Cisco, Apple Extend Mobile-Networking Partnership into Security

The two companies say they are promoting an effort to reduce cyber-security insurance premiums for enterprises that use their products.

Network Cloud Infrastructure

LAS VEGAS—Cisco Systems and Apple turned some heads two years ago when the companies announced a strategic partnership aimed expanding the device maker’s presence in the enterprise and giving the networking giant greater play in the rapidly growing areas of mobility and the internet of things.

Apple and Cisco initially partnered with the goal of improving the collaboration and communications experience of iPhone and iPad users. Over the past couple of years the two companies have cooperated to make such Cisco products as Spark and WebEx easier to use on Apple mobile devices. Now that alliance is expanding to include security.

Toward the end of Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins’ keynote address here June 26 during the first day of the Cisco Live 2017 show, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a surprise appearance on stage, where the two executives talked about extending their relationship, particularly in the field of security.

The CEOs talked about the rising costs of cyber-security insurance premiums at a time when attacks like ransomware and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) are on the rise along with customer demands to protect data and networks in the era of cloud and mobile computing.

Both companies are building new security capabilities into their products. Security is an essential pillar of Cisco’s “intent-based” networking initiative that kicked off last week while Cook noted that new security features are coming in the iOS 11 operating system. The CEOs asserted that as a result of their partnership, companies that use their products should be able to save money when it comes to cyber-security insurance, they said.

“If your enterprise or company is using Cisco and Apple, the combination should make that insurance cost significantly less for you,” Cook said, noting that the two vendors together bring a level of security to the enterprise that isn’t matched by anyone else. “You will reap the benefit.”

In a post on the company blog, David Ulevitch, vice president of Cisco Security, said the company is working with top-tier insurance companies to develop “the architecture that enables cyber-insurance providers to offer more robust policies to our customers. We will do this by enabling continuous security monitoring and a measurable reference architecture that includes technologies from Apple and Cisco.”

At the same time, Cisco announced the Cisco Security Connector program for iOS devices. According to Ulevitch, the product will give enterprises a more granular view of what is going on within corporate-owned iPhones and iPads to offer users greater protection against cyber-attacks and ensure that these devices meet compliance requirements.

It also will help drive greater adoption of the Apple devices in the enterprise, he wrote in the blog. It’s built on such Cisco products as Umbrella and Clarity, providing those capabilities in a single app through a mobile device management system, such as Cisco’s Meraki Systems Manager.

The Cisco Security Connector is expected to be released in the fall, with a beta program starting shortly, Ulevitch wrote.

Cook’s appearance came after Robbins discussed Cisco’s new effort around the enterprise. Robbins said that the industry is being transformed by such trends as public and private clouds, IoT and mobility, which is driving the demand for a new way of addressing networks by making them more scalable, less complex and more secure.

The company last week announced several products in its initial effort to create networks that can respond intuitively to what businesses want and to learn as more data runs through them. Cisco is driving greater openness and programmability in all of its data center infrastructure offerings, starting with the network. The offerings included DNA Center—essentially the network command center that tells the network what to do—and the Catalyst 9000 family of switches.

The new switches are more programmable—due in part of a new programmable ASIC chip that acts similar to a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) as well as a reworked IOS network operating system—and can run third-party products, enabling Cisco or other companies to build services on top of them.

The first service to be built is Cisco’s Encrypted Data Analytics (ETA), which enables the network to detect malware in encrypted traffic without having to decrypt the data, offering high levels of both security and privacy, Robbins said.

Cisco officials are calling last week's product news Cisco's most important announcement in more than a decade, and are spending much of their time here at Cisco Live diving deeper into the initiative for the more than 28,000 attendees.