Securing corporate networks

Industry heavyweights Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. recently introduced security enhancements designed to protect corporate networks.

Microsoft unveiled a Network Access Protection technology, which will be available in an update release of Windows Server 2003.

NAP will allow IT administrators to restrict the network access of clients that don’t meet corporate security requirements. For example, a remote user trying to access the corporate network from a machine that didn’t have the latest available patch updates or virus definitions, would have limited access to network resources until the user updated the system.

More than 25 vendors, including antivirus, network management and infrastructure firms, pledged support for NAP.

In the meantime, Cisco launched the first phase of its Network Admission Control program. In general terms, NAC has the same goal as Microsoft’s NAP — to restrict the access of clients that don’t meet security update requirements.

Instead of relying on Windows Server 2003, Cisco uses its unbiquitous IOS software to implement its security system. For end user devices, Cisco created a piece of code, called the Cisco Trust Agent, that the company has licensed, free of charge, to antivirus software partners. The Trust Agent is also incorporated into Cisco’s Security Agent software for end user computers.

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