Cisco's NAC for Network Security

By Pedro Hernandez

October 19, 2005

Company extends its Network Admission Control framework, growing its portfolio of "self-defending network" gear.

Cisco’s self-defending network strategy gets a boost by broadening the scope of the company’s Network Admission Control (NAC) support to include more of the company’s gear, including wireless access points. The technology essentially keeps systems and devices of dubious security standing from getting a foot in the door.

Conversely, only trusted endpoints are allowed to join in, creating an environment free of viruses and spyware that can sap at bandwidth, expose a company’s inner workings, and lead to administration headaches.

Come late November, the company will make available a free upgrade for Catalyst 6500, 4500, 4900, 3700, 3500, and 2900 series switches, granting them all NAC framework support. On the wireless side, the currently available IOS 1.4.1, IOS 12.3(7)JA and Unified Wireless Network Software 3 free upgrades (to qualifying customers) spreads the same support to the company’s Catalyst 6500 Series Wireless LAN Services Module (WLSM), Aironet APs, and Wireless LAN Controllers.

Also getting an upgrade is the Cisco NAC appliance, which provides single sign-on support for Cisco ASA 5500 series and Cisco VPN 3000 series remote access concentrators as well as built-in spyware protection. The hardware/software combo ships late November with a base price of $8,995.

To help achieve its goals, Cisco has also widened the NAC partner net, hauling in more security software vendors to surpass the 60-member mark and creating a new category of participant to reflect the framework’s newly enhanced capabilities. The new auditing category came about because of improved support for endpoints and devices that don’t fall under the purview of the Cisco Trust Agent, the company’s system security polling software.

“Agentless” devices finding their way onto corporate networks can take the form of guest laptops, VoIP phones, printers and PDAs. Companies supporting the initiative to help these endpoints pass the NAC health checks include Altiris, Qualys, and Symantec through its WholeSecurity buy earlier this month.

However, for systems that support Cisco Trust Agent, the company is readying the release of version 2.0 will bow in towards the end of November 2005 as a free upgrade.

Rounding out the NAC product push is Access Control Server v.4.0, which goes on sale in November for $7,995 to start, and Secure Monitoring, Analysis, and Response System v.4.1, which currently sells for $15,000.



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