Cisco releases Network Admission Control products

Cisco releases Network Admission Control products

Cisco Systems has said products are now available for its months-old Network Admission Control (NAC) program to integrate IT security features and policies into network switching and routing products.

The company announced a wide range of routing products and software that support the technology, unveiled a new vendor integration program to encourage more companies to develop compliant products and said it was offering consulting services to help customers deploy NAC.

Announced in November 2003, the NAC program was developed jointly by Cisco and antivirus companies Network Associates, Symantec and Trend Micro. It addresses the security risks of remote and mobile computer users connecting to corporate networks with software that allows Cisco routers to evaluate information, such as whether a particular computer’s antivirus definitions are up to date and its operating system is adequately patched, before allowing it to connect to a network.

Cisco 830 to 7200 series routers running the company’s Internetwork Operating System Version 12.3(8)T or higher now support the NAC program, as do some of the company’s network access and security management products.

The Cisco Trust Agent Version 1.0, which collects information from other security software clients including antivirus clients and relays that information to Cisco devices on the network, is now available and has been integrated with the Cisco Security Agent, a software client for servers and desktop systems that provides integrated firewall, intrusion detection and content-based security, Cisco said.

A variety of so-called “end point” security products from McAfee, Trend Micro and Symantec support the Trust Agent as well.

Those products often combine security features such as antivirus, desktop firewall and host intrusion prevention features in a single security agent.

To encourage other companies to develop NAC-compliant products such as security and patch management software, Cisco will release application programming interfaces (APIs), including one for its Trust Agent, to third-party technology vendors for integration.

That program would begin in the third quarter of 2004, the company said.

Finally, Cisco said it was now offering professional services to help companies deploy NAC technology on their networks.

Cisco consultants would offer a variety of services including network assessments to determine whether a customer’s network is ready for a NAC deployment, design services and installation and configuration.

Cisco’s NAC program is at the heart of the company’s vision for a future in which computer networks are “self defending” and capable of stopping threats such as hackers, viruses and worms.

However, that vision might take some time to be realised by all but the largest companies, according to vice-president of enterprise infrastructure research and consulting at The Yankee Group, Zeus Kerravala.

Still in its early stages, Cisco’s NAC architecture, as well as competing efforts from competitors like Juniper Networks, could eventually be the foundation for industry-wide technology standards for integrated network security.

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