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Sun, Symantec team on IDS appliance

Sun, Symantec team on IDS appliance

Sun Microsystems and antivirus company Symantec have announced that they are releasing a "no hassles" intrusion detection system (IDS) appliance targeted at the enterprise and service provider markets.

They made the annoucment at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

The iForce IDS Appliance is a 1U rack-mounted hardware appliance based on Sun's LX50 server platform. The device runs Sun's enterprise-class Solaris OS x86 operating system and will be outfitted with Symantec's ManHunt intrusion detection software.

The iForce is capable of performing intrusion detection analysis at speeds up to 2G bits per second, security segment manager at Sun, Sanjay Sharma, said.

The ManHunt software uses distributed network sensors and a variety of methods to identify threats including protocol anomaly detection, signature detection, traffic state profiling and statistical flow analysis.

The new appliance would offer features that were attractive to a wide range of enterprise customers such as protection of new "zero-day attacks" and four levels of failover, Sharma said.

While ManHunt has long been available on the Solaris platform, the new appliance offers customers simpler installation and management, as well as a more secure deployment than before, senior manager of business development at Symantec, Fred Klein, said.

For the new appliance, Sun and Symantec worked together to fine tune and optimise all components of the appliance for high speed intrusion detection, Klein said.

The device's drivers, network card and operating systems were optimised for use with ManHunt. In addition, a special build of the ManHunt software was created specifically for deployment on the LX50 platform.

Finally, the Solaris operating system was hardened by Sun engineers, Sharma said. All components not required by the ManHunt software were removed to eliminate possible avenues of attack against the device.

"The fewer lines of code there are, the fewer ways there are to get into the box," he said.

While much of the fine tuning and hardening of the operating system were things that any Solaris customer could do, in theory, limited technical resources and the reality of systems management in many companies often prohibited it, making iForce's streamlined configuration a valuable commodity, Sharma said.

"It's a unique process that we go through and that we recommend customers go through, but in past getting the box up and running, getting the right card and drivers installed, getting the OS hardened and getting ManHunt installed on top of that was 'non trivial'," Klein said.

"In most IT departments, it's hard to have that level of expertise. Yeah, you probably have a couple people in each organisation that could do this, but do you want them to?" he said.

A single install procedure loads both the Solaris operating system and the ManHunt software. Once installed, a single management console can be used to control both the appliance and the ManHunt software.

By taking the vagaries of hardware and software installation and configuration out of the equation, Sun and Symantec were hoping that the iForce would find a home in smaller branch offices where IT resources and technical expertise were in shorter supply, Klein said.

IForce would also meet the needs of Symantec customers who wanted ManHunt ported to an appliance platform while allowing Symantec and Sun to compete in the hot market for intrusion detection and prevention appliances against companies such as Cisco Systems, Klein said.

"ManHunt never had a problem competing technically," Klein said. "The form factor is what we're addressing."

The iForce IDS Appliance will retail for $US21,995 and soon be available for customers in the US.


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