McAfee Buys Stonesoft to Bolster Content-Aware Firewall Security

Intel's security subsidiary offers to pay $389 million for next-generation firewall firm Stonesoft, betting that businesses want to pay for stronger security management.

McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, will acquire next-generation firewall maker Stonesoft in a deal worth $389 million, the companies said May 6 in a joint statement.

The security maker expects the acquisition of the Finnish firm to round out its lineup of security products, giving it a strong contender in the market for content-aware firewalls. Next-generation firewalls inspect network packets going in—and out—of a corporate network to prevent compromise and block the data exfiltration. Stonesoft focuses on blocking sophisticated attacks that use advanced evasion techniques to dodge other defenses.

Stonesoft's strong products, knowledge of the market for advanced firewall products and their investigations into evasion techniques make the company valuable, Pat Calhoun, senior vice president and general manager for McAfee's network security business, told eWEEK.

"Stonesoft has put a significant amount of resources into research," he said. "The combination of those three elements is what makes them very attractive."

The purchase is not McAfee's first in the network security market. In 2009, the company bought Secure Computing, a maker of firewall, email-security and Web-security products, which itself had bought firewall maker Securify the preceding year. In November 2011, McAfee also purchased security information and event management (SIEM) maker Nitro Security for an undisclosed sum, boosting its ability to give companies better security awareness of their networks.

In 2010, chip maker Intel bought McAfee in a deal valued at $7.7 billion.

Next-generation firewalls combine traditional port blocking and reporting features of traditional firewalls with the ability to link users, devices and applications with on-the-fly content inspection of traffic, allowing advanced combinations of policies. Companies, for example, could block users who attempt to connect to the network from an unrecognized device, download a potentially malicious file from an suspicious Website or attempt to send sensitive data to, say, Dropbox.

"It is really is about contextual information and understanding the application behind the traffic," said Calhoun. "All of that contextual information can be used in the policy to better secure the network."

McAfee will have to support the acquisition well, as the market is quite competitive. Palo Alto Networks, Check Point Software Technologies, Fortinet, Cisco and Juniper are all top companies in the market for next-generation firewalls. In addition, with its May 2012 acquisition of firewall maker SonicWall, Dell has boosted its own capabilities in the midsized business market.

McAfee plans to add Stonesoft's offering to its network security solutions, including its IPS Network Security Platform and Firewall Enterprise. The Finland-based company also has products focused on virtual private networks and preventing attackers from evading defenses. Stonesoft has 6,500 customers worldwide.

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...