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McAfee expands security business

Antivirus software vendor McAfee next month will ship its first firewall software.

Seeking to become a full-service network security firm, antivirus software vendor McAfee Associates (MCAF) next month will ship its first firewall software.

WebWall will be marketed as part of McAfee's NetShield Security Suite, and will be bundled with antivirus server products that block viruses from entering a network through an Internet gateway, a mail gateway, or a file server.

With WebWall, McAfee joins the crowded firewall market. Networking giant Cisco, which has marketed a hardware version of a firewall, last month paid $40 million for an entry-level firewall from Global Internet.com.

Microsoft also has announced a new proxy server. While the server is designed to speed access to the Internet from a corporate network, in future versions it also could add protection from outside intruders.

The competition does not seem to deter McAfee.

"We see the firewall as part of a broader solution," said Gene Hodges, McAfee's director of product marketing for security products. "Customers think of a virus attack as a hacker attack, and they are looking for a more comprehensive security strategy that includes virus-scanning, encryption, and firewalls."

WebWall is designed as an entry-level offering designed for medium-sized or small business and departmental intranets, not giant corporate networks.

The firewall fits with McAfee's push to become a full-scale security software firm, not just an antivirus vendor. "They've been trying to convince customers and Wall Street that they're an enterprise software company, not just an antivirus one," said John Powers, analyst at Robertson Stephens.

WebWall is based on Linux, a public domain version of the Unix operating system, but with a modified kernel to examine individual packet's origin. WebWall, based on technology developed to scan for Internet viruses, also has proxy-level capabilities.

In the past, McAfee has pointed customers interested in firewalls to other vendors. Now it has decided to offer the product itself. WebWall will compete with the Gate firewall from Raptor.

Rivalry with firewall vendors raises a ticklish issue for McAfee, which wants its virus-scanning software to work with other companies' firewalls. It has partnerships with market leader CheckPoint Software, Trusted Information Systems, and Milky Way.

WebWall will be sold as part of of McAfee's NetShield security suite, priced at $12 per desktop for 1,000 users. McAfee resellers can sell WebWall as a standalone product for somewhat less.