Microsoft Buys DC Start-up

By Mike Musgrove
Microsoft announced today that it has acquired a D.C.-area computer science professor's start-up company, Komoku Inc., which develops a product protecting computers against malicious software attacks.

Komoku was founded in 2004 by William Arbaugh, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland.

The firm develops a type of protection against "rootkits," a form of malicious software that often goes undetected by computer security programs. Microsoft plans to incorporate the software into its business-oriented line of computer security software.

Steve Brown, director of marketing at Microsoft's Security and Access division, said that Microsoft acquired the local company as much as for its people as for its products. Most of Komoku's staff will come to work at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. headquarters, he said.

"These are some of the very very best people in the entire world at solving these rootkit challenges," he said.
Rootkits maliciously change a computer's operating system without a user's knowledge and then hide themselves.

Once obscure, rootkits became more widely-known following a scandal in which music company Sony BMG was found to have included the malicious software on some of its CDs as an anti-piracy measure.

Komoku's clients have included government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Komoku name and product line will be retired.

Arbaugh did not return a call late Friday afternoon. In a statement released by the University of Maryland, Arbaugh said, "we at Komoku look forward to continuing the tremendous progress Microsoft has already made in the anti-malware space and building the anti-malware products that can handle today's sophisticated threats."

Before working at the University of Maryland, where he is currently on a leave of absence, Arbaugh worked for the National Security Agency. He is also the author of a book about Wi-Fi security.

By Mike Shepard  |  March 21, 2008; 6:39 PM ET
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