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Symantec to Buy Security Firm @stake

Security giant Symantec is buying digital security company @stake for an undisclosed sum in a deal that is expected to close in October.

The primary business of @stake is digital security consulting services, but it also provides security auditing and security analysis products. One of @stake's main security consulting competitors, Foundstone, was snapped up in mid-August by Symantec's rival McAfee for $86 million in cash.

Gail Hamilton, executive vice president of Symantec Global Services and Support, positioned the acquisition as a way to broaden Symantec's application security consulting business. "By joining forces with a leader in application security consulting, we expand the capacity and capabilities of our consulting organization, which allows us to better secure the applications that our customers develop and deploy," Hamilton said in a statement.

Among Microsoft IT administrators @stake, Foundstone and another digital consulting competitor, eEye Digital Security, are best known as the security researchers who are commonly acknowledged at the bottom of Microsoft security bulletins for having found and reported the security vulnerabilities the bulletins seek to patch.

Cambridge, Mass.-based @stake was formed in 2000 and grew out of the l0pht hacker group that developed the l0phtcrack password cracking tool. @stake this year released an updated version as LC 5, which it positions as a tool for helping administrators comprehensively audit and recover user and administrator passwords.

According to the @stake Web site, the company's client list includes six of the world's top 10 financial institutions, four of the world's top ten independent software companies and seven of the world's top ten telecommunications service providers. One of those software clients is Microsoft, and the relationship led to some controversy for @stake last year.

In June 2003, @stake published a comparative analysis of the security of two environments for building and deploying Web-based applications and XML services -- Microsoft .NET and IBM's WebSphere Java 2 Enterprise Edition. Paid for by Microsoft, the analysis put .NET slightly ahead.

Then, in September of 2003, @stake parted ways with its chief technical officer Dan Geer, after Geer and a group of computer security researchers wrote a report calling the dominance of Microsoft software a danger to national security. At the time, an official @stake statement claimed Geer had not gotten his employers' approval for the study's release. Microsoft officials said they did not pressure the company to fire Geer or to disavow the study.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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