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Cisco's Bundle of Virus-Fighters - InternetNews.
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Cisco's Bundle of Virus-Fighters

Cisco unveiled new security hardware and software Tuesday, but it's really trying to sell peace of mind.

The offerings advance the San Jose, Calif., company's "self-defending network" strategy, which strives to develop a network that identifies threats, isolates infected components and reconfigures systems with minimal intervention from harried IT managers.

It comes as businesses are scrambling to keep increasingly sophisticated viruses from breaching their systems, a threat compounded by workers accessing corporate networks through unsecured phone, PDA and Wi-Fi connections.

"The overarching goal is to help enterprise customers autonomously protect themselves from known and unknown Internet threats," Cisco spokeswoman Amy Hughes told internetnews.com. "It's a systems-based approach."

On the software side, Cisco upgraded its Internetwork Operating System (IOS) to help customers trace entry points used for denial-of-service attacks and give managers a direct channel into the router. The IOS also inspects packets to guard against known mail attacks.

The push also includes hardware, including the Cisco 7301 router that supports 370 megabits-per-second VPN throughput and integrates firewalls and quality-of-service management capabilities in a one-rack unit.

The device, which directs the flow of network traffic, also includes support for the new Cisco Security Device Manager Version 1.1, which makes it easier to make configuration changes.

Eric Ogren, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group, said the strategy is sound. Intercepting viruses before they make their way to the desktop users limits the damage they can cause, Ogren said. In addition they take pressure off IT budgets.

"One of our recent studies found that 22 percent of security costs is for labor," Ogren told internetnews.com.

Security is an area Cisco has identified as a growth opportunity. In addition to developing its own security offerings, the company paid $154 million in stock last year for intrusion detection software maker Okena.

Okena's technology helps identify security risks by analyzing operating systems, file systems, configuration and network requests.

Cisco's closest competitor, Juniper Networks , has not stood pat. Last month, it agreed to acquire security and access technology specialist NetScreen for $4 billion in stock.

The deal, which is expected to close in the coming months, will put Juniper and Cisco in more direct competition for enterprise customers. Previously, Juniper has done most of its business with telecom service providers.

"It's the right path," Ogren said of the sector's move to more incorporate security tools into network infrastructure.

In addition to being smart business, it should also be good for corporate end-users Ogren said, who should find the tight integration more effective at protecting their networks.