Blue Coat SSL VPN protects data on remote machines

Blue Coat Networks has jumped into the SSL-VPN market with an appliance that helps customers with lots of remote access users protect application traffic as it crosses the Internet.

The Blue Coat RA appliance derives from the company's acquisition of Permeo earlier this year, and performs standard SSL VPN functions by creating an SSL tunnel between remote users and corporate networks.

It goes a step further than most SSL VPNs, claimed Nigel Hawthorn, the company's international marketing VP: he said it secures the data that is accessed during the SSL sessions to protect it from keyloggers, cache spies and other malware that might attempt to capture confidential information.

The device does this via an executable file that can be downloaded to any computer, without the user needing admin rights to install it, he added. Other SSL VPNs require users to have admin rights to download such agents, Blue Coat said.

The download, called Blue Coat Connector, intercepts system calls by processes on the computer and can suspend the ones it finds suspicious. So, for instance, if a keylogger tries to access keystrokes being typed for a particular application, the Connector restricts access to that information to just the application, so the keylogger can't get at it.

"We have strengthened the Permeo technology, and repackaged it on the security side," said Hawthorn. "It's also transient, and completely cleans up after itself, which is important if you're using an Internet cafe PC, for example."

The remote machine also encrypts files sent from the corporate network, using policies that are downloaded with the Connector. So if a remote user accesses an e-mail with a Word document attached, that document is encrypted before caching to the hard disk, then decrypted onto the screen. That protects it from being read if it is captured by malware on the machine.

This capability is unique to Blue Coat, although F5 Networks and Microsoft, via its purchase of Whale Communications and its own software, have the elements to put together similar technology, said Rob Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Blue Coat Connector uses SOCKS to wrap up traffic as it is sent from remote machines and tunnelled via SSL to the Blue Coat RA gateway. The SSL session is terminated, and the SOCKS wrapper on the data is used to proxy the traffic to its destination.

Blue Coat RA is available in three models, RA 510A, RA 810A and RA 810B, which cost £3750 to £29,000. Hawthorn said that the three versions can support up to 100, 500 and 1000 simultaneous remote users each, respectively.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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