March 13, 2000
Offerings will help identify vulnerabilities, detect intrusions, and provide secure net access
By Bob Wallace
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Due in the next several weeks is AT&T's Vulnerability Assessment and Network Scanning Service (VANSS), to be followed closely by the Managed Intrusion Detection Service. The carrier's as-yet-unnamed, network-based firewall services for frame relay will debut in the third quarter.
"AT&T has realized that users have gone far beyond wanting just Internet access and are requiring it to be combined with advanced security options to help them better address this increasingly mission-critical IT issue," says Laurent Guengant, a senior analyst at TeleChoice. "These services put AT&T ahead of other major carriers in terms of breadth of security services." Guengant also notes that AT&T's rivals offer little beyond managed router and firewall services.
AT&T customer McDermott International Inc. in New Orleans sees big value in the services. "They are critical and necessary because they provide flexibility and help in addressing security, which is becoming more difficult as hacking becomes more prevalent," says Joe Bove, technology manager at the $3 billion international energy services company. "And the services mean we can get out of the buying-and-managing-equipment business and go with AT&T."
With VANSS, AT&T uses software from Internet Security Systems Inc. to scan a list of user-provided IP addresses for key IT items such as servers, operating systems, and routers once a month to identify any potential security vulnerabilities. The items are remotely scanned from an AT&T security center for 500 flaws, such as operating systems that need security patches and routers that need updated software with new security features. The results are posted for customers on a secure Web site, along with reports and suggestions for correcting problems.
Pricing for VANSS will start at less than $1,000 per month, with a minimum one-year contract. Analysts say users will save by paying a monthly fee for the services, which are remotely managed by AT&T security specialists, rather than buying security products themselves and hiring expensive, skilled staffers to continually monitor and manage their systems.
VANSS customers wanting more frequent scans can have AT&T conduct as many as five additional ad hoc audits or use one of their monthly scans in advance at no extra charge, says Janet Stone, AT&T's product line manager for managed security services. Any company that needs more than 17 scans per year will be charged extra, Stone says, at a price that's still being determined.
The upcoming Managed Intrusion Detection Service will use Cisco Systems' NetRanger system, which detects intrusions, then alerts the carrier and customer.
Later this year, AT&T will deliver its network-based firewall service for frame relay users. The offering will let far-flung sites set up a link over their dedicated frame relay access lines to a farm of firewall servers located inside the AT&T network. The carrier wouldn't divulge pricing.
The setup would provide an alternative for companies that now require remote sites to travel a frame relay network connected to headquarters in order to access the Internet. It would reduce network traffic and congestion, is less expensive than buying and managing firewalls for remote sites, and makes management of remote Internet access easier, says Stone.
Analysts and users agree. "This lets AT&T's huge installed base of frame relay customers use the Internet-with its low cost and wide reach-without replacing existing frame relay equipment and lines or adding new devices," says TeleChoice's Guengant.
Bove is interested in the service. Right now, he says, about 225 sites worldwide must access the Internet through McDermott's corporate headquarters, a practice Bove is more than willing to consider changing. "We have our own network congestion and could risk congestion on our pipe from here to the Internet, which could force us to buy extra bandwidth or even add another line and a second firewall," he says-and AT&T's offering could help.
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