Former CIA director Petraeus joins KKR backed security firm

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Former United States CIA Director David Petraeus said Thursday he has joined the board of a large cybersecurity company controlled by investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR & Co. LP), taking his most prominent role in the private sector.

FILE PHOTO -- Former CIA director David Petraeus speaks to the media after a meeting with U.S. President elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower New York, U.S., November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Petraeus, a KKR partner and head of its global risk assessment, said in an exclusive interview that he was joining Optiv Security because of the increasing importance of hacking threats.

The reconstituted six-member board also includes David DeWalt, who stepped down this year from the board of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc and previously led McAfee Security through its sale to Intel Corp.

The private equity group KKR bought a dominant stake in Optiv this February. The company has about $2 billion in annual revenue and more than 1,000 employees.

In a joint interview with Reuters, the men said they wanted to expand Optiv’s commercial customer base beyond the 67 percent of the Fortune 500 that it currently serves and deeper into the government, where former general Petraeus pledged to help with his understanding of intelligence and military needs.

“I obviously bring an understanding of certainly the cyber capabilities of the military and the intelligence community, but also a sense of the broader governmental cybersecurity needs,” Petraeus said.

DeWalt will serve as vice chairman, steering the way to a possible public stock offering under a chairman from KKR, Herald Chen, who heads KKR private equity’s technology industry team.

Optiv, which grew out of the consulting firm Accuvant, performs vulnerability assessments and operates one of the larger services for managing security operations on behalf of client companies.

Like other former senior government officials and industry chief executives, both Petraeus and DeWalt have invested personally in a number of cyber security firms.

Also like their peers, both men complain that there are more than enough companies in the industry and say existing large firms like Optiv are better positioned to partner with allies to offer comprehensive services.

“Companies get millions of alerts a day, how do you make sense of it all?” DeWalt asked. “What we need is more trusted advisors.”

Reporting by Joseph Menn