Cisco plans to buy security-as-a-service provider OpenDNS

OpenDNS provides Web filtering and malware protection services to 65 million users

Cisco Systems plans to pay $635 million in cash to buy OpenDNS, a company that leverages the Domain Name System (DNS) to provide security services including Web filtering, threat intelligence, and malware and phishing protection.

The DNS is a core Internet protocol. It's used to translate Web addresses that are easy for people to remember, like website names, into numerical IP (Internet Protocol) addresses that computers need to communicate with each other.

OpenDNS customers configure their computers or networks to use the company's DNS resolution servers instead of the ones provided by their ISPs and this allows OpenDNS to provide additional services.

By using its privileged network position, OpenDNS can block users from accessing websites that are known to distribute malware or host phishing pages, can prevent malware that already exists on computers from calling back home to attackers and can prevent access to Internet resources or protocols that companies don't want their employees to use.

OpenDNS, which is based in San Francisco but has data centers around the world, claims to handle over 70 billion DNS requests every day from 65 million customers in more than 160 countries. This visibility into Internet traffic has allowed the company to also develop predictive algorithms that can detect emerging threats or targeted attacks.

Following the acquisition, which is expected to close during the first quarter of next year, the OpenDNS team will be integrated into Cisco's security business group. Cisco plans to leverage the company's technology and visibility to help organizations protect the computers of employees who work remotely, as well as the new generation of Internet-connected devices, which are expected to reach 50 billion by 2020.

On a website set up to answer questions about the acquisition, OpenDNS assures customers that their license terms and support agreements will remain unchanged for the length of their existing subscriptions. Also, the company doesn't plan to cancel the free service that it is currently offering.

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