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White knight rescues Kerio's free firewall

Sunbelt Software will acquire the Kerio Personal Firewall, saving the popular consumer security product from the chop.

Good news for fans of free security software: The Kerio Personal Firewall isn't going away after all.

Sunbelt Software, best known for its CounterSpy anti-spyware product, said on Thursday that it has agreed to acquire the Kerio Personal Firewall from Kerio Technologies, saving the popular consumer desktop firewall product from the chop. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Facing tough competition from security suite vendors, Kerio said in October that it would ax its personal firewall product at the end of this year and instead focus on its products for business users. The free Kerio Personal Firewall has been downloaded more than 2 million times since it became available in March 2002, the company has said.

The acquisition by Sunbelt is expected to be finalized by the end of the month. The Kerio Personal Firewall will initially be branded "Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall" and all existing users will be supported by Sunbelt, the company said in a statement.

Sunbelt will continue to offer a basic, free version of the firewall for home users and plans to announce reduced pricing for the full version of the product and a variety of special offers after it closes the deal, according to the statement.

"We will continue to improve the product and are also looking at releasing a product for enterprise environments," Sunbelt President Alex Eckelberry said in an e-mail interview. "One thing not a lot of people realize is that this product is more than a firewall--it has quite a bit of security functionality, including host-based (PC-based) intrusion prevention."

With a new home, the Kerio Personal Firewall remains an option for people looking for a free firewall for their computer. It looked like choices were being cut significantly, especially with Symantec's announcement earlier this week to discontinue the Sygate Personal Firewall, which it acquired in its takeover of Sygate Technologies.

Other options for a free firewall include Zone Labs' Zone Alarm, Microsoft's Windows Firewall and Jetico.