Internet security specialist McAfee on Thursday announced a deal to acquire Wireless Security Corp., a venture-backed startup that sells Wi-Fi network protection to small and midsize businesses and home offices, for $20 million.
In announcing the deal, executive vice president of McAfees global consumer business Bill Kerrigan said the immediate plan is to use technology from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Wireless Security to develop a standalone Wi-Fi security application for sale to small businesses and consumers.
The flagship product, called WSC Guard, provides Wi-Fi authentication using Wireless Securitys servers that are accessed via the Internet using an encrypted connection.
Additionally, the company will integrate the technology into the small business Managed VirusScan product to provide comprehensive Wi-Fi network protection for the medium-size business market.
Kerrigan said the small business and consumer offering will ship in the fall.
"Consumers today are very confused about how to enable security in Wi-Fi routers. Its very complicated to figure out and set up. We want to address that with this acquisition," Kerrigan said in an interview with Ziff Davis Internet News.
McAfee has been testing the market with a free wireless scanning tool that gathered information on the security settings in wireless networks and found that about half of the 60,000 users that used the utility did not have encryption enabled.
Before the test was run, McAfee asked users if security was turned on; of the respondents, 51.4 percent said yes, but Kerrigan said the company found that 20 percent of those that said yes actually had no security turned on.
"This company has a very good understanding of router-based technology. We will use that technology to create a service that will assess, enable and maintain the security of a customers wireless network," Kerrigan added.
He said the licensing model and pricing for the application have not yet been determined.
Wireless Security Corp.s technology supports WEP and WPA-PSK and virtually all of the network cards on the market today.
The companys software also supports routers from the dominant vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc.s Linksys, D-Link Corp and Netgear Inc., Belkin Inc. and Proxim Corp.
The 3-year-old company also has a deal with Linksys to power a subscription-based offering called "Wireless Guard" that provides out-of-the box enterprise-grade protection using WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption keys.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include financial terms of the acquisition.