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October 6, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Firewall and filtering company Secure Computing Corp has announced a port of its SmartFilter to Microsoft’s Windows NT and is talking up the success of the professional services organization it established earlier this year. Able to block more than half a million questionable URLs in 27 categories, SmartFilter for NT is being sold as a deterrent discouraging employees from using porn on company time, rather than as a censorship tool per se. Executives say the key issue is saving enterprise bandwidth. SmartFilter will be shipped as part of Microsoft’s small business server. The story the company really wants to tell, though, is how it is winning business from established professional services firms like Ernst and Young, thanks to the team assembled over the last seven months by Jeff Moss, himself an E&Y alumnus, former hacker and the founder of hacker convention DefCon. Moss explains that his staff concentrate on three key areas: policy, network architecture and intrusion testing. Of these, the most important is policy. It sounds boring but everything else flows from there, says Moss. He attributes Secure’s comparative success in attracting and keeping 40 rare, expensive security professionals to the nature of the company and the work. He says that short, intense contracts keep employee skills on the cutting edge. It doesn’t hurt that the company doesn’t enforce a dress code or regular hours, either. After you’ve taken care of the basic monetary needs, says Moss, the questions people ask are ‘Who do I get to work with?’ and ‘What can I learn from them?’ As long as Moss can keep his staff amused, Secure’s clients get access to security skills that might otherwise be harnessed into attacking their network. In contrast to pricier alternatives like E&Y, clients obtain those services for one flat fee. Little wonder that the professional services organization is Secure Computing’s fastest-growing group. Secure went public in 1995, setting an IPO record that stood until’s blockbuster float in July. Secure used the cash to go on a buying spree, acquiring Border Network Technologies for its channel, Webster Network Strategies for its URL filtering and Enigma Logic for its authentication software. Acquiring the properties turned out to be a much simpler proposition than integrating the technologies and cultures into one coherent entity, and shares in Secure Computing began a long slide as revenues slipped into the red. Shades of Network Associates Inc today – except that Secure seemed to have hit rock bottom in 1997 and has since turned its fortunes around. As its key rival continues to struggle, new management led by CEO Jeff Waxman and new confidence has seen Secure’s stock rise in a falling market.

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