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Network Associates keeps up spending spree

The security software provider acquires IntruVert Networks in a $100 million deal that extends a buying binge designed to stake out new markets for the company.

Network Associates has agreed to buy IntruVert Networks for $100 million in cash, in another purchase designed to help the company expand into new security markets.

IntruVert makes specialized network hardware that can detect and thwart attacks, Network Associates president Gene Hodges said in an interview. In particular, it defends against specific techniques that exploit technical chinks in computer armor as well as against those that use comparatively brute-force denial of service methods, in which attacking computers swamp a network connection.

"We think this is the first company that has the tech to not just detect (attacks) but reliably protect a network under attack," Hodges said.

Network Associates sells security and network products, including the McAfee antivirus software and the Sniffer network device, which monitors network performance and helps create "forensic" records of the stages of a computer attack.

The company has been on a buying spree, purchasing the forensics technology about six months ago, and picking up Deersoft and its antispam filtering software last quarter.

The company plans more acquisitions, Hodges said.

The IntruVert hardware will be unified with the Sniffer system in 2004 to form a single product that can detect and correct network problems, Hodges said.

"They do very similar things at lower levels--acquiring and analyzing packets" of network data, Hodges said. IntruVert decides whether there's an attacker; Sniffer discovers if there's a broken network and decides what to do about it, he said.

The IntruVert system comes in two configurations, one costing about $35,000 and another, for larger networks, priced at $100,000. Hardware and software maintenance add an extra 20 to 25 percent per year, Hodges said.

Because of its product lines, Network Associates has found itself thrust into the heart of many thorny Internet-related debates, such as the struggles over unwanted e-mail, over parental screening of what children see on the Internet, and over export barriers to encryption technology.

On top of this, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department are investigating the security company's accounting practices.

Hodges declined to comment on what effect the acquisition will have on Network Associates' earnings.

IntruVert, founded three years ago and employing about 80 workers, is based in San Jose, Calif., not far from Network Associates' Santa Clara headquarters.