Got the NAC
Juniper Employee
Juniper Employee
‎09-05-2008 12:10 PM
‎09-05-2008 12:10 PM

Last week, I was at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, a global gathering for information security folks. This event has already been covered by hundreds of bloggers and journalists so I won’t cover the basics. However, I do think it’s useful to highlight a few NAC-related events.

 

First, I was glad to see that NAC vendors are converging on IF-TNCCS-SOH as a standard client-server protocol. This addresses several concerns that customers have had about NAC: complexity, compatibility, and cost. Now that everyone is agreeing on one client-server NAC protocol, customers won’t have to worry about whether their NAC system is compatible with their PCs, their non-PC devices, and their contractors’ and customers’ devices. Support for the TNC protocols will just be built into the client operating system. This will reduce complexity and therefore cost by eliminating the need to install a special NAC agent on the device. Of course, the nirvana of universal NAC support is not here yet. Macs, older PCs, and many other devices don’t yet come with NAC support built-in. But the trajectory is clear. In a few years, NAC support will be as ubiquitous as DHCP is now.

 

Second, I participated in a panel session with Cisco and Microsoft on NAC. This is the third year we have done this panel at RSA. The first year, there was blood everywhere. The second year was a bit more restrained. And this year, I’m happy to say that everyone agreed on the value of the TNC standards. Even Cisco is on board, now that IETF has pick up the TNC specs. I still don’t agree with Cisco about everything. We had a few tiffs on the panel. But we agree on the need for NAC standards and the fact that the TNC standards are those standards. That’s the essential bit.

 

Finally, NSA (the U.S. National Security Agency) was demonstrating the High Assurance Platform, a multi-level secure workstation built on the TNC and TPM standards. This is really important. For one thing, it shows how open standards are being used to build super-secure systems out of inexpensive, commercial parts. For another, it will provide a big benefit to U.S. warfighters. Today, they must carry three laptops: one for secret materials, a second for top secret, and a third for unclassified. With HAP, a single laptop with a secure hypervisor (based on VMware) runs separate VMs for the separate classifications. This will literally lighten soldiers’ load, allowing them to be more agile or carry more arms and armor. Commercial road warriors and infosec teams may not carry guns but we are at war with cyber criminals. If TNC and TPM are strong enough for the NSA, they must be strong enough for your organization.