Advertisement

Darktrace shares pop on surprise guidance upgrade

 (Poppy Gustafsson)
(Poppy Gustafsson)

Darktrace shares popped this morning after the cybersecurity firm delivered a surprise upgrade in its revenue and margins forecasts for the year.

The Cambridge-based business said changes to its go-to-market strategy were beginning to pay off after some initial bumps in the road.

CFO Cathy Graham told the Standard the firm would now pivot towards slowing hiring in marketing and ramping up recruitment in product and R&D roles to cater to a growing range of new technologies.

She warned of a surge in AI-powered attacks but also of crime-as-a-service, which now represent the majority of attacks.

“These sophisticated attack organisations have a business model that’s very similar to software-as-a-service businesses — you can order credit card numbers in bulk and pay them to go out exploit these,” Graham said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It doesn’t occur to people but these are very traditional business models that you would learn at Harvard Business School being deployed on the dark web.

Writing in the Standard last week, CEO Poppy Gustafsson warned that the explosion of generative AI services “began to lower the barrier to entry for attackers, allowing them to operate faster and at greater scale.”

“In the months after the rollout of ChatGPT, we saw a 135% increase in novel social engineering attacks – phishing emails that use more sophisticated grammar and language to make victims trust them. We believe attackers began using ChatGPT to make phishing harder to spot,” she said.

Darktrace reported revenues of £330 million in the second half of 2023, up 27.4% on the previous year, while net profits soared to £53 million.

Darktrace shares jumped 13% to 398p. Its stock has risen more than 50% over the past year, making it one of the strongest performers on the FTSE250.

Ben Barringer, technology analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said: “Darktrace, a company which combines artificial intelligence with cybersecurity to combat cyber threats, is taking advantage of being in a highly relevant sector but also excelling in it.

“What stands out is its exceptionally strong margin performance, which appears to be a result of both improving  scale  and stringent cost control measures. This could be one of the company’s that would sit well within the new UK ISA announced yesterday for investors seeking growth and value in the field of AI and cybersecurity as well as sitting at more than a 50% discount to US peers.”