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3/30/2006
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Check Point Made The Right Move In Dropping Sourcefire Bid

The fastest way to obscurity in the security market is to worry about yesterday's problems. Check Point Software Technologies is looking to put its aborted bid to buy Sourcefire behind it. Once the deal came under the scrutiny of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, both companies would have been wrapped up in red tape for months. Unacceptable in the fast-moving world of IT security.

The fastest way to obscurity in the security market is to worry about yesterday's problems. Check Point Software Technologies is looking to put its aborted bid to buy Sourcefire behind it. Once the deal came under the scrutiny of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, both companies would have been wrapped up in red tape for months. Unacceptable in the fast-moving world of IT security."We are talking to Sourcefire about a number of security announcements," Ken Fitzpatrick, Check Point chief marketing officer, told me Thursday. "We jointly withdrew from CFIUS review so we could be more responsive to our customers. The CFIUS process was very complex in dealing with 12 agencies."

At the center of the controversy was Israel-based Check Point's intention to buy Maryland-based Sourcefire Inc., which employs the creator of the Snort open-source intrusion prevention and detection technology. The proposed $225 million deal was announced in October. Most of Check Point's 1,400 employees work outside Israel, with about 600 in the U.S. and more than 200 in Europe and Asia.

Fitzpatrick maintains that the resources devoted to responding to CFIUS's inquiries and the delay in its proposed Sourcefire acquisition would have hurt Check Point's efforts to expand its intrusion detection and prevention technologies. "You can't sit still in this market," he says. "The customers' demands are real, and we can't wait several months."

The two already have a history together: Sourcefire adheres to Check Point's Open Platform For Security, or Opsec, framework, ensuring that their applications can integrate. Looks like Check Point and Sourcefire will have to remain just friends for the time being, which is probably for the best in today's politically charged business environment.

Check Point has yet to address whether it expected CFIUS to intervene when the company first announced the plans to buy Sourcefire back in October. My question: Was this business as usual for CFIUS? Or did things get political, as they did when Dubai Ports World of United Arab Emirates attempted to take over the operation of terminals at six major U.S. ports? Stay tuned.

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