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ISS adds spam filter with Cobion buy

Network protection provider Internet Security Systems acquires Cobion, a security software maker, to add spam filtering to its lineup.

Network protection provider Internet Security Systems said Wednesday that it is acquiring privately held security software maker Cobion for $32.8 million to increase its spam filtering capabilities.

The buyout represents the next step in ISS' strategy to integrate multiple security functions into a single device. ISS sells Proventia G200, a network appliance that monitors Web and e-mail activity and automatically blocks attacks that it detects. The product includes firewall, intrusion-detection, antivirus and content-blocking features.

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Cobion, which is based in Kassel, Germany, is known as a vendor of content analysis software used to provide Web filtering and protection against spam. The company also controls a substantial spam and Web content filtering database that features and 12 distribution points around the world.

ISS said it would continue to market Cobion's technology as both a standalone product and in its own Proventia series of intrusion-prevention devices. Company executives said the acquisition satisfies the company's goals for the product line, which was first released in November 2003.

ISS is betting that the Cobion buyout will help establish the company as a visible player in the growing content protection market. As businesses fight to protect themselves from unwanted e-mail and unauthorized Web usage, demand for content security is expected to exceed $1.5 billion by 2006, according to research firm IDC.

"Spam control and Web filtering are real hot-button items (with customers), and this acquisition allows us to enter that market with a proven, best-of-breed technology," said Pete Privateer, senior vice president of marketing at ISS.

"Specifically, Cobian uses automated tools to detect and categorize spam, as opposed to other companies that do so manually that can't scale as well with the rapid growth of the Internet and spam attacks," he said.

Privateer said the key to providing more effective spam filtering isn't found in blocking the largest amount of Internet sites or e-mail addresses, but rather in providing software that does the best job of figuring out which sites and messages to block, and which to allow.

Cobian's technology also boasts the ability to filter many different kinds of content, including images and streaming media files, in order to better protect its customers.

Over the last year, regulators have stepped up their efforts to control spam, and in mid-December President Bush signed the "Can-Spam" bill, creating the first federal law regulating e-mail solicitations for pornography, Viagra, diet pills, get-rich-quick schemes and the like.

However, some industry watchers have questioned the bill's ability to reduce spam traffic levels because it legalizes sending nonfraudulent spam and overrides laws in several states that already prohibit that practice.