EMC's RSA group is set to acquire data leak protection vendor Tablus.

Tablus sells software called Content Sentinel that monitors computers, and catches them when they are being used to leak sensitive information. It is one of a growing list of products developed in the past few years to help chief information officers demonstrate compliance with federal regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Sarbanes-Oxley. Tablus has been offering Content Sentinel since early 2004.

The acquisition, which is expected to be completed by the year-end, dovetails with RSA's plans to develop a full portfolio of products that can be used to secure sensitive corporate information behind the firewall.

With data-leak disclosure laws and government regulations putting more focus on protecting corporate data, RSA sees an emerging business opportunity in expanding its line of software encryption products, said Charles Kolodgy, research director with IDC. "They're trying to build a data compliance story to help people meet different security regulations," he said.

Data leaks have been front page news for the past few years. Last month, Gerald Eastman, an employee of Boeing, was charged with stealing sensitive documents, putting them onto a USB drive and trying to leak them to newspaper reporters.

Boeing has estimated that, had they fallen into the wrong hands, the documents could have cost the company between US$5 billion and $15 billion in damages.

According to IDC's Kolodgy, taking basic data protection measures could help deter some of this kind of leakage, even though they can still be circumvented by a determined attacker. "All the documents that he got were non-password protected and nonencrypted," he said of Eastman.

RSA isn't the only company moving into this market. McAfee and Websense have also recently acquired Tablus competitors. In January, Websense bought Israeli company PortAuthority. Three months earlier, McAfee spent $20m to acquire Onigma, also based in Israel.

RSA did not disclose the financial terms of its Tablus deal.