Industry group releases endpoint security architecture

The Trusted Computing Group, an industry standards body, this week detailed its architecture for ensuring endpoint security and released two interfaces for developers to make products based on the open standard.

The Trusted Network Connect (TNC) architecture was developed by a TCG subgroup of more than 60 technology suppliers, including Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Symantec, and Juniper Networks. TNC provides a framework for checking the security of a client system before it is allowed to connect to a corporate network.

"We feel by having such a broad number of participants, we have the best minds in the industry working to solve a difficult security problem - the growth of viruses and other malware attaching themselves to mobile hosts such as laptops, which cause destruction to the enterprise network when these machines connect to it," said Thomas Hardjono, principal scientist at VeriSign and co-chair of the TCG subgroup.

Products based on the TNC architecture will allow clients to go through a series of verifications to determine whether they meet corporate security policies, such as patch level, antivirus software, and operating system configuration. TNC also enables detectection of spyware or newly installed software or hardware.

"By providing a broad range of selectable configurable information, we're giving the IT administrator greater control over the machines that are attaching to his or her network," Hardjono said.

Vendors such as iPass and InfoExpress showed interoperable products based on the TNC specifications this week at the Interop conference in Las Vegas. TCG expects that products supporting the architecture, which is designed to work in heterogenous networking environments, will be available later this year.

Microsoft and Cisco have similar endpoint security efforts to TCG. Microsoft is working with TCG to align its initiative with TNC and Hardjono said members of TCG have reached out to Cisco to show how the group's architecture complements Cisco's effort.

A component of TNC that sets it apart from the Cisco and Microsoft initiatives is the Trusted Platform Module, Hardjono said. TPM is a chip embedded at the PC board level that performs integrity measurements of the software and hardware on a client.

Both the Cisco and Microsoft programs are based on a software agent, which could possibly become contaminated itself, Hardjono said.

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