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4/30/2006
02:15 AM
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Aventail Sets Sights on Mobile Security

Startup looks to break away from the SSL VPN pack by locking down mobile devices

LAS VEGAS -- SSL VPN vendor Aventail Corp. took aim at the mobile computing space today, unveiling new software that will help enterprises lock down users' PDAs and smart phones.

Although traditional SSL VPN vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) have made some noises in the mobile security space, Aventail is the first to do more than dip its toe in, according to Robert Whiteley, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "As far as I can tell, Aventail is the first [SSL VPN vendor] to latch onto this. Enterprise mobility is hot, hot, hot. The market is definitely growing and there's a lot of interest" in the technology.

In an attempt to tap into this demand, Aventail today took the wraps off an upgraded version of its Aventail Mobile software, which was launched last year to link mobile devices into its family of three SSL VPN appliances.

Like the initial version of Aventail Mobile, the new offering uses either a Web portal or a client installed on the mobile device to connect to the VPN appliances. But Chris Witeck, Aventail's director of product marketing , says that the new software also offers the ability to roam from network to network without having to relaunch VPN sessions.

These enhanced appliances let network administrators "interrogate the device," according to the exec, making it possible to identify specific devices based on individual files or directories.

Another new feature is "digital watermarking," which helps companies eliminate security problems caused by lost or stolen devices, such as those experienced recently by Aetna and Fidelity Investments. (See Analysis: Storage Security .) "If you leave your Treo 700 at an airport, you could call your network administrator and get them to remove the [device's digital] certificate," explains Witeck, which prevents the machine from accessing critical applications.

Michael Doak, manager of network operations at Pittsbugh-based Mitsubishi Electric Power, is keen to get his hands on the upgrade. "One of the things that we like is the digital watermarking," he says. "We're just really moving into the mobile world, and security is going to be the biggest challenge."

But Doak, who has been testing the initial version of Aventail Mobile with some 10 devices, adds that he would like to see the startup get to grips with authentication in the future. "They have got a pretty good base foundation, but I would like to see them add [RSA-style] token support for really good two-factor authentication," he says.

Of course, Aventail is not the only vendor with device security on its mind. A number of mobile security firms, including Columbitech AB , Padcom Inc. , and NetMotion Wireless Inc. , are also offering tools for securing mobile devices. But Whiteley said it will be easier for an enterprise to extend its existing SSL VPN than to deploy a completely new technology."

Doak, who helped his company deploy its first SSL VPN two years ago, agrees. "We had already made the investment," he says. "This is a value-added feature."

Pricing for the new mobile security offering starts at $995. Users that have already deployed the initial version of Aventail Mobile can upgrade for free.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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