia.”''

If FireEye is volatile to attack, then really anybody can be laid bare.

Which is frightening.

However, FireEye still has excellent cyber protection products as does WhiteHawk (ASX: WHK).

WhiteHawk is led by Ms Terry Roberts, who spent over 35 years in the US national security and cyber intelligence community, including as a former Deputy Director US Naval Intelligence, a Department of Defence Senior Executive, and as an Executive in the commercial sector.

So she knows a thing or two.

Protect yourselves. It's more important than ever.

In other news

Facebook was hit with antitrust lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and 46 states.

According to eToro analyst Adam Vettese, “The suit accuses the social-media behemoth of being anti-competitive in its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, and seeks to roll back the deals. Just weeks previously, the Justice Department brought a case against Google alleging it is illegally maintaining a monopoly in the search engine business.

“Facebook responded by pointing out the FTC approved both the Instagram and WhatsApp deals. There are signs the efforts will continue under the Biden administration, as the FTC voted three to two to file the suit, including two Democrat votes in favour, according to The WSJ.”

Meanwhile, Airbnb sold shares in its IPO at $68, valuing the company at $47BN. That is well above the $56 to $60 range it had teased initially.

It’s not all been rosy. As Vettese reminds us, “In April, after the pandemic hit the US and the outlook for the travel industry disintegrated, Airbnb raised $2BN in debt funding at an $18BN valuation and laid off a quarter of its staff in a cost-cutting initiative.”

Two Aussie stocks to watch

Creso Pharma (ASX: CPH)

What a week for Creso Pharma.

The company is up 19% this week, following a raft of announcements and favourable news.

CPH recently saw share price gains of over 1300%, achieving a 12 month high of 46 cents earlier this week, up from 3.1 cents a fortnight ago.

It finished the week on a high, announcing that it had obtained an exclusive Heads of Agreement (HOA) with leading natural, sustainable health and lifestyle brand supplier Martin & Pleasance Pty Ltd.

The agreement could see Creso Pharma capitalise on opportunities to supply cannabidiol (CBD) products to the Australian market, which comes at a time when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is set to down schedule CBD products to schedule 3 medicines in Australia, which would allow adults ages 18 or over to purchase CBD products over-the-counter through pharmacies without the requirement of a prescription.

The TGA’s final decision is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

Vulcan Energy (ASX: VUL)

Some in the office here predicted Vulcan would hit serious heights. They weren’t wrong. Remember this is a stock that was just 18 cents in February.

Today, it closed at $2.88.

Next Investors informed its readers this week that European Union were gathering at the EU Climate Summit to announce sweeping new climate action policies for the next decade.

These new EU rules will affect electric vehicle batteries manufactured in the 27-nation bloc AND those imported from abroad.

This has ramifications for lithium-based companies. Vulcan is becoming a major player in this space. Its Zero Carbon lithium project is located in Germany, at the centre of the world’s fastest growing lithium market. The project happens to be roughly 600km from Tesla’s soon to be completed Berlin Gigafactory.

The best and worst performing sectors this week

Despite the Australian stock market rising, it has experienced a relatively flat week, with Consumer Staples being the best performing sector up over 2 per cent followed by Healthcare up nearly 2 per cent and Information Technology up over 1 per cent. The worst performing sectors include Communication Services, Energy and Consumer Discretionary, as all are down just under 1 per cent.

Looking at the ASX/S&P top 100 stocks, the best performers include Link Administration up over 11 per cent after a takeover bid followed by Fortescue Metals up over 9 percent while Domino’s Pizza and Xero are both up nearly 5 per cent. The worst performers include Pendal Group, Northern Star and Aristocrat Leisure, which are all down over 4 per cent so far this week.

So what's next for the Australian share market?

According to Wealth Within’s Dale Gillham. “As I have indicated previously, after such a strong November I expected our market to slow, which is what has occurred. If we look at the period from the 2nd to the 25th of November, our market rose at an average rate of 44 points per day, resulting in a gain of over 12 per cent. Since the start of December, however, the average rate has dropped to just 25 points per day and the volume of trading has remained steady, suggesting buyers are not wanting to push prices too much.

“While the market has not been convincing in its move up this week, it is nonetheless still an up week, which indicates we may see further rises into Christmas. That said, I don’t expect the market will rise this year above its all-time high of 7,289 points set back in February.

“Anyone wanting to get in on the Santa rally that is being talked up should be cautious because after Santa has left our house for another year, the market tends to fall. Therefore, while I expect our market to rise into January, there is a possibility it will fall for a short period in early January.”

Where to invest $1,000 right now

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