IBM, Cisco in enterprise security tie-up

IBM and Cisco Systems unveiled product updates that will tie technology from the two companies more closely together in an effort to secure customer networks from worms and viruses.

The companies said that updates to IBM's Tivoli software will enable those products to work with Cisco network gear to scan devices that are attempting to connect to a network to ensure compliance with network security policies. For example, the Tivoli Compliance Manager might detect that a system attempting to connect uses a weak password, or lacks a key operating system or antivirus software update, IBM said in a statement.

The announcement marks the promised integration of Tivoli with Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) program to link security software and network infrastructure devices in an effort to better protect networks from security threats, according to a statement released by IBM.

Working from the information discovered by the Tivoli Security Compliance Manager, Cisco's Secure Access Control Server (ACS) can grant or deny a device access to the network, moving noncompliant devices to a security quarantine area isolated from the rest of the network.

Companies also can use IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager to automate remediation for noncompliant devices, such as patch installation or antivirus software updates, after which Cisco devices will automatically attempt to connect them to the network. IBM is using automated, policy-based provisioning technology it acquired after purchasing Think Dynamics in May 2003, to distribute software updates and fixes to noncompliant devices, according to an IBM spokesman.

The announcement fulfills a promise IBM and Cisco made in February, when they announced a "global security initiative" to improve the security of network infrastructure. At that time, IBM said it would join the NAC program and begin working on a software agent that will tie Tivoli to ACS.

Unveiled in November, the NAC program is part of Cisco's Self-Defending Network strategy and pairs the equipment maker with security companies, enabling Cisco routers to evaluate information provided by security products before allowing machines to connect to a network.

Cisco has been building support for NAC with security software vendors of all stripes in recent months. Companies such as McAfee and Trend Micro already offer NAC-compliant products. On Wednesday, Computer Associates International said that it was joining the NAC program, offering NAC-compliant eTrust antivirus and antispyware products.

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