Teleworkers get VPN service

With a field full of IP Security and Secure Sockets Layer-based VPN products and services geared to teleworkers, most do little to help network executives maintain the security of their remote PCs.

Newcomer Positive Networks Inc. in August launched PositivePro, a VPN service beefed up with a slew of end-user security applications, including software firewall, antivirus, secure file storage, and optional back-up and application distribution. A policy manager lets network managers configure settings, policies and actions for each user and monitor them in real time. If a teleworker disables the firewall or antivirus software, PositivePro can shut down the VPN tunnel, send an alert to the network manager, or send the user to a captive portal site with instructions on enabling the firewall to regain access.

PositivePro is designed for teleworkers who use their PC for work or share a PC with another household member. When a user logs on to the VPN service, it performs a security audit to ensure there are no open ports, and antivirus and firewall are enabled. Simultaneously, the teleworker’s corporate settings appear (wallpaper, bookmarks, available network drives and corporate e-mail). When the user logs off, his personal settings automatically return.

“We’ve got 450 IS employees who are clamouring to do programming and technical support from home,” says Eric Foster, vice president of data security for UMB Bank in Kansas City, Mo. “We looked at big vendors like Cisco and managed service providers like Axcelerent. But we were intrigued by what Positive had to offer – a solution engineered to address the security concerns of remote-worker connectivity.”

The PositivePro service consists of an XML messaging system that includes NetScreen Technologies Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. VPN concentrators, retooled SafeNet VPN clients, and the cornerstone policy manager, a Linux/Unix-based system of databases, servers and algorithms that let each remote user receive a custom set of security settings.

The service employs McAfee antivirus software, supports Trend Micro Inc., and a proprietary software firewall.

No hardware or software is required on the customer premises, and VPN provisioning can be done within a few hours, says marketing vice president Evan Conway. The initial version will be based on IPSec, with an SSL edition expected in early fall.

UMB Bank is completing a 100-user pilot program and plans to roll out the service to 1,000 workers by year-end 2003. Foster reports the bank will save 35 per cent over the cost of another managed VPN solution, mostly in support and security software costs.

Positive’s service costs US$15 to US$50 per month, per user based on the number of users. The company is online at