3Com releases embedded firewall NICs

3Com releases embedded firewall NICs

3Com last week announced network cards with embedded firewall technology and made available its previously announced secure NIC products and policy server for locking down PCs and servers.

Announced almost a year ago, the hardware-based firewalls for 3Com's 10/100Base-T NIC could help IT security staff prevent unauthorised access to network servers or PCs from inside and outside a network.

3Com also added a PC card version of its embedded firewall, which could be used to secure telecommuters' broadband connections. Also announced was a 100Base-FX version of the embedded firewall NIC for securing servers. The new products were announced at the RSA Security Conference.

The secure NIC products come at a time when network professionals are feeling unsatisfied with network security, according to a recent survey. In a study of 583 companies conducted by security firm PentaSafe and released at the RSA conference, 23 per cent of respondents said their organisations' security awareness was "dangerously inadequate, while 44 per cent said their firms' security was "inadequate". The survey also reported that 60 per cent of respondents gave their companies a D -- on a scale from A to F -- regarding network security practices.

The embedded firewall is based on technology from Secure Computing, and can be added to existing 3Com 10/100Mbps 3CR990 series NICs through a firmware upgrade, or purchased with new network cards.

The embedded firewall on the NICs works independently of the operating system running on the host machine and can filter traffic based on IP address or virus and Trojan signatures.

The company says this feature makes the product more secure than software-based personal firewalls -- from Norton, McAfee or Black ICE -- because those firewalls work on top of a PC or server operating system and can be disabled via freely available hacking tools.

3Com's PCMCIA card with embedded firewall for telecommuters will let administrators push policies to workers who may alternate between an office LAN and a home broadband connection. The card could be used to let the NIC communicate only over a VPN gateway while on a WAN connection, or disallow enterprise VPN access when an end user surfs the Web from home. This could prevent a home user's machine with simultaneous connections to the Internet and a VPN from becoming a hacker's portal into a corporation through a VPN connection.

A central Embedded NIC Policy Server can be used to update the NICs with new firewall rules and firmware updates over secure IP Security connections on a LAN or over a WAN.

The fibre-based embedded firewall NIC is available for $US360, and the PC card will be available later this quarter for $US250.

The 3Com 10/100 Secure Desktop Interface Cards are available for $US120 and $US130. The Embedded Firewall NIC Policy Server is available for $US1000, and firewall upgrade kits for securing multiple NICs are available for $US500 for 10 cards, $US2250 for 50 cards and $US8000 for 200 cards.

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