McAfee has bought data security software company Onigma for $20 million.

Onigma's FlowControl software prevents unauthorised data from being transmitted over the network by email or malicious software and can prevent it from being copied to devices attached to the PC, such as USB drives or printers.

McAfee plans to ship its own version of FlowControl, called the McAfee Data Loss Prevention Solution, at the start of next year, and will integrate the software into its ePolicy Orchestrator (EPO) architecture by mid-year, said marketing head Vimal Solanki. A beta version of the product will be available by the end of the year.

The purchase gives McAfee a credible product to prevent the kind of data breaches that have dominated headlines since early 2005, when it was revealed scammers had gained access to the personal information of more than 150,000 US residents, stored on ChoicePoint's computers. The company later agreed to pay $15 million in fines and other penalties for its lax security standards.

"In the last 18 months, there have been over 200 high-profile information breaches," Solanki said, but "there really isn't a solution that a large enterprise would feel comfortable deploying."

As Microsoft's entry into the anti-virus market has threatened its consumer sales, McAfee has snapped up companies that sell software to help corporations be sure they are in compliance with regulatory and security policies.

In June, it purchased Preventsys, a vendor of risk management and compliance reporting software. And by early December McAfee expects to close its $60 million acquisition of Citadel Software. Citadel sells software that guides users through the steps they need to take to meet regulatory and corporate IT policy requirements.

Like FlowControl, the Preventsys and Citadel products are being integrated into the EPO architecture. A new version of the Preventsys software, set to be released Monday, will be able to access the EPO database for information that had previously been unavailable to it.