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Cisco Expands Security Push To LANs

Cisco Systems is expanding its network-security efforts, which to date has focused on wide-area network access points, to the local-area network and the switches that move traffic within most businesses. Its also making it easier for businesses to include third-party devices and use non-Cisco software to implement the security policies.

The move will be welcomed by network administrators scorched by increasingly virulent malware attacks. But those companies that have already begun to introduce NAC strategies from other vendors, or who don't relish the thought of upgrading portions of their diverse Cisco networking environment to comply with that company's NAC requirements, might not be quite as happy.

Cisco in November will target its NAC strategy on layer 2 of the network, where switches pass information inside the LAN, by offering NAC support for its Catalyst switches, including the 6500, 4900, 4500, 3700, 3500, and 2900 series, as well as its wireless access points and controller platforms.

Cisco's move to direct its NAC strategy at LAN-level security has been much anticipated. "Moving NAC in from the network's edge to include switches and wireless devices lets network administrators build baseline security policies for these devices before they connect to the network," says Lawrence Orans, Gartner's research director for network security.

Cisco created its NAC strategy in 2003 to address the difficulty companies have controlling the viruses, worms, and other malware that constantly attack their networks and the systems that connect over these networks. Cisco figured the best way to do this was to get greater control over access points into the network; to make sure each device connecting in has a clean bill of health. The first fruits of Cisco's labor appeared in June 2004, when the company introduced NAC-compliant routers and firewalls to identify security threats at the wide-area network level.

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