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Lucent, Cisco Gear Up VPN Products

Two of the largest high-tech equipment makers are launching virtual private networking products to bring a little more security to the Internet.

Lucent Technologies Inc., teamed with GRIC Communications Inc., to provide the world's first secure Internet roaming VPN service.

The product promises robust security for mobile workers who need access to their company's enterprise network, from anywhere in the world.

The GRICtraveler VPN solution by GRIC lets users dial in from anywhere in the world -- for the cost of a local phone call in many cases -- and connect to their companys' networks without giving network administrators fits over security breaches.

The technology, developed by Lucent Technologies, is a combination high-performance security firewall and IPSec client software solution. The security was given the seal of approval from the National Security Agency and ICSA, given that it uses the data encryption standard (DES) encryption algorithm, used to secure information using a 56-bit key.

With it, users running the Windows operating system log in using the dial up software, which finds the nearest Point of Presence (POP), after securing the user's information by way of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols. The customer then connects to the Internet through the available ISP and the firewall program is automatically launched.

Ron Silver, Lucent InterNetworking systems' IP services/wide area networks (WAN) systems group senior manager of alliance and channel partner programs, said the new service gives users easy access and top-notch security in one click.

"The GRICtraveler VPN solution is everything a subscriber needs to remotely access the Internet across the globe with 'single-click' accountability and security," Silver said. "In addition, we provide users advanced levels of security using RSA Security's ACE Service with its SecureID token card authentication."

RSA Security Inc., holds the patent on the government-approved DES algorithm.

According to a report by online analysis company IDC, the need for remote access IP-based VPNs will grow 75 percent year over year for the next three years. By 2004, IDC analysts say, more than 10 billion users and branch offices will use remote access VPNs, with revenues of more than $2 billion.

Cisco Systems Inc., not be outdone by its rival, announced two applications designed to help administrators with their Cisco security equipment using graphical user interface (GUI) software.

The Cisco PIX device manager (PDM) is a GUI application that lets administrators define and set security policies on the PIX firewall without having to use a command-line interface (CLI).

The VPN device manager (VDM) is similar to the GUI application for the PDM, but modified to run on Cisco 7100 VPN and 7200 Multiservice routers.

Tom Russelll, Cisco's director of security solutions, said the GUI makes it easier for administrators to get up and running.

"The Cisco PIX firewall family has always been known for its outstanding security, performance and reliability," Russell said. "The tools and wizards in PDM allow security professionals to focus on what they do best -- keeping hackers at bay. And with PDM's intuitive interface, the time from power-on to operational readiness is greatly reduced."

The Cisco PDM is part of the scheduled Cisco PIX Firewall OS version 6.0, due out by the end of the month. The VDM will be released with the new version of Cisco IOS, scheduled for the release sometime before summer this year.

The GUI, first developed by Xerox in the late '70s, was incorporated into Apple MacIntosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems in the early 80s and has more traction with today's young computer users and junior administrators than the old-school CLI.