Software Giant Symantec Buys Reston-Based Security Firm

By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007

A company started on the whim of two longtime friends has been snapped up by the world's largest security software company.

Christopher Parker and Steve Crutchley, who met in their 20s while working for a London software company, started 4FrontSecurity in 2002. Last week, software giant Symantec Corp. bought the six-person Reston firm to be part of its information security and compliance suite.

The partners initially set out to form a consulting firm, helping companies figure out how to secure their sensitive information. At the time, most large companies were using ad hoc systems to manage information, evaluate potential risks and comply with industry standards -- an often expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

So Parker and Crutchley, who both ended up in Herndon after other pursuits, came up with a software program that conducts interviews with key staff members about a security system and then compiles the responses. That way, Parker said, companies can detect possible gaps in their systems.

4FrontSecurity was largely funded by its founders and a small grant from the Center for Innovative Technology, an organization that invests in Virginia technology start-ups.

Being acquired by Symantec validates the firm's ideas, Parker said.

"As more companies have to deal with privacy issues, and the more they outsource those technologies, the more risk there is," he said. "We realized this was going to become a major impediment to business."

SPADAC Hopes to Serve Commercial Clients

Five years ago, Mark Dumas started a tiny company with the technology he developed at a Navy research laboratory. Then, with an additional grant from the research arm of the Department of Homeland Security, his company started to help government agencies respond more effectively to emergencies.

The company, SPADAC, uses geospatial mapping systems and historical data to predict the effect of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Last week, SPADAC received $6.5 million in its first round of venture capital funding from Pequot Ventures, an arm of Pequot Capital Management based in New York.

Until recently, Dumas has been working almost exclusively with the government. With the new infusion of cash, he hopes to expand his offerings to the commercial world. By analyzing market patterns, the technology can help retail chains plot store locations and help advertising firms figure out how to target a specific demographic.

It can also help companies manage risk and evaluate threats, Dumas said. For instance, if an ATM has been the target of a rash of thefts, SPADAC's system analyzes other bank locations and crime statistics to figure out which other ATMs may be at risk.

SPADAC is involved in a pilot project with White & Partners, a Herndon marketing firm, to help clients better target their audience. The funding will help to develop that project, as well as to hire more staff and to expand its research and development department. Based in McLean, SPADAC has about 80 employees.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company