Microsoft launches firewall, 'net cache

Microsoft has announced its Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000, comprising a firewall and caching server

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By  Jon Tullett Published  February 15, 2001

Microsoft has released its first security product suite, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000. A caching server and firewall, the ISA Server has passed a standard certification process and received ICSA Labs approval.

The server software performs both standard firewall functions and Internet caching to improve web performance.

The ICSA certification was loudly trumpeted by Microsoft as proof that ISA Server is "’ready for prime time’ in providing mission-critical, enterprise-wide firewall protection for even the largest global networks”. While that is a vast exaggeration, it is certainly an important first step for the software vendor.

ICSA Labs performs basic testing on firewall products (among others), including basic traffic filtering checks, elementary denial of service, checks for existing vulnerabilities and exploits, administration and even more fundamental aspects such as documentation. "Obtaining industry-recognized certification is the minimum price of entry into the firewall market," says John Pescatore, IT security industry analyst at Gartner Group. "Gartner advises clients not to even consider firewalls that don’t have ICSA or Common Criteria certification."

Microsoft says ISA Server will be an important component of the company’s .Net strategy. Paul Flessner, executive vice president of .Net Enterprise Servers at Microsoft, said that if the company's .Net strategy is to be taken seriously, "we can't be telling customers that for security they have to go talk to some third party."

While analysts agree that the ISA Server appears to be easy to use, some say the product isn't truly geared toward the enterprise.

"If … you're running nothing but Windows 2000, then this might be an option," Gartner security analyst John Pescatore said. "But until they support more platforms, I don't consider this a true enterprise product." But, he added, it appears to be a "great" solution for small- and medium-sized businesses.

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