Cisco Expands Footprint of Self-Defending Network

The networking giant ties together a range of products to further deliver on its vision of comprehensive enterprise security.

SAN FRANCISCO--Cisco Systems announced its latest series of product moves aimed at pushing forward its vision of the self-defending network Feb. 5.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking market leader detailed work to further tie together a handful of its existing security applications, claiming to increase the ability of networks to fend off external threats and improve the ability of enterprise organizations to authenticate devices and end users logging onto their IT systems.

At a meeting held for industry analysts and members of the technology media, many of whom are in town for the RSA Conference 2007, being held here from Feb. 5-10, the company outlined the benefits it believes customers will appreciate based on its work to pull its security technologies together in a more comprehensive manner.

Cisco has focused its latest efforts on integrating IT systems defense tools and technologies meant to allow companies to defend their communications infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on the ability of its NAC (network admission control) architecture to help organizations ward off malware intrusions and other types of external attacks.

The company specifically detailed upgrades and new integration to five individual products, its intrusion prevention system (IPS), Security Agent, CS-MARS (Security Mitigation Analysis and Response System), CSM (Security Manager) and SSL (secure sockets layer) VPN technologies.

Through the work, Cisco contends it has directly addressed at least three pressing issues for enterprise customers--bolstering organizations abilities to control threats on the network, employ more stringent remote access controls using SSL VPN, and approach security from a lifecycle services standpoint. Based on those efforts, the company believes it has significantly improved both its endpoint and network security coverage.

In the realm of threat containment, Cisco is boasting far greater levels of collaboration between its IPS 6.0, CSA 5.2, CS-MARS 4.3, and CSM 3.1 products, claiming the ability for the tools to provide more centralized detection, protection and policy management.

As an example, company officials pointed to improved communications between the IPS and security agent tools in the name of lowering false positives and stopping a wider range of emerging attacks. The IPS system has also been augmented to help fight so-called zero-day exploits and other cutting-edge threats.

With SSL VPN, Cisco is claiming significant improvements throughout its ASA (Adaptive Security Appliance) line, which combine anti-virus, IPS, firewall and VPN tools. The ASA 8.0 release specifically broadens the devices ability to provide integrated threat defense and authentication features, along with offering streamlined management capabilities.

Other specific additions to the device family include a more customizable user interface, wider support for Microsoft, Apple and Linux operating systems, and expanded VOIP (voice over IP) integration.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Ciscos efforts to secure campus networks.

Among the new gains promised in the Cisco Lifecycle Services offerings, used by customers to manage its network-based security technologies, is a revamped portal, new alert monitoring systems and expanded remote management tools.

"Weve been working hard on this vision of the self-defending network for years, but major improvements have been made around threat control and providing containment for communications," said Mick Scully, vice president of product management for Ciscos security business.

"Its about sustaining business resiliency and protecting the continuity of operations; were seeing a desire for people to have a single operating console for these types of security technologies and a policy management system to be able to look at access and control the network."

Cisco officials said at the media event that the company is dead-set on being viewed by enterprise customers as a leading provider of any type of security technology necessary to protect vital infrastructure assets.

Asked if Cisco will continue to make acquisitions such as its recently announced deal to buy messaging security specialist IronPort for $830 million to help expand its footprint in the space, company executives said they would continue to add technologies that jibe with its end-to-end network security vision, in addition to pushing forward its internal product development and partnerships in the sector.

"We believe security is fundamentally an integral part of IT infrastructure, and that were in a good position to make that a reality," said Richard Palmer, senior vice president of Ciscos Security Technology Group.

"The network component of the endpoint is what were interested, the way in which the endpoint can communicate with the network to determine its security posture; were concerned with adding all the capabilities necessary to do that, and well continue to follow all three of those strategies to ensure we have everything necessary in place."

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