Understanding Network Access Protection

There are already solutions around that can do some of these things. Some of them are homegrown. For example, one organization I’m familiar with uses a DHCP registration system that links MAC addresses to user accounts stored in Active Directory to control which machines have access to the network. But homegrown solutions like this tend to be hard to manage and difficult to maintain, and they can sometimes be circumvented-for example, by using a static IP address configuration that allows access to a subnet scoped by DHCP.

Vendors also have their own solutions to this problem, and Microsoft has one for Windows Server 2003 called Network Access Quarantine Control, but although this solution can enhance the security of your network if implemented properly, it has its limitations. For example, although Network Access Quarantine Control can perform client inspection on machines trying to connect to the network, it’s only intended to do so for remote access connections. Basically, what Network Access Quarantine Control does is delay normal remote access to a private network until the configuration of the remote computer has been checked and validated by a quarantine script. And it’s the customers themselves who must write these scripts that perform the compliance checks because the exact nature of these scripts depends upon the customer’s own networking environment. This can make Network Access Quarantine Control challenging to implement.

Other vendors, such as Cisco Systems, have developed their own solutions to the problem, and Cisco’s solution is called Network Access Control (NAC). NAC is designed to enforce security policy compliance on any devices that are trying to access network resources. Using NAC, you can allow network access to devices that are compliant and trusted, and you can restrict access for devices that are noncompliant. NAC is both a framework that includes infrastructure to support compliance checks based on industry-common AV and security management products, and a product called NAC Appliance that you can drop in and use to build your compliance checking, remediation, and enforcement infrastructure.

Network Access Protection (NAP) in Windows Server 2008 is another solution, and it’s one that is rapidly gaining recognition in the enterprise IT community. NAP consists of a set of components for both servers (Windows Server 2008 only) and clients (Windows Vista now, Windows XP soon), together with a set of APIs that will be made public once Windows Server 2008 is released. NAP is not a product but a platform that is widely supported by over 100 different ISVs and IHVs, including AV vendors like McAfee and Symantec, patch management companies like Altiris and PatchLink, security software vendors like RSA Security, makers of security appliances including Citrix, network device manufacturers including Enterasys and F5, and system integrators such as EDS and VeriSign. Those are all big names in the industry, and the number of vendors supporting NAP is increasing daily. And that’s not marketing hype, it’s fact-and it’s important to IT pros like us because we want a platform like NAP to support our existing enterprise networks, which typically already have products and solutions from many of the vendors I just listed.

Source of Information : Introducing Windows Server 2008

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