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Cisco to spend $830 million for e-mail security firm

Network gear giant will purchase IronPort, a leader in tech that scans e-mail for spam and viruses, to bolster its security profile.

Cisco Systems said Thursday it will pay $830 million in cash and stock for e-mail security company IronPort Systems.

IronPort, a privately held company based in San Bruno, Calif., is a leader in security technology that scans e-mail messages for spam and viruses. Its products are sold to large companies, including Cisco, which says it has used the IronPort product for three years. IronPort competes against security heavyweights such as McAfee and Secure Computing.

One of the IronPort's most important innovations is software that rates Web links in e-mail to better filter out junk messages, including those with links to malicious sites.

The company developed the technology in response to new tactics used by spammers. Specifically, spammers have been inserting links into e-mails instead embedding the spam message in the e-mail. As a result, traditional spam filters that scan the content of e-mail messages can't filter the unwanted messages.

Cisco is the world's leader in networking equipment that shuttles Internet Protocol communications traffic around a corporate environment. Through several acquisitions, the company has also built a strong security portfolio. The IronPort acquisition is significant for Cisco mainly because it expands Cisco's security expertise beyond the network and allows it to offer products that also filter actual communications. This is especially important as new security threats emerge from a growing volume of spam.

"This was a very strategic purchase for us," said Richard Palmer, senior vice president of the Cisco Security Technology Group. "If you think of the vision of the self-defending network, it's important to protect whatever is coming in and out of the network. And that is what IronPort does."

IronPort's 400 employees will be added to Cisco's security division, which today has about 900 people. The deal is expected to close within the next three months.