Security vendors respond to Intel's McAfee buyout

Instead of quaking in their boots about Intel’s acquisition of McAfee, security software companies have said the move is positive for the market.

As part of the acquisition, which cost Intel $7.68 billion, Intel will fold McAfee into its software unit and says the reason it has bought the company is because security is a fundamental part of online computing, something that other security vendors agree with.

Although Kaspersky said it didn’t normally comment on competitor ventures, it described the venture as “positive news for the market,” adding that it reinforces the fact that IT security is “among the most important issues for both the B2B and B2C sectors”.

Trend Micro added that the decision was “a clear statement to the industry and investors that security is absolutely fundamental to future technology services and products.”

Panda Securities two pence is that the buy “is clearly elevating the importance of IT security to new heights within the computing industry.”

The McAfee deal is Intel’s biggest acquisition since it bought Level One Communications for $2.2bn in 1999 and follows a flurry of consolidation activity in the technology sector, including Hewlett-Packard’s acquisition of Palm, the smartphone maker; and software manufacturer Oracle’s $7.4bn purchase of computer hardware group Sun Microsystems.

Intel said that the acquisition would incorporate security concerns into computers, mobile phones and cash machines.

Although security vendors believe this will  help drive the traditional security market, some, including Sophos and Trend Micro are a bit wary of Intel’s big change claims.

Kaspersky told TechEye: “Now that one of the key hardware producers has added a new direction to its business by acquiring a major player in the IT security market, it is obvious that this will create more competition and drive the industry to grow more rapidly, and that is always a positive thing for the rest of the players involved.”

Eva Chen, Trend Micro’s CEO and co-founder agrees: “Intel’s decision to purchase a security software company is a clear statement to the industry and investors that security is absolutely fundamental to future technology services and products.  For current and future customers, Intel’s resources may now enable McAfee to offer protection to multiple devices and endpoints, replicating what other vendors have already achieved. 

However, the company warned that the embedded-software model is fundamentally different from the security-software operating model. It advised customers to “review their relationship with their security partner to assess whether they will be receiving the services and expertise they need.”

British insecurity outfit Sophos also had some reservations. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the security company, told us that although he believed that the Intel/McAfee deal reinforced the view that the security industry is an attractive growing market for investors, he warned that: “infrastructure vendors acquiring security vendors is not guaranteed to succeed.

“Security – given the unique nature of volume and changing nature of threats, compliances, new models – requires a dedicated focus.

“And if Intel’s acquisition of McAfee is designed to help it focus on embedding security into consumer-orientated hardware (phones, ATMs, devices etc.), it will be a major distraction from their enterprise business, and could shift it away from servicing the needs of enterprise customers.

“It’s also worth bearing in mind that we’re seeing more and more threats taking place in the internet (think recent social networking attacks on sites like Facebook) rather than close to the CPU.  In these increasingly common attacks, chip-based security will not offer any advantages.”
Symantec remained an ally to the chip giant. When we asked how it felt about competing with the giant a spokesperson told us: “Symantec and Intel have maintained a strong relationship for many years. Our joint strategic alliance runs across many areas including manageability, security, endpoint virtualisation and data protection and the majority of the initiatives we have going with Intel today are not specific to security or other technology that is competitive with McAfee.  As such, we anticipate that Symantec and Intel will continue maintain a strategic relationship and work together on these fronts.”

Intel’s acquisition of McAfee still requires the approval of McAfee shareholders and regulatory clearance.