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IBM To Buy Watchfire To Strengthen Web App Security

IBM expects Watchfire's technology to complement existing IBM Tivoli offerings by better incorporating security and compliance testing into the application development lifecycle.

In a move to help its Rational software customers write Web applications that better adhere to security and government regulatory requirements, IBM Wednesday said it plans to buy privately held Watchfire Corp. for an undisclosed price.

IBM expects Watchfire's technology to complement existing IBM Tivoli identity, access, and compliance management software offerings, as well as those gained through the Internet Security Systems acquisition, by better incorporating security and compliance testing into the application development lifecycle.

Watchfire, a Waltham, Mass., company with more than 800 customers and founded in 1996, already has been a business partner with IBM Rational, so the two companies have experience integrating Watchfire technology into IBM's Rational Software Delivery Platform. Watchfire's AppScan Desktop and Enterprise editions are designed to automate Web application security audits for apps written in the Borland JBuilder, IBM WebSphere, Microsoft Visual Studio.Net, or Eclipse environments. Watchfire's WebXM provides online risk management capabilities that allow companies to audit their Web sites to check for regulatory compliance as well as effectiveness.

As security breaches and inside jobs continue to make news -- thanks largely to the growing number of state breach notification laws -- it's become clear that one of the best ways to protect IT systems and data is to write secure applications from the start. Watchfire's products may not eliminate the need for separate enterprise security product and services, but "building enhanced security into new and existing products is another way to increase the overall security of corporate IT assets," Technology Business Research analyst Allan Krans wrote in a report Wednesday.

Despite the growing number of security software company acquisitions, including EMC's announcement earlier this week that it bought user-authentication technology vendor Verid and IBM's own ISS buy last year, "this acquisition is the first that is specifically focused on product testing and development," Krans wrote. "While many vendors throughout the software industry, including Cisco, EMC, and HP are bolstering their security assets, none have the strong presence in development tools possessed by IBM."

The concept of spending the time and money to write secure programs is a difficult one for company executives on the business side to accept, as it means possibly extending deadlines for deployment or lowering margins on products (or passing along the higher costs to customers). But it's worth it for companies to consider paying extra attention to the security of the programs they write, when you consider the cost of fixing a bug once an application is shipped and in use can be up to 100 times more expensive than identifying the problem during the development phase, Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer for Veracode, said Tuesday during a Gartner IT Security Summit keynote session.

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