Looking back at 2010: talking with PGP about its acquisition by Symantec

As we enter December there is an opportunity to look back on 2010 and some of the major stories covered by SC Magazine.

There is no doubt that this has been a big year for acquisitions and, while the number of privately-owned companies was in decline, it ends with the likes of ArcSight, McAfee and BigFix under new ownership and with huge aspirations for 2011.

Another major acquisition was of PGP by Symantec back in April, just two days after SC Magazine crowned the encryption specialist ‘information security vendor of the year'. The deal was sealed in June and the first announcement came regarding the company with Northern Rock implementing the technology in July.

This week I met with Jamie Cowper, formerly director of European marketing at PGP and now principal product marketing manager for encryption and data loss prevention at Symantec.

Recalling when the announcement was made during this year's Infosecurity Europe exhibition and Cowper was greeted with me searching for an exclusive comment, he said that the announcement was unexpected and caught PGP by surprise. However he said that there is a period as a public company, where they have to go through the regulatory details and at that point of time, there cannot be any ‘significant' dialogue from the purchaser to the company that they are acquiring.

“So once that short period was over we started talking about integration, moving forward and functionally where everyone lived within the organisation. Everyone wanted to know and people were keen to know where they fitted in within the broader Symantec team,” he said.

“There was a lot of demand within Symantec and with their customers to plug that encryption gap and now PGP is in the technology brand within Symantec and the products are part of Symantec, but the PGP brand will live on as you cannot have multiple identities.”

Regarding any changes made to the brand and how Symantec engineering has been integrated into the PGP team, Cowper said that PGP is fully integrated into Symantec, while the acquisition of GuardianEdge that happened at the same time proved the demand for encryption products within the security vendor's customers.

He said: “It is like two bodies of work with separate customers who need to understand that there is no end of life and a logical future and investment in the future. Then you have the broader Symantec portfolio with logical integration points such as with data loss prevention and overarching technology such as the Symantec Protection Centre.

“Symantec also acquired part of VeriSign with digital certificates, PGP did the same with TC Trust Centre in January/February; so in a small little way we saw the integration of authentication with the encryption model, so when Symantec announced the integration of VeriSign we completely got it.”

He said that moving forward it is about helping customers understand the benefits of other technology, such as data loss prevention, where they are identifying risk at different points.

Looking into the future with new products, Cowper said: “We have feature enhancements and customer requests to take into consideration and there is the balance of integrating the GuardianEdge and PGP build into the same encryption model. GuardianEdge was only on the endpoint and had some nice products, while PGP was full disk encryption and it is about that crossover between endpoint and disk and device control.

“It is about integrating into a common build and an enhancement of both products that recognises the benefits of both and recognises strengths and weaknesses in both products. People are very open minded about that, when you are developing products you are thinking nine to 12 months out to go through quality assurance and stress testing and then look at the opportunities within the Symantec portfolio. You will see a combination of both and that is how it should be.”

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