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When I sold Secure Computing (Nasdaq: SCUR ) off our Motley Fool Rule Breakers scorecard and out of my portfolio, it wasn't because I didn't like management's vision. To the contrary, I still believe that TrustedSource and its reputation-based security system makes sense in an unsafe online world. No, I sold because I don't invest in turnarounds.
Yet we can admire Secure Computing from afar. Last week, the company acquired privately held Securify for $15 million plus a $5 million earn-out. It's an interesting move -- Securify specializes in monitoring activity inside a network and comparing the results to norms.
Perhaps the best way to think of Securify is as an adjunct to TrustedSource. One guards the gates to the network, and the other patrols the network for miscreants who may have slipped past the border guards -- or, almost as bad, for employees who, although not miscreants, are inclined to misuse network resources.
"Let's say a bunch of your sales guys are hitting the financial system rather than the CRM system. You want to know why," explained Secure Computing Chief Financial Officer Tim Steinkopf in an interview with me last week. That's where Securify helps out.
Call it Websense (Nasdaq: WBSN ) on steroids. At the very least, it puts forth a more comprehensive take on security than what you'll hear from the likes of Checkpoint Systems (NYSE: CKP ) , Blue Coat Systems (Nasdaq: BCSI ) , and VASCO Data Security (Nasdaq: VDSI ) .
Still, the story feels creepy. Once you set network policy with Securify -- i.e., keep most sales guys from touching the financial database -- you dictate work processes. Freedom is lost. But here's the thing: Poor policy (or absent policy) creates security holes that need to be filled. Otherwise, misappropriations and fraud become more likely.
Put differently: When everything, and everyone, is connected digitally, isn't it important to control access? Steinkopf thinks so. "Our vision is for Secure's technology to allow the network to set policy for itself."
Auto-locking digital doors? Now that's what I call secure computing.
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