Sophos Buys NAC Compliance Vendor Endforce

The anti-virus software maker continues building out its product portfolio, acquiring an endpoint compliance specialist.

Security software maker Sophos announced on Jan. 11 that it has acquired privately held Endforce, a maker of network compliance software.

Sophos, which maintains its U.S. headquarters in Burlington, Mass., didnt immediately disclose any further details of the deal.

Endforce is a provider of applications designed to help organizations prevent unauthorized or infected devices from accessing their networks, an element of so-called NAC (network admission control) infrastructure.

The announcement of the Endforce buyout marks the second time in less than a week that Sophos, known primarily as an anti-virus software vendor, has added new technologies that expand its overall footprint. The company introduced its maiden Web content filtering appliance on Jan. 9, which can be ordered with additional onboard URL-scanning technology provided by SurfControl.

In 2006, Sophos also integrated HIPS (host intrusion prevention system) technology into its products.

Sophos officials said they plan to maintain Endforces entire operation in Columbus, Ohio, and retain all of its product development, sales and support staff. The company reported that Endforces existing products will continue to be developed and sold under the Sophos brand.

Endforce markets software programs that promise to test devices connecting to a network to ensure they meet required security parameters. The companys programs are specifically designed to work in multivendor environments, and promise coverage for fixed, mobile, wired and wireless devices.

A fundamental element of all NAC systems is their ability to test endpoints trying to connect to a network to see if their anti-virus programs and other security functions are up to date, and to ensure that the machines have not been infected with any malware. Networking giant Cisco is largely credited with launching some of the earliest NAC products on the market.

Endforce has also positioned itself as a specialist in working with emerging NAC architectures, including Microsofts NAP (network access protection) platform, which is slated to arrive sometime during 2007, and the Trusted Computing Groups Trusted Network Connect infrastructure.

Pressed to extend its reach as Microsofts push into the anti-virus market drives down pricing and places increased pressure on vendors of all sizes, Sophos executives said the companys addition of Endforce, combined with the launch of its new security appliance, establishes it further as a provider of end-to-end e-mail, Web and device protection.

One of the most attractive aspects of Endforce being touted by its new owner is the software makers ability to operate in massive, sophisticated enterprise networks.

"This acquisition brings our customers the most proven mass deployed enterprise NAC solution in the market," Sophos Chief Executive Steve Munford said in a statement. "Administrators demand the option of choosing a NAC provider without the risk of disrupting installed systems, and Sophos is prepared to meet that demand ahead of our competitors."

With industry watchers predicting an influx of mergers and acquisitions in the security applications space during 2007, driven by Microsofts entry and a number of other factors, a handful of deals have been announced in the last several weeks alone.

The largest of the deals is Cisco Systems planned buyout of messaging security specialist IronPort Systems, for $830 million, announced on Jan. 4. While company officials are unable to comment on future product plans until the merger has been completely approved, it is believed that IronPorts technologies will factor into Ciscos NAC framework.

/zimages/6/28571.gifAnalysts say the IronPort acquisition may open new doors for Cisco. Click here to read more.

On Dec. 20, malware detection software maker Websense announced an agreementto acquire data leakage prevention specialist PortAuthority Technologies for approximately $90 million in cash.

Remote access specialist Check Point Software Technologies announced an agreement to acquire network intrusion detection analyst NFR Security for approximately $20 million on Dec. 19.

Security software market analysts have been calling for significant consolidation in the space since at least 2005, but some industry watchers are predicting that 2007 may be the year when the trend is finally realized.

"Microsofts arrival in security will definitely put pricing pressure on existing vendors and cause the market to paddle faster to stay ahead or disappear," said John Pescatore, an analyst with Gartner. "Even some relatively large vendors such as Trend Micro, McAfee, Sophos and Panda will have to innovate a lot faster in addressing new threats, or enter new markets, to remain competitive in this environment."

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