Cisco tackles viruses with NAC

Cisco Systems is attempting to address the increased threat posed by viruses through its Network Admission Control (NAC) programme. The initiative allows users to restrict network access for un-patched devices.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  December 10, 2003

Cisco Systems is attempting to address the increased threat posed by worms and viruses to through its Network Admission Control (NAC) programme. Established in conjunction with Trend Micro, Symantec and Network Associates, the initiative allows users of network admission control systems to restrict network access for devices that fail to comply with predefined patching levels.

The project forms part of Cisco's self-defending network initiative and build's on the vendor's work surrounding intrusion and anomaly detection. A key part of the programme is the networking giant's Cisco Trust Agent, which resides on an endpoint system and communicates with the network.

It will be integrated with the antivirus vendors software and the Cisco Security Agent to enforce access privileges based on an endpoint's operating system patch level. Users without the correct patching can be banned from the network or quarantined until they meet the patching criteria.

"What we have been looking at what we can do when the network is the central point of security to better secure networks against viruses. So far we have developed our network intrusion detection and anomaly detection and we have been automating network protection," says Eric van Gend, business development manager, Middle East, Africa & Russia, Cisco Systems.

"However, with NMC we will be capable of checking any device that comes on to the network to see if the latest patches are there. If they are not then we can deny that devices access to the network. It is about forcing users to do it [patch their servers and PCs]. If they do not then they will not be able to access the network," he explains.

As part of its support for the Cisco initiative, Trend Micro will develop a specialised software component for its centralised desktop antivirus solution, OfficeScan Corporate Edition, while Symantec and Network Associates will also make the necessary modifications to their offerings.

NAC functionality should be supported on Cisco's access and mid-range routers from mid-2004 onwards. Within the same time frame, the Cisco Trust Agent should be integrated with both Cisco and the NAC antivirus vendors' software. Cisco also plans to extend NAC across its multiple product platforms, including switches, wireless access points and security appliances in future.

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