BIG-IP Application Security Manager

Network firewalls

Gold Award:

Cisco PIX Security Appliance Series

Cisco PIX Security Appliance Series

Cisco has been in business for more than 20 years and is emerging as a security powerhouse to be reckoned with, especially as security merges more with network operations in the enterprise.

"Cisco has been benefiting from recent market changes," says Jon Oltsik, a senior analyst with market research firm Enterprise Strategy Group. "The networking group is having a larger say in the purchase of security products, and that has translated into more success with its security products."

There may not be better evidence of Cisco's emergence than readers giving its PIX product line the gold medal in the network firewall category; a narrow victory over standby Check Point's FireWall-1.

Readers noted Cisco PIX's ability to block intrusions, attacks and unauthorized network traffic, in addition to its application-layer/protocol/HTTP controls. In addition, Cisco received high marks in vendor service and support; logging, monitoring and reporting; integration with other network defense/management tools; central management; and ROI. The only area in which readers say the company needs to do more work is ease of installation, configuration and administration.

Users focused on the most important duty firewalls perform: keeping hackers outside corporate networks. Cisco's PIX Security Appliances integrate a range of firewall services and feature stateful inspection that tracks network communications and prevents unauthorized network access. The product includes attack protection features such as TCP stream reassembly, traffic normalization, DNSGuard, FloodGuard, FragGuard, MailGuard, IPVerify and TCP intercept. The Cisco line also wards off DoS attacks, fragmented breaches, replay advances and malformed packet forays. The system provides real-time alerts to administrators, so companies can immediately take steps to oust intruders.

Recently security has been moving away from being viewed as a network issue and inching higher up the protocol stack; it now is often viewed as an application level problem. Cisco's PIX products deliver application layer security via intelligent, application-aware inspection engines. These gather application and protocol knowledge and use it to make decisions about providing access and information to different users and applications. The device's security enforcement technologies include protocol anomaly detection, application and protocol state tracking, Network Address Translation (NAT) services, and attack detection and mitigation techniques, such as application/protocol command filtering, content verification, and URL deobfuscation.

Corporations have a wide variety of devices connected to their networks, and managing them can be problematic. Administrators can integrate Cisco PIX security appliances into switched network environments by taking advantage of native 802.1q-based VLAN support. Cisco IP phones automatically register with Cisco's CallManager software and download needed configuration information and software images.

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