Antivirus and computer security company Symantec has purchased SafeWeb for $26m (£15.5m).
SafeWeb makes technology which gives workers secure, remote access to network resources over the internet.
The purchase will add a well-regarded SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) virtual private network (VPN) product to Symantec's stable of network security and management tools.
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Virtual private network products enable companies to link remote workers and offices to their corporate network using the public internet, rather than using privately leased telecommunications lines. SSL is a protocol that secures data transmission on the internet.
SafeWeb makes SEA (Secure Extranet Appliance) Tsunami, a rack-mounted security hardware appliance that allows network administrators to extend access to network resources such as e-mail and file servers without installing a separate VPN client program on the users' computers.
The device gives administrators the ability to manage SSL VPN access from a single location, which can translate into significant support cost savings over older dial-in VPN products or those requiring both server and client software components, according to Zeus Kerravala, vice-president of enterprise infrastructure at Yankee Group.
Symantec previously lacked an SSL VPN product and the addition of SafeWeb's technology permits them to tap into a hot market for such products, Kerravala said.
At the same time, companies already using one or more of Symantec's network security products and are looking to add SSL VPN access may prefer to stay in the Symantec family instead of going with one of the many smaller SSL VPN providers, he added.
The company plans to sell SafeWeb's SSL VPN technology on its own hardware platform as a stand-alone product in the first quarter of 2004, then add SafeWeb's technology into the next release of the Symantec Gateway Security Appliance later in the year, according to Greg Gotta, vice-president of product delivery at Symantec.
Customers will be able to switch on SSL VPN features on the Gateway Security Appliance, in a similar manner to the way antivirus and firewall services can be enabled or disabled, Gotta said.
SafeWeb technology will also enable Symantec to dig deeper into network traffic, adding so-called "deep packet inspection" to the capabilities of the Gateway Security Appliance, he said.
Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service