Cisco pushes ahead with context-aware security vision

Using the network as the platform for security enables organisations to evolve with the threat landscape

Cisco made two significant security announcements at its Cisco Live conference in London this week, reiterating its commitment to offering an integrated platform for defence, discovery, and remediation of threats.

The first was the launch of an updated version of its Identity Services Engine (ISE), which lets administrators create a single access control enforcement policy for multiple devices, regardless of whether end users connect to the company network via wired, wireless or VPN.

The new ISE 1.2 release adds mobile device management (MDM) integration with solutions from Good, Airwatch, Mobile Iron, Zenprise and SAP, to improve mobile device management and deliver a simplified policy management solution.

The update also adds automated profiling feeds to the ISE policy engine, making it quicker and simpler to identify new devices and operating systems on the network, and offers increased scalability, to help businesses cope with the influx of connected devices associated with the Internet of Things.

"As trends like the Internet of Everything take off, you're going to need to be able to identify devices that are manned or unmanned and be able to make policy decisions around those devices," said Christopher Young, senior vice president of Cisco's Security and Government Group.

"ISE can be the platform for identity and context for the Internet of Everything, because of the unparalleled breadth and depth that we have through our integration with the core of your network architecture."

Cisco also announced its acquisition of Cognitive Security, which provides security software that is focused on applying artificial intelligence techniques to detect advanced cyber threats.

Young said that, when combined with traditional firewalls, network security, content security, and Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems, Cognitive's technology enables customers to protect against advanced attacks and zero day attacks in near real-time.

The news coincided with the publication of Cisco's 2013 Annual Security Report, which revealed that search engines are 27 times as likely to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site. Moreover, advertisements are 182 times as likely to deliver malicious content than pornography.

It has therefore never been more important to approach issues of security and identity management from a context-aware perspective, according to Young.

"We need to know the identity or type of files and data that are traversing our networks, correlate that with what we know about users and applications, and bring all that information together on the same platform," he said.

"It starts with the network as the platform, where security becomes a set of services integrated on a single set of appliances. That then can integrate across our data centre platforms and integrate with our routing and switching platforms as well, linked together by a common layer of management, policy and context-awareness."

Ian Foddering, Chief Technology Officer for Cisco UK & Ireland, added that the requirement for a secure infrastructure is very high on the agenda for every organisation, and the challenge sometimes is trying to help organisations understand the importance of it.

"I would question how often an organisation is testing its security procedure to make sure it remains secure. Security is not a one time thing, it's an evolution," he said.

"We're constantly seeing new threats, new approaches being taken , people trying to focus their attention on particular areas. I would argue that security has always been key to Cisco's philosophy."

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