Partners in prevention

Merger of the security specialists. Symantec and Axent are merging with a stock deal valued at $975 million. Among the company's immediate plans is to produce a "digital immune system" that detects and responds quickly to problems.

Security specialists Symantec and Axent Technologies agreed to merge last week to further plans of providing a single product that can intelligently deal with viruses, e-mail attacks or an intruder creeping onto a network.

They also hope to become a $1 billion company in the process, moving Symantec away from its PC roots and farther into the faster-growing corporate and Internet markets.

"The product teams have been meeting steadily" to map out ways to bring Axent's Enterprise Security Manager, Net Recon and Prowler ID products into line with Symantec's virus scanning software for servers and desktops, said Larry Dietz, Symantec's director of market intelligence.

Both companies decided to talk merger in July, when they discovered each planned to build a security manager's console that linked information from different security products into a shared, underlying database. The ultimate goal is to produce "a digital immune system," one that not only detects trouble, but responds quickly with an antidote, said Gail Hamilton, senior vice president at Symantec.

With the merger - a stock deal valued at $975 million - Symantec hopes to outstrip its competitors that produce anti-virus, security management, firewall or intrusion detection software, but not all four in an integrated set.

The experience of Symantec's AntiVirus Research Center has taught its rapid response team how to respond to new virus threats. Once a new virus is detected, some telling bit of code is analyzed for a"signature," which is downloaded to customers. Once the signature is added to the Norton AntiVirus database, the document containing the signature is blocked at the company perimeter.