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Cisco to buy security start-up

Perfigo's products will fit into security architecture from Cisco that combines virus scanning with network policing.

Cisco Systems is making an acquisition designed to reinforce its security lineup, the company said Thursday.

The networking giant announced it will pay $74 million in cash for San Francisco start-up Perfigo, a developer of network access control products. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of Cisco's fiscal 2005, which ends in January.

Perfigo's CleanMachines products focus on policy analysis, compliance and access enforcement for PCs. The company's technology fits into Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) program, a security architecture that combines virus scanning with network policing to keep attacks from entering the network in the first place.

Specifically, CleanMachines is prepackaged admission control software that recognizes users, their devices and their roles. It evaluates the security standing of individual PCs and scans for vulnerabilities. Finally, it enforces policy in the network.

Cisco said that CleanMachines has shown great customer appeal among small and midsize businesses and is widely used in educational institutions.

"This acquisition further enhances Cisco's Self Defending Network security strategy of building and deploying proactive and advanced security into the network infrastructure," Richard Palmer, vice president in Cisco's security technology group, said in a statement.

Cisco has been pushing its NAC architecture since last year. In June, it completed the first phase of the launch by making its IP routers NAC-ready. It plans to add the capability to its Ethernet switches and virtual private network concentrators in 2005.

Earlier this week, Cisco announced it is working with Microsoft, which has proposed a competing end-to-end security architecture called Network Access Protection. The two companies have pledged to make their architectures interoperable.

Cisco began building the NAC architecture after an acquisition last year. In January 2003, Cisco announced it would buy Okena in order to provide technology for the "trusted agent," which sits on users' PCs and communicates with the Cisco policy server.

Cisco has recently bought start-ups in other categories as well. Last month, it announced the acquisition of Dynamicsoft, a Session Initiation Protocol software developer, and NetSolve, a network management start-up.