'Check Point can't answer our solution'

The rivalry between Check Point Software Technologies (Nasdaq:CHKP) and NetScreen Technologies (Nasdaq:NSCN) is stepping up, according to the Israeli company's former CTO, Nir Zuk.

The Israeli network security company has no answer to NetScreen's latest solution, he claims.

Zuk joined Check Point in 1994 to become one of the company's first five engineers. Last Thursday NetScreen announced he had joined them as chief technology officer, after the acquisition of OneSecure, which Zuk had co-founded.

Zuk had been involved in developing Check Point's first virtual private network, and wrote part of the version of its new firewall. He was also the driving force behind some of its OEM agreements, including with Nortel Networks. In 1997 he moved to Sunnyvale, California, where he established Check Point's research and development center.

He left Check Point in 1999 and launched OneSecure in early 2000, mainly to branch into areas Check Point didn't want to go. "It was very hard to move forward with things I wanted, mainly because of political battles," Zuk says.

But the grounds for his resignation were professional, not political, he insists. "What I care about is getting my products to market. Once it was for Check Point, now it's for NetScreen," he says.

OneSecure has raised $58 million financing in two rounds, and was finally taken over by NetScreen for $40.3 million. Investors agreed to the low price, assuming that the merged entity would return their investment within a few years, Zuk explains.

OneScreen's first product was Network Security, intended to prevent hackers from accessing communications networks. "Firewalls aren't enough any more to stop sophisticated hackers," Zuk says. "Our product complements the firewall by keeping track of traffic passing through the firewall."

Now NetScreen is planning to integrate Network Security into its firewall to create a more comprehensive solution.

"Insofar as I know, Check Point has no answer to our solution," Zuk says. "They have a product called Smart Defense, but it's based on technologies ten to fifteen years old. While our product answers all 30 protocols, their answers only five."

What Check Point does is run OPSEC a system that gives its clients access to complementary products provided by companies with which Check Point is allied, Zuk explains.

"The merger will heat up competition," Zuk predicts. Beyond the firewall front, the greater NetScreen plans to step up the struggle over security management, which is an area where Check Point is considered particularly strong.

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