3Com puts firewall on a NIC

Firewalls built into network interface cards help offload work from the processors of desktop PCs, and aid centralised security

3Com has launched a network interface card (NIC) with a firewall in firmware, to minimise risks and enforce security policies inside the enterprise. The NIC is intended for desktops and servers. Embedded Firewall is a firmware version of Secure Computing's firewall, and loads onto the 3CR990 -- a 3Com NIC that includes a processor and memory intended to support extra applications. So far the 3CR990 has been sold with an encryption application, which offloads encryption tasks from the host CPU, but the firewall is the next security application in a list which 3Com intends to add. The product is aimed at enterprises, to provide centralised control over security. All the secure NICs in a company are managed by a central policy server, which configures them and sets up access rights. Communication with the policy server is encrypted. One policy server supports up to 1000 NICs. The device also makes it harder to misuse corporate equipment by plugging it in in the wrong place. Once set up, the desktop will only be able to talk to the specified network device until the firewall is re-installed. Although Intel also has a NIC that does encryption-offload, 3Com business development manger, James Walker said that the 3CR990 is the first to include a firewall. The NIC costs $120 list price, and the embedded firewall is another $50 for each client. The policy server costs $1000. 3Com is working on a Gigabit Ethernet version of the secure NIC, and also announced plans to bring the embedded firewall to notebook PCs, and delivered a fibre-connected version of the secure NIC, the 3CR990-FX-97.


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