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Alcatel beefs up router security with Tripwire

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Alcatel and Tripwire this week announced a strategic alliance to provide greater network protection. This shows just how far a layered approach needs to go, if all the attack angles are to be covered , writes John McIntosh of Bloor Research.

The recently discovered Cisco flaw, that affects over 100 different Cisco products, shows that even apparently "secure" routers and switches may be vulnerable to denial of service attacks. By sending some specially crafted IPv4 packets, Cisco routers could be tricked into thinking they are full and so stop processing traffic.

Alcatel already has its own security framework, CrystalSec, offering a variety of techniques to protect its devices, drawn from a number of equally well-qualified technology partners. CrystalSec incorporates useful capabilities such as network device hardening, high availability and redundancy, denial of service testing, security vulnerability management and secure management.

The joint Alcatel and Tripwire solution should help improve integrity by reducing the impact of unwanted changes to switch or router configuration files - minimising vulnerabilities and the time needed for repairs and downtime. One benefit is that Tripwire for Network Devices monitors switch or router configurations and provides instant notification of internal and external changes, automated rollback and complete audit trails of all changes to devices.

This is important, not just because there might be an external attack but because maintenance staff and engineers might inadvertently change configurations and introduce vulnerabilities. Tripwire's focus is all about change management. Who made the changes, are the changes authorised and what constitutes good practice.

The Tripwire products integrate with Tivoli and HP Openview, to provide better visibility about when the system is healthy and, as important, what healthy actually looks like.

Tripwire claim a strong tie-in with risk management practices and provide templates to assist their customers to achieve good practice. It would be good to see the company take this further and align their solutions with ISO17799.

Would the Alcatel/Tripwire approach avoid the type of problem experienced by Cisco? Not really. The Cisco flaw lies in the way the Cisco network operating system, IOS, processes IP version 4 (IPv4) packets. There are no practical workarounds for the flaw and the only sensible approach is to patch. That in itself presents some difficult decisions.

Assuring the integrity of switch and router configurations is essential to an organisation's layered security strategy. Tripwire's security and integrity solutions, paired with Alcatel's switches, seems to be the right way to go to provide greater network availability amidst a new range of threats against the fabric of the Internet itself.

© IT-Analysis.com

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