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Akamai Seeks Recognition in Security as It Fights Anonymous

Akamai Technologies Inc. expects its new online-security services to eventually generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year -- assuming the company can get people to notice it sells them.

Akamai, best known for helping speed up the delivery of Web content, began offering a security product called the Kona Site Defender last year. The idea is to use the company’s network of 132,000 servers, which handle as much as 30 percent of the Internet’s traffic, to strike down hacker attacks before they do damage. The trouble is getting the message out, said Chief Executive Officer Tom Leighton.

“People don’t know we’re in the security business,” Leighton said this week at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. “People don’t often think to call us.”

Akamai’s security business had $22 million in revenue last year. With the ever-growing threat of cybercrime, the division could eventually get as big as the company’s unit that speeds up websites, Leighton said. That business accounted for almost half of Akamai’s $1.4 billion in annual sales.

Leighton said he’s adding 90 people to Akamai’s sales force to help spread the word about its security and performance products. The company is looking for ways to expand beyond the content-delivery market, which is becoming a lower-margin commodity industry. Leighton, who co-founded Akamai and became CEO in January, said security is the company’s fastest-growing unit.

‘Comparable Business’

“As people realize they need to be protected just as much as they need to be fast, it’s a comparable business,” he said.

Shares of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company have climbed 11 percent this year. The stock rose less than 1 percent to $45.61 at the close today in New York.

Akamai has already built up a reputation among hackers, Leighton said. Groups like Ababil and Anonymous, which have orchestrated attacks against corporate and government websites, will avoid targets that Akamai is protecting, he said.

“You can watch them in the chat groups when they’re attacking a site and they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s an Akamai site, let’s move on,’” he said. “We do stop Ababil, we do stop Anonymous -- the big forces out there.”

Akamai can’t typically tout its successes because clients fear that broadcasting their use of the product will put them at risk, Leighton said.

“The only customer that allowed us to use their name was the London Olympics,” he said. “Nothing bad happened.”

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