McAfee Enters Data Loss Market

The company offers tools to manage sensitive data.

Mcafee is making an initial foray into the emerging data loss prevention software market with the launch of a set of tools to manage the flow of sensitive information across corporate networks and endpoint devices.

Built through a combination of internal development and McAfees October acquisition of Onigma, the package, McAfee DLP Host, introduced Feb. 5 at the RSA Conference here, promises the ability for organizations to oversee and control data distribution via a wide range of desktop applications and storage technologies, including e-mail and instant messaging systems, removable USB devices, CD-ROMs, and even printed documents.

McAfee, of Santa Clara, Calif., is pitching DLP as a critical piece of its overall corporate risk management strategy, which advocates the use of integrated portfolios of technologies over individual point products and stand-alone applications. McAfee also is hungry to benefit from the rapidly expanding market for DLP tools, which is being driven by an avalanche of high-profile data-exposure incidents reported by businesses such as retailer TJX Companies.

Piloted through a beta project conducted with a small group of companies during the fourth quarter of 2006, McAfee DLP Host combines back-end management server software with a software agent resident on endpoint devices. The combination allows customers to prevent inappropriate data handling both internally and at the networks edge, company officials said.

The dual-pronged approach is one of the primary differentiators being touted by McAfees product marketers, who contend that systems that rely too heavily on endpoint management fail to prevent misuse of information by privileged insiders.

The initial focus of many DLP applications was to protect data from being stolen by employees or network intruders, but software makers in the space have begun adopting messages more similar to those pitched by providers of so-called ECM (enterprise content management) tools, but from a dedicated IT security perspective.

While the DLP segment—made up of a handful of smaller developers only several years ago—quickly is becoming crowded with products and vendors, few technologies available today offer a system through which organizations can categorize information on a finite level and create policies for broad sets of data handling permissions, said Vimal Solanki, senior director of product marketing at McAfee.

The more sophisticated approach will allow McAfee to sell the package as both a balm to data security issues and as a compliance automation system to help customers address the growing range of information-protection regulations being passed by government regulators, Solanki said.

"A solution for data loss prevention needs to be where the data resides, both on the servers and endpoints. Were adopting a philosophy of delivering a solution that sits next to the data wherever it resides and believe it will be well-received by customers," said Solanki. "The technology needs to address the problem effectively, whether the worker is in the office, at home or at Starbucks. Ensuring against the loss of data is just another example of how well continue to look for opportunities to help companies manage risk."

McAfee surveyed more than 300 employees at about 100 companies and found that employees represent a growing security risk, despite official guidelines that companies have that are designed to reduce the risk.

The McAfee survey points to the need for DLP beyond keeping hackers from stealing data for the purpose of committing crimes such as identity fraud or corporate espionage, McAfee officials said.