Check Point drops plans to acquire Sourcefire

Amid controversy, the companies have decided to pursue alternative ways to partner in the security solutions business.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. said Thursday that it's pulling its application relating to its acquisition of Sourcefire Inc., a company that offers commercial support of the popular Snort open source IDS tool.

The Israeli enterprise security company said it has agreed with Sourcefire to withdraw its application, which is currently pending with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and that the companies have decided to pursue alternative ways to partner in the security solutions business.

For those who have followed the Check Point/Sourcefire saga, the withdrawal probably doesn't come as a surprise. The $225 million acquisition deal has been in jeopardy for the last few weeks. CFIUS had scrutinized the deal amid concerns that foreign ownership of Snort would threaten U.S. national security. Coincidentally, CFIUS is the same Treasury Department panel that was involved with the controversial review and approval of United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World's $6.85 billion acquisition of Britain's P&O, which operates a half dozen major U.S. shipping ports.

Check Point, based out of Ramat Gan, Israel, had hoped to acquire Columbia, Md.-based Sourcefire to augment its intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems (IPS). But the FBI and Pentagon expressed strong reservations about the deal because Snort is used to safeguard classified U.S. military and intelligence data.

Members of the Snort user community have been wary of the acquisition all along, but for different reasons. Some fear Check Point would allow Snort to languish, as some feel it has done since it acquired the popular free ZoneAlarm desktop firewall application as part of its $205 million purchase of Zone Labs in 2003. Others fear Check Point would seek to further monetize Snort by no longer allowing it to be an open source product.

But in a recent interview with SearchSecurity.com, Sourcefire CTO Martin Roesch said those fears are unfounded.

"There's a lot of skepticism from the Snort users right now because they're in wait-and-see mode, so we need to prove to them that we mean it when we say Snort's going to get a lot better," Roesch said. "We're not going to try to close it or anything like that. Once they see how much benefiting, they're going to be really happy."

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