The problem with virtual private networks these days is that they are, well, a bit rigid. In most cases, you have to be an employee to get in. And in many cases, you have to be using a PC, and it has to be in a fixed location.
Stonesoft Corp. today is introducing a new series of products that are designed to help VPNs lighten up. The idea? To make it as easy for customers, partners, and highly mobile employees to use the VPN as it is for employees who stay in their offices all day.
With the new SSL VPN options under Stonesoft's StoneGate Secure Mobile Connectivity family, "employees, partners, and customers can easily access business data from anywhere at any time," the company says.
In the early days of firewalls and "perimeter security," companies built their VPNs "with a hard shell around the network, but nothing in the middle," says Klaus Majewski, product marketing manager at Stonesoft. The entry point to the VPN was highly secure, he observes, but once inside, users often had broad access to the entire network, with few restrictions.
As a result, most companies have kept their VPN access limited to employees or their most trusted partners, leaving no room for customers or occasional business partners.
"What we're doing here is putting a firewall on the outside, as was done in the past, but we're also putting IPS functionality in a trusted zone and adding centralized management of access," Majewski says. "With these products, you can create a DMZ that lets partners and customers get access to what they need, while still keeping them separated from the internal network used by employees."
Similarly, many "old school" VPNs do not work with the growing number of mobile devices currently on the market, including laptops, PDAs, smartphones, and other mobile equipment. Stonesoft's new SSL VPN offering lets users define several different access methods for a user, giving them access to many business applications -- or just one or two -- via a single portal, Majewski says.
"The [enterprise] can define which applications a user can access from the workplace, from home, or via a mobile device," Majewski explains. "Just as you can create different access profiles for different types of users, you can define which apps can be used by a certain type of device or from a particular location."
The more flexible options are possible because Stonesoft is combining its new SSL VPN products with its line of IPS, firewall, and security management tools, Majewski says. "You can tie in user groups or profiles that you may have developed in [Microsoft's] Active Directory or LDAP," he says. "Once you know what access you want to give a user, our products can enforce it."
It might be risky to push further into the SSL VPN market so soon after a giant like Microsoft has hammered a stake into the ground. But Stonesoft so far "hasn't seen much impact" from Microsoft among customers and prospects, Majewski says. "We may see some impact down the road, but right now, Microsoft doesn't have an SSL VPN client, so it's not a major competitor yet." (See Microsoft Takes Aim at Endpoint.)
The StoneGate line includes three SSL VPN options: the SSL 400, SSL 2000, and SSL 6000. Prices range from $3,800 to $128,000, depending on the number of users involved and the products and options selected, Majewski says.
Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading