Cisco expands its line of intrusion-detection tools

Cisco Systems next week plans to announce new intrusion-protection software and firewall enhancements, including functionality designed to lower IT staffing costs by drastically reducing false or irrelevant system-intrusion alarms.

Cisco officials said a major upgrade, Cisco Intrusion Detection System (IDS) 4.0, will accompany the rollout of new Cisco Threat Response technology that's aimed at reducing incidents of false intrusion alarms by 95 percent. The company will also announce upgraded management features for IDS 4.0, as well as an intrusion-detection sensor appliance and a second-generation version of the IDS software for its Catalyst 6500 switch.

In addition, Cisco will upgrade the software for its PIX Firewall appliances and unveil a virtual private network accelerator card that it said should provide performance improvements of up to 400 percent on networks that use the Data Encryption Standard and other specifications.

Cisco bought the Threat Response technology as part of its acquisition of Austin, Texas-based Psionic Software Inc. in October.

Vignette Corp., a developer of content management and portal software in Austin, has been testing Threat Response and hopes to deploy a working version soon, said Selim Nart, a network architect at Vignette. The software should help Vignette avoid having to hire more network management staffers to act on real alarms or to clear false ones, he said.

Nart estimated that 20 minutes' worth of intrusion alarms results in 20 hours of work for a network administrator. He said Vignette experiences a total of 90,000 intrusion alarms in its global network monthly. So far, Threat Response "has been very accurate," Nart said. "It helps us a lot on troubleshooting the real problems."

Threat Response, the improvements included in IDS 4.0 and the other features are examples of Cisco's continued efforts to improve its security capabilities, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. By acquiring Psionic and other vendors, Cisco has been able to put together a network security "ecosystem" that rivals such as Nortel Networks Corp. and Alcatel can't match, he said.

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