Email Security & Protection , Email Threat Protection , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

KnowBe4 Buys Egress to Aid Awareness Training, Email Defense

KnowBe4's First Deal Since 2021 Brings AI-Based Email Protection, Training Together
KnowBe4 Buys Egress to Aid Awareness Training, Email Defense

KnowBe4 purchased an email security provider founded by a Check Point veteran to offer AI-based email protection and training that's automatically tailored relative to risk.

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The Tampa, Florida-based security awareness training behemoth said its acquisition of London-based Egress will help organizations prevent, protect and defend against sophisticated email cybersecurity threats. The acquisition is KnowBe4's first since being taken private by Vista Equity Partners in February 2023 for $4.6 billion and comes after a huge run of eight acquisitions between fall 2017 and fall 2021 (see: KnowBe4 Agrees to Vista Equity's $4.6B Take-Private Deal).

The acquisition of Egress will make KnowBe4 much better able to compete against Proofpoint, which got into security awareness training through its $225 million buy of Wombat in 2018 and into integrated cloud email security through its October 2023 buy of Tessian, CEO Stu Sjouwerman told Information Security Media Group. KnowBe4's security awareness expertise is unmatched by any rival, he said.

The joint offering will allow existing KnowBe4 customers to address the huge increase in spear-phishing emails in a way that goes beyond Microsoft's standard email-filtering capabilities. By bringing KnowBe4 and Egress together, Sjouwerman said, high-risk individuals within organizations will be better protected through both technology and training that are heavily focused on breach prevention.

The combination of KnowBe4 and Egress will give CISOs a combined risk score for each employee, which takes into account multiple source points and dozens of metrics to ascertain the level of risk associated with each persona, Sjouwerman said. The firm will release a series of traditional intelligence defense agents this quarter to make the platform stronger via high-quality, AI-driven filter for specific attacks (see: Stu Sjouwerman on What Vista Equity's Buy Means for KnowBe4).

"The future of security is personalized AI-driven controls and real-time coaching," Sjouwerman said in a statement. "As integration partners for over a year with strong philosophical and cultural alignment, this acquisition is a natural progression for both companies to take human risk management and cloud email security to the next level."

Why KnowBe4, Egress Are Better Together

Egress, founded in 2007, has been led since inception by Tony Pepper, who previously worked as a data security architect at Check Point. The company employs 314 people - up 5% from 299 employees in April 2023 - and most recently hauled in $40 million of Series C funding in December 2018 from FTV Capital and Albion VC. IT-Harvest said Egress' sales are $40.4 million and growing by 30% next quarter.

"One of the biggest challenges organizations face is accurately identifying who the next source of compromise is - and why," Pepper said in a statement. "By combining intelligence and analytics from integrated applications, companies can gain valuable insights across their entire cyber ecosystem, allowing them to focus on the risks that matter most."

Security awareness training has become a popular element of email security platforms in recent years. The space consolidated greatly in 2018, when Barracuda, Proofpoint and Mimecast acquired PhishLine, Wombat and Ataata, respectively. The M&A activity has also gone in the opposite way - KnowBe4 rival Cofense bought Cyberfish in April 2021 to proactively block email-based attacks in the SMB market.

Egress in April launched abuse mailbox automation for user-reported phishing emails, which instantly inspects and remediates attacks using AI and reduces analyst investigation time by 98%, according to the company. Egress was not among the 15 vendors included in the June 2023 Forrester Wave for Enterprise Email Security, which listed Proofpoint, Cloudflare, Microsoft and Check Point as leaders.

KnowBe4's last acquisition came in October 2021, when the company purchased startup SecurityAdvisor for $80 million to identify and correlate human behavior-driven security alerts generated across each layer of the existing security stack. Seven months earlier, the company purchased security and privacy training company MediaPro for $37.9 million.

About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.

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