If you have significant network-based information assets to protect, the experts agree, a proxy server firewall is the safest approach because it allows no direct connection to the Internet, or between secure subnets.
The PrivateNet Secure Firewall server 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.
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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 (user datagram protocol), server-to-server encrypted communications and other services. NEC has solved these problems with SocksPlus and its Client Application Partners (CAP) program.
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 and 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 and Canada from Ingram Micro, Inc. and soon to be available from Tech Data, 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.
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.
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 June 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 protocolComplete 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 3.11 Winsock, allowing any 3.11 PC client application to work through the SocksPlus server.
Cross-platform and PC applications are supported and made available thro ugh 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 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.