McAfee splashes $389 million for Stonesoft's firewall knowhow

Warms to Advanced Evasion Technique smarts

Another independent security firm has been swallowed by the expanding McAfee empire with the news that Intel's security play has agreed to pay $389 million (£250 million) in cash for small but innovative Finnish firm Stonesoft.

Stonesoft makes lots of serious security kit - firewalls, SSL and VPN gateways, intrusion prevention appliances - but it is probably the company's expertise in next-generation threats such as Advanced Evasion Techniques (AETs) that has attracted McAfee.

The Finns raised some eyebrows in 2010 when they launched a publicity-cum-marketing campaign highlighting AETs. It sounded a bit unsupported at the time but the firm has had the last laugh now that the general idea of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), of which APTs are one sub-class, is taken very seriously.

It is the firm's expertise in APT-style defence that explains why McAfee see itself as gaining another layer to add to its security architecture already crowded with other acquisitions integrated under its ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) management platform.

"With the pending addition of Stonesoft's products and services, McAfee is making a significant investment in next-generation firewall technology," commented McAfee's president, Michael DeCesare.

"These solutions anticipate emerging customer needs in a continually evolving threat landscape," he said.

"Stonesoft is a leading innovator in this important market segment. We plan to integrate Stonesoft's offerings with other McAfee products to realize the power of McAfee's Security Connected strategy."

Stonesoft's designs will now have a global sales channel whilst retaining its Finnish HQ and engineering culture.

The 250-employee company reported sales of 40.1 million in 2012 and a tiny profit of 451,000. This is small beer for Intel and McAfee but the IP has proved more attractive.

McAfee can at least console itself that it it still getting a bargain; at its peak Stonesoft traded at nearly 30 Euros a share; the purchase price it agreed to this week was 4.50 Euros.

Last month, Stonesoft sponsored a University of Glamorgan study that found that many Intrusion Prevention Systems failed to spot AETs.

Ironically, in one of the tests McAfee's IPS proved the worst performer, a sign that the system had difficulty spotting application-layer attacks. The best performer in that test? Stonesoft.

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