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Next-Gen Nets Need Next-Gen Security

The news this week that Cisco's proprietary source code for its Pix firewall software is up for sale to the highest bidder certainly isn't welcome by network administrators anywhere. A shadowy group describing itself as the Source Code Club (SCC) offered the code for sale on Usenet to any taker for $24,000, and while it's not clear whether the group actually had its hands on the code, administrators are taking the threat seriously.

If that wasn't bad enough, Cisco also announced that many of its routers and switches are vulnerable to Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

The events are an uncomfortable reminder that no network is absolutely secure. And it's also a reminder that one of the greatest roadblocks to new technologies such as WLANs , IP telephony, and Voice over Wireless Networks (VoWLAN) isn't a technological one, or even one having to do with price. It's simple security.

Consider this: A recent survey by Infonetics Research found that security is the biggest obstacle to WLAN adoption. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, because WiFi's WEP encryption is notoriously insecure. And even the much-stronger WPA encryption scheme was recently cracked.

That's not to say that network vendors are sitting back and waiting to be victimized. In fact, the opposite is true. At a recent teleconference about its quarterly earnings, Cisco emphasized that it sees security as a growth opportunity, and is throwing significant resources at it, expecting a significant payback. It also recently expanded its family of network security offerings by buying Perfigo, Inc., a developer of packaged network access control solutions for a cool $74 million.

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