Showdown on Port 80

Security appliances are become the "six-guns” of the Internet frontier. But is software a better solution?


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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Posted March 19, 2007

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

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Sometimes with the Internet it seems like you are living out on the frontier. But unlike the “wild West,” which settled down after a few years, computer security threats have continued to rise and show no signs of abating any time soon.

“I have been in the computer field for 25 years, and it is only been in the past six years or so that security has become the major issue it has,” said Rainer Mueller, IT analyst for the City of Encinitas in California. “We are forced to spend much more money, time, and effort than we ever have to keep our facility and information secure. And unfortunately, I believe that this will continue for the foreseeable future.”

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Like those pioneers who always packed a six-gun, IT staff are forced to take a vigilante approach rather than waiting for the sheriff to arrive. So, as security threats continue to grow, so do the number of companies turning to security appliances.

“These days it is standard-practice to install many things on an appliance,” said Paul Stamp, senior analyst for Forrester Research. “An appliance can use custom hardware to accelerate functions more quickly and efficiently than just using multipurpose hardware with some software installed on it.”

Consequently, we are witnessing a steady rise in the use of security appliances. According to IDC, the market for threat management hardware will pass the $5 billion threshold by 2009, due to the distributed nature of security duties throughout the IT organization.

“We are starting to find a lot of functions that were being done by security are being offloaded to different teams, such as the networking staff,” he explained. “Network teams are not used to dealing with software, but they are accustomed to appliances.”

Market Niches

This blossoming security appliance market breaks down into several categories. The largest group is the firewall and VPN appliances that come from a wide array of networking and security vendors.

Then there are specialized security appliances to address specific activities. Decru, now part of Network Appliance, has something called the DataFort, a dedicated appliance for encrypting and decrypting network traffic.

Bluesocket of Burlington, Mass., makes appliances for controlling the interface between wired and wireless segments of a network. ConSentry Networks makes appliances that sit between the access and distribution layers on a network fabric and use algorithms to detect network anomalies, and the list goes on and on.

Further, there are perimeter security devices from vendors which have their roots in the antivirus space. Although security vendor Symantec laid off its security appliance staff last year in order to concentrate on managed services, both McAfee and Panda Software have unified threat management appliances which address a range of security issues.

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