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Cisco adds security to switches, wireless devices

Cisco Systems Inc. is adding security features to its network switches and wireless products.
/ Source: Reuters

Cisco Systems Inc. is adding security features to its network switches and wireless products, in the networking gear maker's latest push to sell software to help corporations combat spyware, worms and viruses.

Cisco already sells security software for its routers, which allows businesses to add a layer of security to their Web-based networks, which are often used by far-flung workforces. On Monday, Cisco said it is now selling the software for its switches, which companies often use in simpler local area networks within their own buildings.

The expansion of the security features to business' internal networks also includes wireless access points, which corporations are increasingly installing on their campuses.

The software is designed to protect corporations from computers and mobile devices which may have been infected through use outside of the office, as well as from outside attacks against the network itself.

The software, which Cisco sells under the brand name Network Admission Control, has proven to be a popular add-on for Cisco's corporate clients, who are wrestling with a wide range of security threats. The technology has also allowed Cisco to expand into the lucrative area of security software.

The market for network security software and appliances will reach $4.3 billion by the end of 2005 and could grow to $6.3 billion by 2009, according to the Synergy Research Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. Overall security spending will compose 7.9 percent of the U.S. IT budget in 2005, or $59.6 billion, according to Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

This growth is being spurred by the constant assault on corporate and home networks by worms, viruses and other harmful programs.

"I've seen a big increase over the year in terms of attention paid to it by security managers and CIOs to this problem," said Gregg Moskowitz, an analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.

Cisco's software is designed to be compatible with devices that do not contain Cisco's own verification system, known as the Cisco Trust Agent. This is important for companies that open up their networks to deal with outside business partners, such as suppliers or contractors, who might be running security software from other vendors, said Bob Gleichauf, chief technology officer in Cisco's Security and Technologies Group.

Cisco's focus on network security pits it against traditional rival Juniper Networks Inc, as well as Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, Microsoft Corp Internet Security Systems Inc and McAfee Inc

Cisco officials declined to say how much revenue and profit it expects from its network security business.