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Check Point shifts security strategy

The security software maker, best known for its firewalls, branches out into Web security and devices to protect internal networks.

Security software maker Check Point Software, best known for its firewalls, is branching out into Web security and devices that protect internal networks.

While the Redwood City, Calif., company didn't detail any specific product plans, it said Wednesday that it intends to add features such as identity management and application security to its Web security products and internal firewalls. It will also add the ability to audit systems for regulatory compliance to its internal security products.

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"For 10 years, we have been (an) innovator in terms of perimeter security," said Mark Kraynak, senior manager of product marketing at the company. "When we talk to our customers, they tell us that they need to better address some other problems such as internal security and Web security."

The strategy, outlined at Check Point's annual industry analyst conference, is the latest move by a security company to offer a more integrated and easily managed approach to securing corporate information systems.

In mid-October, network-protection company Internet Security Systems announced that it would deliver features, such as a firewall, an intrusion-detection system and antivirus technology, in a single device. A few days later, security software maker Network Associates announced that it would further integrate its products to help companies more easily manage devices and software.

Companies such as Cisco Systems, NetScreen, Nokia and Symantec have added to their security features such as secure networking technology based on the browser-level encryption technology Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Check Point's announcement confirms that integrating security is a trend that companies will be forced to follow, said Jeff Wilson, an industry analyst with technology watcher Infonetics Research.

"They have to be doing this," he said. "They have been taking a lot of flack recently because Check Point is known as the perimeter firewall company, and that's not very interesting."

The shift in strategy has been coming for a long time, Wilson said. However, he pointed out, the announcement lacks a lot of tangible details.

"I'm not knocking them," he said. "It's good to make these statements to change people's perceptions, but there is not a lot of meat here."

Check Point has already made some changes in the way that it's doing business.

In early October, the company took the wraps off its first name-brand security device. The network appliance, called the VPN-1 Edge, is aimed at branch offices, franchise locations and telecommuters and is designed to let companies centrally manage secure connections to off-site employees. The virtual private network (VPN) device plugs into the remote office's network or a telecommuter's computer, separating it from the Internet, and uses Check Point's firewall to secure against attack.

Check Point's Kraynak said that the company hasn't decided on whether to release Check Point-branded hardware devices as it ventures into Web security and internal security.

"When it makes business sense for us to do it, we will," he said.