Sophos Pursues Rivals with Plans to Buy Utimaco

Sophos' bid to buy German data encryption vendor Utimaco will help the company compete against McAfee and Symantec in endpoint security. Meanwhile, the two market leaders are building up their own data loss prevention product line.

As the race to put more security technologies on the endpoint continues, Sophos needs to add strong encryption and data loss prevention technologies to its portfolio if it wants to continue building momentum.

Enter Utimaco Safeware. Sophos announced plans July 28 to pursue the German data security vendor as part of its strategy for challenging Symantec and McAfee, the two dominant players in the security market.

Both of the market leaders have made moves of their own when it comes to encryption and DLP (data loss prevention) in the past year: McAfee acquired SafeBoot for its encryption technology, while Symantec bought Vontu.

More recently, Symantec released its Endpoint Encryption offering back in March after reaching an OEM deal with GuardianEdge Technologies-a rival of Utimaco-for its technology.

Still, the company has not moved to build such technology in-house, which could potentially give other vendors an advantage when it comes to incorporating the technology as a part of their endpoint security suites.

McAfee meanwhile has begun the process of extending the SafeBoot technology throughout its portfolio, starting with the release of the Total Protection for Data product suite earlier in 2008. Although Sophos has already entered into an agreement to resell Utimaco's SafeGuard Enterprise product, the company will be better equipped to compete with McAfee and Symantec if it has full control of the technology.

"Just like anti-virus is the anchor tenant of integrated endpoint protection, encryption is the anchor tenant of information protection," Sophos CEO Steve Munford said in an interview with eWEEK. "We are already expanding our anti-malware capability to classify and protect data, and bringing data encryption into the mix means we combine the two must-have elements of computer and information security."

Utimaco's vision has been to secure data at rest and in motion through its SafeGuard product suite. Though Utimaco CEO Martin Wulfert would not comment directly on the prospective deal, he noted that there are several synergies between Sophos and Utimaco.

"Certainly there are synergies if we look at [how] customers have more [and] more bought into the story that combining anti-virus ... with endpoint encryption makes sense," Wulfert said, adding that both Symantec and McAfee are promoting that idea.

"A combination of the two product portfolios, which have basically zero overlap, would make sense for such customers, who are looking for an integrated encryption anti-malware product as well as for the combination of the management of such functionality."