Cisco unleashes cascade of new security offerings

Cisco Systems Inc. has announced 14 security products and services, including three new products and an important revision to its security management software that supports threat-protection technology gained in the April acquisition of Okena Inc.

The Okena-originated technology, now known as the Cisco Security Agent (CSA), looks at user behaviours and takes steps to stop actions that a company deems objectionable before they can cause harm, said Jeff Platon, senior director of product and technology marketing at Cisco.

CSA doesn’t try to match signatures to prevent malicious activities, but it follows behaviours. For example, if a desktop user tried to launch an unusual application, CSA would stop the launch, Platon said.

The technology resides on desktops and servers but is supported by Cisco’s upgraded CiscoWorks VPN/Security Management Solution (VMS) 2.2, which is also being enhanced to support the Cisco Catalyst 6500 firewall and virtual private network services modules.

Other announcements included a new one-touch router-lockdown capability and new intelligent wizards for configuring firewall and IPsec VPN services on certain Cisco routers.

Radiology Associates of Ocala has been using the previous version of the management software, VMS 2.1, for eight months to manage security on a variety of devices at six sites used daily by hundreds of physicians and radiologists, said Jonathan Houghton, associate director of IT at the Ocala, Fla.-based health care provider.

“VMS gives us one place to manage all our security devices, whether they are VPN boxes or firewalls, meaning we can monitor the devices and any attempts at attacks on the network,” he said. “It’s loaded on a server, and you get through to any Web browser, meaning there’s only one place to look, which is just beautiful.”

Houghton said he is eager to look at the new 2.2 release after gaining so much value with 2.1.

Jeff Wilson, an analyst at Infonetics Research Inc. in San Jose, said the 14 Cisco announcements are “small but important to somebody out there.” But taken together, they show Cisco is focusing on many areas of security.

Cisco has “quietly insinuated” itself into the security market, winning US$1 billion annually for devices with security software installed, he said.

The VMS upgrade is important, Wilson said, but “no vendor is good at this yet” because there are dozens of arcane security standards. “It’s hard to build good security management solutions,” he added.

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