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3/23/2011
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Adrian Lane
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McAfee's DAM Acquisition

Sentrigo acquisition fills data center security hole in McAfee's offerings

McAfee is in the process of acquiring database activity monitoring (DAM) vendor Sentrigo for an undisclosed sum. McAfee expects the deal to be complete in the first part of April, at which time it will provide more details on its strategic vision of how to bundle the product within the Risk and Compliance business unit. The announcement was a bit of a surprise to an industry segment that is no stranger to rumors of acquisition: It's just that Sentrigo was not part of the rumor mill.

Sentrigo was a relatively late entrant into the database security market. Unlike other firms that started out as database assessment or auditing vendors, or with some other technology like Web application firewalls, Sentrigo was one of the few that's sole focus was on database monitoring.

When Sentrigo launched, data breaches were in the media on a weekly basis. In 2004 the U.S. Secret Service "Insider Threat Report" lead most of us to believe that rogue employees were the problem we needed to address. DAM technologies of this time period were designed specifically to deal with IT admins and database administrators -- privileged users, if you will -- who were stealing data. Sentrigo focused on the ability to capture database transactions in a way that bypassed the database administrator altogether: by scanning the database memory.

What sets Sentrigo apart is the method by which its technology collects SQL queries. It does this by periodically scanning the database memory and collecting new queries the database receives. Just like other DAM products, new queries are examined and generate an alert if a policy is violated. Most competitors have an agent that collects queries at the OS layer as they are sent to the database. Most vendors offer secondary collection options, such as network data and audit trail capture, but Sentrigo does not.

Memory scanning technology is actually fairly tough to develop and get right, so there was a lot of initial investment into the core capabilities of data collection and analysis. This is why Sentrigo was known as an Oracle security tool for a number of years as it focused on monitoring select versions of Oracle. Over time, Sentrigo has developed scanning for the other major database platforms, and expanded its feature set to include assessment capabilities.

Sentrigo is one of the first vendors to offer what is called "virtual patching" -- halting queries that match known attack patterns in the event a security patch is unavailable or not yet installed. As we have learned, when hackers exploit credentials, SQL injection flaws, and insecure database features, blocking malicious queries is a core requirement regardless if it comes from an insider or outsider.

What this means for McAfee is that it closes a hole in its data center security offerings. While McAfee is known for network, endpoint, and content security, its policy and vulnerability management systems are not enough. McAfee lacked application layer protections for enterprise customers. DAM is one of the top requests enterprise customers are asking for, and Sentrigo is a good fit because it finally hit a point in product maturity that it can cover not only the minimum platform coverage needed to compete in the DAM market, but also all of the workflow, reporting, and user management requirements of enterprise customers. While Sentrigo trails several competitor products in terms of depths and breadth of coverage, McAfee can dedicate the resources to close the gaps.

All in all, this is a solid acquisition for McAfee and gives it a nice offering for data center security.

Adrian Lane is an analyst/CTO with Securosis LLC, an independent security consulting practice. Special to Dark Reading. Adrian Lane is a Security Strategist and brings over 25 years of industry experience to the Securosis team, much of it at the executive level. Adrian specializes in database security, data security, and secure software development. With experience at Ingres, Oracle, and ... View Full Bio

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