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12/20/2004
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Cisco's Partners Plan Security-Product Blitz In 2005

A wave of products expected in the first quarter would boost Cisco's Network Admission Control, a program that enforces security standards for devices seeking access to a network.

More than a dozen vendors are expected to roll out products in the first quarter of next year that work with Cisco Systems' Network Admission Control program, which is designed to ensure that computing devices meet security policies and standards before they're granted access to a network.

Cisco cites the numbers as a sign that its NAC program, which uses a business' network infrastructure to grant access only to devices that have up-to-date security software, is gaining momentum. Nearly two dozen vendors have signed up for it in the past month, the company says, and more than 25 vendors, ranging from security-software companies to network-monitoring and -management companies to patch-management developers to end-point device makers, are listed on Cisco's Web site as participating in the program.

At this point, Cisco's program is more vision than practical security strategy that businesses can implement. For businesses to take advantage of the capabilities, more vendors need to roll out NAC-compliant products, and IT departments will need to upgrade their networking infrastructure and install security agents on employees' PCs and other devices. The products expected to be unveiled in the next 90 days are a step in that direction.

When deployed in a business network, the NAC program is supposed to grant network access to PCs, PDAs, servers, and other devices that can verify that their security software meets with established security policies. It's supposed to deny access--or grant only limited access--to devices with out-of-date antivirus software or other security problems. Such restricted access is designed to limit the damage caused by worms and viruses by reducing their ability to spread.

Earlier this year, Cisco opened the program to vendors that make endpoint security, compliance, patch-management, and other types of applications. At a recent NAC developer conference, 10 vendors showed products and demonstrated NAC interoperability. Leading security firms such as McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro already are shipping antivirus products that interoperate with the NAC program. Caymas Systems Inc., which makes the Identity-Driven Access Gateway, will be the first network-access company with NAC-compatible products, Cisco said in a statement.

Another dozen vendors are expected to release NAC-compliant products within 90 days, Cisco says on its Web site. They are Altris, BigFix, Citadel Security Software, Computer Associates, IBM, InfoExpress, PatchLink, Secure Elements, Senforce, Sygate, and Whole Security.

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