What Are Cybersecurity ETFs? A Complete Guide

What Are Cybersecurity ETFs? A Complete Guide

Explore the benefits and risks of investing in cybersecurity ETFs in 2024 and beyond.

kent
|
Research Lead
Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
,
Edited by: Ron Day

In today's increasingly digital world, cybersecurity is no longer just a technical concern—it's a critical investment opportunity. With cyberattacks on the rise and data breaches dominating headlines, the demand for robust cybersecurity solutions is skyrocketing.  

This presents a compelling chance for investors to tap into a rapidly growing market through cybersecurity ETFs. But are these ETFs right for you?  

Dive into this article to explore the potential benefits and risks of investing in cybersecurity ETFs, discover key considerations for making informed decisions and unlock valuable insights into navigating this dynamic sector in 2024.  

What Is Cybersecurity? 

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting computer systems, networks, programs and data from digital attacks, unauthorized access, damage or theft. It encompasses a set of technologies, processes and practices designed to safeguard information technology (IT) assets and ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of digital resources. 

Key components of cybersecurity include: 

  • Network security: Measures to protect computer networks and their infrastructure from unauthorized access, cyberattacks, and data breaches. 
  • Endpoint security: Protection of individual devices (such as computers, smartphones, and tablets) from cyber threats, malware, and other malicious activities. 
  • Identity and access management (IAM): Controls and mechanisms to manage and authenticate user identities, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to specific resources. 
  • Encryption: The use of cryptographic techniques to secure data and communications, making it unreadable to unauthorized users. 
  • Firewalls: Network security devices that monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. 
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS): Tools and systems designed to detect and respond to potential security threats or breaches. 
  • Vulnerability management: Practices to identify, assess, and mitigate vulnerabilities in software, hardware, and networks to prevent exploitation by attackers. 
  • Incident response: Procedures and plans to manage and address security incidents promptly, minimizing the impact and restoring normal operations. 
  • Security awareness training: Educational programs for users and employees to raise awareness about cybersecurity best practices, social engineering threats, and the importance of protecting sensitive information. 
  • Security policies and procedures: Established guidelines and protocols that define the organization's approach to cybersecurity, outlining acceptable use, data handling, and incident response procedures. 
  • Patch management: The process of applying software updates or patches to address known vulnerabilities and enhance the security of systems. 

What Are Cybersecurity ETFs? 

Cybersecurity ETFs are exchange-traded funds that focus on companies operating in the cybersecurity industry. These ETFs provide investors with exposure to a basket of stocks from companies involved in various aspects of cybersecurity, such as developing cybersecurity software, providing security services, or manufacturing hardware related to cybersecurity. 

Cybersecurity ETFs offer investors diversification across multiple companies within the cybersecurity sector. This diversification helps spread risk, as the performance of individual cybersecurity stocks may vary. 

What Are Examples of Cybersecurity Stocks?

Cybersecurity stocks may include companies engaged in various cybersecurity-related activities, including network security, endpoint security, threat intelligence, encryption and other cybersecurity solutions.  

Here are some of the top cybersecurity stocks: 

  • Palo Alto Networks (PANW): A leader in enterprise cybersecurity, offering next-generation firewalls, secure access service edge (SASE) solutions, and cloud security. 
  • Fortinet (FTNT): Provides broad cybersecurity solutions, including firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and endpoint security. 
  • Cisco Systems (CSCO): Offers a wide range of security solutions, including network security, cloud security, and endpoint security. 
  • CrowdStrike Holdings (CRWD): A leader in cloud-delivered endpoint protection, offering threat detection, response, and remediation services. 
  • SentinelOne (S): Provides endpoint security solutions focused on autonomous detection and response (XDR). 
  • Zscaler (ZS): Provides cloud-based security solutions, including secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), and zero trust network access (ZTNA). 

List of Top Cybersecurity ETFs by AUM

TickerFundAUMExpense Ratio1-Yr Return
CIBRFirst Trust NASDAQ Cybersecurity ETF$6.4B0.60%33.56%
HACKETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF$1.7B0.60%32.64%
IHAKiShares Cybersecurity & Tech ETF$796.4M0.47%31.12%
BUGGlobal X Cybersecurity ETF$763.7M0.51%26.69%
WCBRWisdomTree Cybersecurity Fund$71.6M0.45%45.94%

Data as of February 2, 2024.

The ‘Mother of All Breaches’ and Cybersecurity Stocks

The term "Mother of all Breaches" (MOAB) refers to a massive data leak discovered in January 2024. The breach gained attention due to its sheer size—it was estimated to contain 26 billion records, comprising over 12 terabytes of information—and that it contained data from numerous previous breaches, leaks and private data databases.  

The MOAB was compiled from thousands of meticulously reindexed leaks, breaches and privately sold databases and included data like usernames, passwords, email addresses, phone numbers, and even some financial information. 

Initially, the source was unknown, sparking concerns about a major breach of a new database. Later the dataset source was identified as Leak-Lookup, a data breach search engine platform. Leak-Lookup claimed it acquired the data through legal means but faced criticism for contributing to the data breach personal stash ecosystem. 

While the MOAB doesn't necessarily represent a single, massive breach, it serves as a stark reminder of the vast amount of personal data exposed online and the importance of cybersecurity vigilance, as well as the potential for investing in cybersecurity stocks over time. 

The Pros and Cons of Cybersecurity ETFs

While diversification and growth potential for cybersecurity stocks are key benefits for cybersecurity ETFs, there are potential risks for investors to consider. 

Here are the pros and cons of cybersecurity ETFs: 

Pros

  • Diversification: Cybersecurity ETFs provide investors with exposure to a diversified portfolio of companies within the cybersecurity sector, spreading risk across multiple holdings. 
  • Industry growth potential: The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats contribute to the growth potential of the cybersecurity industry. Investing in a cybersecurity ETF allows investors to capitalize on this growth. 
  • Accessibility: Cybersecurity ETFs are traded on stock exchanges, offering ease of access for investors who can buy and sell shares throughout the trading day. 
  • Lower expenses: Expense ratios for ETFs are often lower than those of actively managed mutual funds, contributing to cost efficiency. 

Cons

  • Market risk: The performance of cybersecurity ETFs is influenced by market conditions, and factors such as economic downturns can impact the overall stock market and, subsequently, ETF performance. 
  • Volatility: The cybersecurity sector can be volatile, influenced by factors like high-profile cyber incidents, regulatory changes, and competitive dynamics. This volatility can affect the value of the ETF. 
  • Limited control: Investors in ETFs have limited control over the specific stocks included in the fund. While this lack of control contributes to diversification, it may not align with investors' preferences for individual stock selection. 

Bottom Line on Investing in Cybersecurity Stocks and ETFs

Investors interested in gaining exposure to cybersecurity stocks can consider cybersecurity ETFs as a way to participate in the growth of the industry. High-profile cyber incidents and security breaches across multiple industries continue to support the need and potential growth for the cybersecurity stocks held in these funds. 

As with any investment, it's important to conduct thorough research, understand the specific focus and holdings of the ETF, and assess one's risk tolerance before investing. Additionally, staying informed about developments in the cybersecurity landscape can provide valuable insights for investors in this sector. 

Kent Thune is Research Lead for etf.com, focusing on educational content, thought leadership, content management and search engine optimization. Before joining etf.com, he wrote for numerous investment websites, including Seeking Alpha and Kiplinger. 

 

Kent holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and is a practicing Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) with 25 years of experience managing investments, guiding clients through some of the worst economic and market environments in U.S. history. He has also served as an adjunct professor, teaching classes for The College of Charleston and Trident Technical College on the topics of retirement planning, business finance, and entrepreneurship. 

 

Kent founded a registered investment advisory firm in 2006 and is based in Hilton Head Island, SC, where he lives with his wife and two sons. Outside of work, Kent enjoys spending time with his family, playing guitar, and working on his philosophy book, which he plans to publish in the coming year.