Overburdened Network Administrators Get Total Firewall Solution

BOSTON, Mass, February 12, 1996 -- NEC Technologies' newly formed Internet Business Unit (IBU) announced here today that it has begun shipping an aggressively-priced, reseller-installed and supported, user-transparent, firewall appliance called PrivateNet™.

PrivateNet is a turnkey firewall based on a platform that combines a security-hardened UNIX operating system, Pentium-driven hardware, and proxy-server firewall software that is supplied on CD-ROM for added security and easy upgrades.

Security Architecture

Based on a hybrid architecture comprised of generalized and application-specific proxy servers, PrivateNet allows no direct connection between the Internet and a LAN, or between secure subnets on a LAN. Incoming connections are handled by application-specific proxy servers, and generalized proxy services for all outgoing connections are handled by NEC's commercial-grade implementation of SOCKS , called SocksPlus™.

SOCKS is a client/server firewall protocol that gained popularity among early Internet users. Its use has been limited until now because it is not a commercial-grade product and is not universally supported by client applications and TCP/IP stack vendors. In addition, it lacks support for UDP, server-to-server encrypted communications and other services. NEC has solved these problems with SocksPlus and its Client Application Partners (CAP) program. (NEC's SocksPlus press release provides complete details.)

PrivateNet Position

While PrivateNet is an excellent choice for sophisticated network and system administrators who have implemented "roll-your-own" firewalls using SOCKS or other free software, but would prefer a lower-maintenance commercial solution, it has considerably more benefit for a different class of users.

The rapidly growing ranks of network administrators with little or no security expertise and specific responsibilities for optimizing network user productivity need a firewall solution that is inexpensive, easy to manage, broadly available and can be installed and maintained by a reseller.

PrivateNet has been designed and priced to meet this demand. Available now to qualified VARs in the United States from national distributor Ingram Micro, Inc., PrivateNet can be installed, configured and operational in less than a day on most networks that support TCP/IP.

NEC's IBU is working closely with its distribution partners to qualify, train and support highly skilled TCP/IP networking resellers across the nation to provide installation, security consulting and continuing firewall maintenance and support. Additional network security consulting services will also be available through resellers participating in NEC's Security Expert Referral Program.

According to IBU vice president Sam Shigo, "What is missing from the firewall scene today is a whole product. There is no such thing as a good firewall by itself. It takes the core product plus solid network security advice and a good installation, service and support program to relieve network administrators of a task they are generally ill-equipped to perform. Coupled with its hybrid security architecture, that is a key difference the PrivateNet solution brings to the market."

Proxy Server Focus

Proxy-server-based firewalls such as PrivateNet are widely regarded to be more secure than packet-filtering approaches because they eliminate direct connection to the public Internet and between secure subnets on a LAN. This increased security is achieved by filtering connections rather than packets.

"Looking at corporate security policies on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most secure, PrivateNet is roughly appropriate for levels four through eight," said Bjorn Satdeva, a security expert and primary architect of PrivateNet. "Levels nine and ten define policies for organizations with such a high need for security that they should not be connected to the Net; levels one through three fit organizations with minimal valuable information assets at risk where packet-filtering solutions are more than adequate. PrivateNet is for corporations with something to lose. It is the 'due diligence' firewall solution," he concluded.

PrivateNet Release 1.0 Features

The entire PrivateNet software system runs directly off a CD-ROM disk rather than being loaded from CD-ROM to a hard disk. This makes it tamper-proof and allows easy system upgrades. Customers or their resellers need only replace the PrivateNet CD-ROM with the latest release and reboot.

Authorized NEC resellers can configure the system through a command-line interface in Release 1.0, and will have the option of a graphical user interface in Release 1.1, due in April 1996. Release 1.1 will be shipped to all customers free of charge. Release 1.0 includes the following features:

  • Compliance with SOCKS 4.2 protocol
  • High availability
  • IP address hiding
  • Load balancing
  • Connection auditing and logging
  • Authentication
  • Event notification
  • Encryption
  • Blocks IP address spoofing
  • Telnet, SMTP, NNTP, HTTP Proxies

Complete details on these features are included in NEC's PrivateNet system white paper.

Supported Applications and Platforms

The PrivateNet CD-ROM contains SocksPlus versions of popular UNIX-based client applications, including ftp, telnet and Netscape Navigator for the World Wide Web (Netscape Navigator is currently using SOCKS Version 4.2). The CD-ROM also contains NEC's Windows 3.1.1 Winsock, allowing any 3.1.1 PC client application to work through the SocksPlus server.

Cross-platform and PC applications are supported and made available through the CAP program. Client products from Netscape Communications, NetManage Inc., FTP Software, and any other SOCKS 4.2 client application will work through the PrivateNet server.

PrivateNet Release 1.1 and Beyond

Release 1.1 of PrivateNet, due in Q2 1996, will include the graphical user interface, a net license management facility allowing node-based subnet pricing, and other minor product refinements.

Other PrivateNet system releases planned for calendar 1996 include an expanded list of inbound-application proxy servers, telecommuting firewall support, SNMP monitoring facilities, an expanded list of authentication options and expanded client platform and application support.

Options and Pricing

The suggested list price for PrivateNet Release 1.0 is $14,950. System hardware upgrades including memory expansion, parallel configurations, etc. are handled through authorized PrivateNet resellers.

Site evaluations, security audits, and related consulting services are available through authorized PrivateNet resellers or through NEC's network of regional security consultants.

About NEC's Internet Business Unit

NEC Technologies' Internet Business Unit was formed in July 1995 to address the needs of organizations that require secure and productive Internet connection and use. The unit's first technologies, products and services are security-related. Further information can be found on the World Wide Web at The Internet Business Unit is located in San Jose, California.

About NEC Technologies

Headquartered in Boxborough, Mass., NEC Technologies Inc. is a leading manufacturer of computers and peripherals for the North American market. Award-winning product lines include the PowerMate® and Ready System products, RISC-based workstations and servers, Versa® notebook computers, the MultiSync® X-Series of monitors and presentation products, Silentwriter® and SuperScript printers and MultiSpin® CD-ROM readers. NEC Technologies is a subsidiary of NEC Corporation.

SocksPlus, PrivateNet, and SuperScript are trademarks and PowerMate, Versa, MultiSync, Silentwriter and MultiSpin are registered trademarks of NEC Technologies.




Nancy Teater
Hamilton Communications
(415) 321-0252

Deborah Buffington
NEC Internet Business Unit
(408) 433-1531

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