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Check Point Software is introducing defences against application-driven attacks to its flagship firewall and VPN software.

In recent months, Cisco, Netscreen and Network Associates have attempted to redefine the function of traditional firewalls with intrusion prevention features. That's the rationale behind Cisco acquisition of behaviour blocking software developer Okena and Network Associates's purchase of intrusion detection firms Entercept Security and IntruVert Networks last month.

In response, firewall market leader Check Point today made its biggest product announcement in two years.

Check Point Software's Application Intelligence technology is designed to guard against application-driven attacks, such as Slammer, Code Red and Nimda, as well as traditional network-level attacks.

Check Point claims it is the only vendor to extend the firewall to integrate comprehensive defences for both application and network attacks.

A sea-change in the security market has come about because of the increased prevalence of Web-based attacks, such as Nimda, targeting port 80 'holes' in the corporate security infrastructures which slip past traditional firewall defences.

Firms such as Blue Coat, Vordel/ Chrysalis-ITS and others are developing application-layer (XML) firewall appliances designed to look deeper into packets for tell-tale signs of malicious activity. Such devices are commonly positioned as a complement to traditional firewalls.

Check Point is touting the benefits of closer integration between its Application Intelligence technology and its line of firewall/VPN software.

Against this, Check's Point competitors will doubtless point to the speed limitations inherent in a software-based approach.

Check Point Application Intelligence technology is integrated into the newest version of Check Point VPN-1/FireWall-1 Next Generation, through an extension of its SmartDefense system. The new version, named "Check Point Next Generation with Application Intelligence" can be ordered immediately and will ship June 3. ®

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