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Cisco, EMC, and Microsoft are joining forces to help the US government build a secure IT system for agencies to manage and share data.

The tech trio are calling their collaboration "Secure Information Sharing Architecture" (SISA). Their purpose is to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to specific government information while at the same time easing the management load.

Historically, government information protection technologies have been enforced on a system-by-system level. With some agencies struggling to provide secure access within their own organization, sharing that data with other systems is a tall order. Utilizing SISA, the alliance says, government agencies will be able to easily set up security-enhanced, virtual networks for different authorized users to access sensitive files stored in different computer systems.

Cisco will provide SISA with network protection, security-enhanced virtualized network links and data protection features for sharing information. EMC brings to the table the storage systems as well as management and security software. Microsoft is providing identity management, client and network operating systems, and the systems authorization framework.

The SISA alliance also includes smaller technology vendors to fulfil specific requirements. They include Liquid Machines in Massachusetts, Swan Island Networks in Oregon and Titus Labs in Ottawa. SISA will bring on board other vendors, as and when needed.

SISA provides a basic example of how the system will work. A command center workstation connected to a network will display a standard login screen using Microsoft Active Directory to access a user profile. Based on the user's credentials, the command center can designate which parts of the network, applications and content the user can access. After the user is authorized to the appropriate virtual network, Cisco Security Agent protects the workstation using behavior-based defenses to detect and block abnormal activity. Content contained in emails and documents is protected using Liquid Machines and Microsoft Rights Management Services.

The companies have not provided a timetable or price-tag for the system. The business alliance will be managed by IT management firm Addx Corporation. ®

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