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Hardened OS Vendor Builds Secure Virtual Layer For Network Devices

"Tier one" networking equipment vendors are adopting Green Hills Software's secure virtualization platform as an extra layer of protection for their devices, company says

LAS VEGAS -- INTEROP 2009 -- Ultrasecure operating system maker Green Hills Software is quietly providing some major network equipment manufacturers with an extra layer of security for its devices.

Green Hills, which last fall released a commercial version of its hardened Integrity-178B operating system used in military fighter planes, is now leveraging that technology for the network, as well. Company officials here revealed they have built a secure virtualization platform for networking equipment based on a combination of the company's secure OS virtualization and networking technologies.

"Connecting our secure operating system environment to networking equipment, which is not secure" didn't make sense, says Dan Mender, vice president of business development for Green Hills. So the company has built a secure, virtualized networking platform based on its hardened Integrity OS plus its own switching and routing software -- a combination that Green Hills say protects network devices from denial-of-service, buffer overflow, and other attacks.

Susan Hares, director of networking solutions for Green Hills, says this secure virtualization approach for networking equipment is crucial to protecting switches, routers, firewalls, and other network devices from attack. "Network attacks are coming -- it has just been considered bad form to make a lot of noise about it," she says. "The domino effect of [an attack on a network device] can be quite serious."

While application-layer vulnerabilities and hacks are the attacker's weapon of choice today, some security experts have been worried about the potential for router-based or other network device-directed attacks. Researcher Felix "FX" Linder's recent revelation of a technique for hacking Cisco routers with only basic knowledge of the devices demonstrated it may not be so difficult after all for the bad guys to crack the network and wreak havoc. Prior to Lindner's research, exploits against Cisco routers were mostly focused on hacks of specific IOS router configurations, which require targeted and skilled attacks.

Green Hills' Mender says several "tier one" networking vendors are adopting Green Hills' secure virtualization technology to beef up security in their devices, but he was unable to reveal which ones.

"They basically stick this [architecture] underneath their equipment," Hares says.

Green Hills, which plans an official rollout of the secure virtualization platform for networking this year, demonstrated the technology -- Integrity OS, secure guest virtualization, its GHNet IPv4/IPv6 routing stack, and Gate D routing and switching software -- in use with a 10 gigabit-per-second switch here in private meetings during Interop.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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