Network security from the edge

Network security from the edge

Enterasys Networks is holding a series of reseller and customer seminars on a new selling point for its products, the concept of "user-personalised networks".

Enterasys recently became involved with the development of the 802.1x network-authentication standard, which was ratified by the IEEE late last year. The standard is designed to enhance the security of wireless networks by authenticating users from the edge of the network; that is, from the point in which they enter the network.

Existing authentication technology tends only to allow or deny access to a user from a given point. Whether the user is attempting access through a simple password/username, a digital certificate or even smart cards and biometrics, they are generally still able to access that part of the network between the point of entry and the point where their access is permitted or refused.

Many client operating systems are now 802.1x-compliant, including Windows XP, while there are third-party products for many legacy operating systems. Most large enterprises are already equipped with a Radius (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) server for remote-user authentication. Enterasys and its networking peers are now making many of their products compliant to fill the gaps between the client and directory system to secure the network from the point of entry - be it a switch in wired networks or a wireless NIC card in wireless networks.

Enterasys Australia managing director Sheldon Speer sees the technology as an opportunity to offer enterprises the ability to have their staff access the network through a variety of devices, and to personalise and secure IT services based on staff profiles. "All of the infrastructure resellers need is already there," he said. "This standard will be ubiquitous within 12 months."

Speer said Enterasys channel partners should be looking to pitch the concept of a user-personalised network (UPN) to their customers, highlighting the inherent security and personalisation benefits to gain more professional services work. "Previous to this, rules could only be applied to particular points of access for particular staff," he said. "Rather than have your IT staff lock down users to particular ports, rules can now be assigned by a dynamic assignment at the switch. This will reduce the overhead of network management."

Enterasys is positioning itself for the acceptance of the new standard, and Speer claims it has an 18-month window of opportunity over its competitors. The vendor has also released a policy-management tool called "NetSight", a graphical user interface for managing authentication among enterprise users.

Enterasys ran seminars in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth last week and will invite UPN program manager Steven Hargis back to the country to cover other cities and run further seminars in May.

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