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McAfee to buy Wireless Security

Security software maker expected to announce acquisition as early as Thursday, CNET News.com has learned.

Security software maker McAfee is expected to announce as early as Thursday that it plans to acquire Wireless Security, which would give it a greater presence in the consumer Wi-Fi security market, CNET News.com has learned.

With the acquisition of the privately held company, McAfee will receive additional security software in the consumer space, increase the number of security services it can provide and approach additional service providers such as America Online with services they can in turn offer to its customers, said a source familiar with the companies.

Representatives for two companies were not immediately available for comment.

Wireless Security already has a relationship with McAfee, providing the technology for the security giant to offer its McAfee WifiScan service to customers. The service allows consumers and small businesses to survey their wireless network connections and wireless hardware to assess whether any unauthorized intruders are trying to access their wireless connection points.

McAfee may be able to leverage this technology and eventually sell it as a subscriber service to consumers, as well as to Internet service providers like AOL to offer as a premium service to their members.

But the source noted it has yet to be seen whether consumers will be willing to shell out the additional money for that service.

"They may be able to sell this service to the thousands, versus the millions," the source said. "It will, however, push McAfee a little further ahead of the competition like Symantec and Microsoft."

Wireless Security also offers a product called WSC Guard for corporate customers. The tool offers authentication and encryption, automatic security updates and intrusion detection.

While some industry observers characterized Wireless Security's technology as "elegant," another source familiar with the companies noted the privately held company wanted access to McAfee's global channel to distribute its products.

"The combination of the entrepreneurial and innovative skills of Wireless Security, combined with McAfee's global channel reach, (make) for an excellent way to get the products to market," the source said.

Wireless Security's products will be integrated with McAfee's managed services offerings, the source noted.