Yes, you read it rightSymantec (as in the software vendor) has a network-based (as in the hardware) NAC. Once you get over the title, keep reading.

If you read my blog, or know me, you probably know I do NOT like software (and it usually doesn’t like me). So, I’d be the first to jump on the ‘anti-software-peer-based-NAC’ train, but I think we have to be informed before we jump to conclusions and hop on any trains.

Mirage’s recent blog post on Symantec’s ‘Silly SNAC’ was certainly a result of a mis- (or un-) informed person. Tim did a much better job on his mention of SNAC in the NWW blog, but all the dots still aren’t connected. It proves the point that sometimes we (as bloggers) tend to write based on a feeling and sometimes don’t dig for the fact.

So, in an effort to make sure I understood this new peer-based NAC, I reached out to Patrick Wheeler, Symantec’s Senior Product Manager for Network and Endpoint Security. Based on my conversations with him, and a pretty detailed investigation into the options and configurations of their NAC products, I have some slightly more informed opinion to share with you now.

Symantec has a variety of NAC enforcement components and options. I’m going to keep all the software-type-stuff out of this conversation for the time being. They have (among other things) the NAC Enforcer, an appliance similar to the other NAC controllers we see from traditional hardware vendors. Just like it’s counterparts, Symantec’s NAC Enforcer can be configured for DHCP, inline or 802.1X based enforcement.

The piece that’s different is the integration of the NAC Enforcer with Symantec’s Endpoint Protection Manager server that hosts the policies for the NAC. It’s similar to the management-enforcement configuration we see from other vendors, only the management piece is housed on a server instead of another appliance.

SNAC_snippit1b.jpgAnd, just as other vendors offer some type of endpoint integrity agent, the Symantec agent comes in the form of the Symantec NAC Client, which can be used by itself, or integrated with the Symantec Endpoint Protection Client for an even more robust feature-set. (The Endpoint Protection Client offers some additional host-based firewall features that the NAC can leverage).

So, what about the Peer-Based NAC? Ah, well that’s just the first iteration of a ‘vision’ to address mobile corporate users. If employees have laptops in an ad-hoc situation outside of the enterprise infrastructure (and therefore, outside of enterprise enforcement), then the peer-based NAC can port the enforcement rules set at the ‘mothership’ and enforce them individually. The peer-based NAC can protect mobile assets in their most vulnerable situation, outside the security of the corporate network. But, the rules are still set centrally and the peer-based NAC was designed to be just one step towards an added layer of protection, not as a replacement for network-based NAC.

For now, I’ll stay off the hate train, since the peer-based NAC is more of a supplement to a more robust traditional NAC solution. If they move to a fully-host-enforced product, I’ll buy my tickets…

Image shown is copyright of Symantec Corporation.

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Author, speaker, and recognized authority on network and wireless security architectures, Jennifer (JJ) Minella helps organizations solve technical problems and align teams.

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