Big Refresh For Cisco’s ‘Self-Defending’ Network

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is giving its four-year-old self-defending network initiative a major refresh this week at the big RSA security conference in San Francisco. The refresh touches multiple product lines within Cisco and includes update to Cisco Security Manager 3.2, Cisco Security Agent 6.0, Cisco Intrusion Prevention System 6.1, Cisco Security Monitoring Analysis Response System (MARS) 6.0, as well as new Web filtering and application firewall technologies.

The refresh is one of the largest in Cisco’s self-defending network products initiative since last year when Cisco updated a similar set of technologies. The overall goal is to position Cisco as an end to end integrated security platform that continues to evolve to take on new security threats and business competitors.

“Each one of those individual product offerings has a suite of services but there is a natural interconnect in the area of threat identification and control,” Cisco product manager Tom Russell told “It’s about being able to have endpoint technology share threat information with IPS devices to be able alter their security posture and being able to have MARS do the real time correlation across threat identification elements and inform the rest of the devices. That’s a real natural and it’s a unique value proposition.”

In terms of the individual products getting updated, Cisco Security Agent 6.0, which is a server and desktop endpoint protection technology, will now include integrated antivirus and data loss prevention services. Cisco IPS (define) 6.1 gets a boost with added usability features. Specifically, IPS 6.1 will include something called IPS Manager Express for SMB, which is intended to make IPS easier to use for small-to-midsize organizations.

“Overall we’re seeing growth in IPS, but the key challenge is how do you make IPS more usable to the mass market?” Russell asked rhetorically. He said Cisco’s answer is to “offer tools, techniques and reporting that a broader population would be able to leverage.”

Cisco’s ACE

Cisco is also now rolling out a new ACE Web Application Firewall built on technology originally acquired by Reactivity. Cisco acquired Reactivity for $135 million in 2007 to help bolster Cisco’s XML possessing capabilities. The ACE according to Cisco, provides deep inspection and security for both XML and HTML traffic and meets PCI DSS sections 6.5 and 6.6 requirements.

On the monitoring side, Cisco is enhancing its market leading Monitoring, Analysis and Response (MARS) technology in version 6.0. Among the key new enhancements are support for NetFlow v.9 which provides greater scale and is a key part of Cisco’s big firewall appliance, the ASA 5580, which debuted earlier this year.

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