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Cisco's Security Salvo

12:20 PM -- Cisco's $850 million acquisition of IronPort has more than sticker-shock value. It is the latest in a series of moves toward consolidation of email management and security among the market's most powerful players. (See Cisco Buys IronPort .)

The purchase of 400-person San Bruno, Calif.-based IronPort pits Cisco against Microsoft, Symantec, and Secure Computing, in addition to a range of smaller players. The point is to gain traction in a market that's exploding, as IT pros scramble for ways to ensure a burgeoning volume of email is protected from within and without. (See Stop That Email!, Content Filtering Options Proliferate, and Email Looms as IT Threat.)

IronPort's appliances, positioned at the edge of the network just inside the firewall, catch spam and viruses before they attack in corporate email. The crown jewels include a database that examines email along some 150 parameters in order to build profiles of the servers sending email.

The IronPort appliance looks at country of origin, the amount of time the sending server has been online, the number of times it has contacted the organization previously, and so forth. From this it works up a number from -10 to +10, indicating how much a sender's messages appear to be like spam or malware.

IronPort claims that this "reputation database" catches 80 percent of spam before it hits the corporate network. The rest is stopped with additional software, including spam control from Sophos. The vendor also offers encryption and, via an alliance with Vontu, optional control of internally generated mail with problematic content.

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