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Microsoft locks down more IoT security with latest acquisition

Microsoft said it will purchase CyberX, a Microsoft security partner funded by Qualcomm Ventures and Norwest Partners, among others. The company's latest acquisition gives Microsoft's Azure IoT security offerings new capabilities, and could make the software giant a more powerful force in the private wireless networking space.

The CyberX software is able to extend the reach of an IoT security platform by finding and adding legacy IoT devices to a network even if they use custom protocols. CyberX's customer list includes the Department of Energy, three of the top ten US energy utilities, and three of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies, according to Microsoft. Microsoft said the acquisition will enable it to better help customers implement smart manufacturing, a business that US wireless carriers are also eyeing eagerly.

"I am sure this is part of a strategy to get deeper in wireless services," said analyst Monica Paolini of Senza Fili Consulting.

The CyberX purchase comes on the heels of two other acquisitions by Microsoft. In April it closed on the purchase of Affirmed Networks, which has a proprietary virtual evolved packet core. Weeks later Microsoft said it will also buy Metaswitch, a leading maker of network functions virtualization software.

Currently, Microsoft is part of at least two deployments that run its IoT Central on private LTE networks. One is in Canada in partnership with Rogers, and one is in Los Angeles and does not involve a carrier because it uses publicly available spectrum. These were deployed before the purchases of Affirmed, Metaswitch and CyberX, all of which should position Microsoft well for future IoT projects that use private networks.

Dimitris Mavrakis, research director for telco networks at ABI Research, said his analyst team does not think Microsoft will try to edge carriers out of the private networks business. "We don't expect Microsoft to deploy private cellular networks at a large scale but it's certain that some projects will require this," Mavrakis said.

Analyst Dimitrios Pavlakis, who follows IoT security for ABI Research, added that wireless carriers and other firms that want to offer customers IoT solutions may end up taking a look at some of CyberX's competitors.

"There are many companies and startups that fit the CyberX profile operating in industrial cybersecurity and some of them, like Dragos for example, rose above the ranks quite fast because they managed to address the ever-expanding cybersecurity threat horizon brewing over ICS [industrial control systems]," Pavlakis said. "Any organization that has internal strategies aligned with cybersecurity in the IoT would be interested in acquiring and partnering with said companies."

— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse

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