Don't Let Branch Security Slide - InformationWeek

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2/25/2005
09:50 AM
Paul Travis
Paul Travis
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Don't Let Branch Security Slide

HP's networking unit introduces a collection of routers and other gear to shore up security at branch offices, but Cisco is still tops in the field

Hewlett-Packard's networking unit last week introduced a line of branch-office routers with antivirus technology, part of an industry move toward building more cybersecurity into the fringes of computer networks.

HP's ProCurve unit says it designed the routers to provide both secure communications with a headquarters site and built-in "virus-throttling" technology to stop the spread of malicious code throughout a network. The routers include security features to restrict unauthorized access, prevent denial-of-service attacks, and provide remote access to mobile users.

HP also rolled out "access-control module" hardware to provide secure access to mobile users seeking to connect to a ProCurve switch at the edge of a network.

The virus-throttling technology aims to slow the spread of viruses by watching network traffic to spot unusual behavior caused by previously unknown threats, then slowing or blocking suspicious traffic until network managers can take action. It has stopped viruses in less than a second in internal tests, HP says, and is available as a free download for HP customers.

The technology rollout is part of a trend to put more computing intelligence at the edge of networks to inspect PCs before they're granted access to a network, says Peter Firstbrook, an analyst at research firm Meta Group. "It's like checking passengers at the airport before they board the airplane," he says.

No. 1 network equipment maker Cisco Systems has taken the lead in adding security features to networking products, and competitors are following with their own efforts, Firstbrook says. The capabilities introduced by ProCurve Networking also will help isolate users within a network and let network administrators dynamically grant them access to only those resources to which they're entitled to connect.

"The network is getting much smarter and doing more security," he says. "This is good news for HP customers, but it isn't going to convince any Cisco customers to switch."

With the new products, businesses now have a "complete, end-to-end networking infrastructure that can easily grow and evolve with their business needs," said HP VP and general manager John McHugh in a statement.

The access-controller module works with ProCurve switches to securely identify mobile users seeking access to a business network by moving authentication software from a mobile device to the edge of the network. The module provides Web-based authentication, bandwidth control, and configuration management; it's priced at $5,499.

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