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Customers must find out what a vendor means by "NAC support. The problem is that key components aren't available, making interoperability impossible to test beyond limited beta versions of Microsoft's NAP platforms. On the upside, 75 vendors have pledged to make their gear interoperable with Microsoft NAP components when they become available.

Regardless of vendor choices, enterprises must know what network challenges they are trying to solve before they embrace NAC, says Joel Snyder, senior partner at Opus One and a member of the Network World Lab Alliance. Surprisingly, many businesses are leaping into NAC without first defining the business need that will warrant the investment, he says.

It wanted to control visitor and student access to network resources but keep the infrastructure as open as possible, says Jon Schroth, director of technology at the school. He also didn't want to rip out hardware or be responsible for installing software on user devices, he says. Schroth chose Vernier's EdgeWall appliance, which authenticates users, scans their machines and imposes policies based on data drawn from the school's Active Directory servers. Because EdgeWall sits between access and core switches to enforce policies, it works with the school's mix of HP ProCurve and 3Com switches without altering network topology.

For now EdgeWall works and probably will be sufficient until the school's next switch upgrade in two years. Even if he already had them, it would have cost extra to implement NAC on them, he says. Lemm also ruled out Extreme's access-control system based on its Sentriant devices. At the time he looked at it last year, it screened at Layer 3 but not all the way to Layer 7, which is what he was looking for, he says. He chose Juniper's Infranet Controller policy engine in conjunction with Microsoft Internet Authentication Service authentication server to determine what kind of access end devices should get.

Extreme switches and Juniper Integrated Security Gateway devices combining firewall, VPN and intrusion detection serve as enforcement points. The deployment prevented a lot of switch replacement, but it's not ideal, he says.


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Juniper needs an enterprisewide management system for all the pieces of its NAC system to save administrative time. Some early users, such as Great Canadian Casinos, have bought into a single vendor's scheme. The company wanted to lock down access in public spaces, such as lobbies and conference rooms, where guests might log on, Ward says.

NAC Buyer’s Guide - IT Security

The Nortel gear scans the devices trying to log on and enforces access policy via Nortel switches in the network. The endpoint check calls for the device to boot up its browser, which is a drawback, Ward says, but Nortel says it is working on a browserless version. Important to Ward is that the Nortel architecture support other vendors' enforcement points, not just certain Nortel switches.

Because Great Canadian is growing through acquisition, it is likely to buy a business entity whose network is built with another vendor's switches, Ward says, explaining that he would not want that diversity to stall universal NAC deployment. In its favor, Nortel has interoperability with other vendors' gear in compliance with TCG specifications, the company says.

How to implement network access control

The bottom line on NAC is that while it may be a young and not yet fully defined technology, it can deliver value in the right circumstances. Look at NAC with an eye to how it is evolving, Whiteley says, so future security and network acquisitions fit into the still-developing, broader NAC architectures. NAC and you Before you decide whether network-access control products are right for your enterprise….

How important is NAC compared with other security initiatives I am working on? How much network disruption can I afford when implementing NAC? Early NAC solutions were expensive and complex and targeted at the large enterprise market. But even for those companies with budgets and IT staff to manage NAC, the deployments often failed or stalled. This was due to complexity, the lack of interoperability and proprietary technologies used in the NAC solutions. Cisco, Microsoft, and the Trusted Computing Group TCG , a consortium of suppliers, proposed alternate frameworks and interoperable architectures in an attempt to overcome this hurdle.

Today, NAC is moving toward more standards-based protocols. Under NAP Microsoft is interoperating with other vendor solutions, and encouraging partners to develop agents and tools to enable NAP to communicate with non-Windows devices as well as competing policy servers.


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  • Most of the anti-virus products work with NAP, and hopefully all of them will. If you are a smaller organisation, then you don't need Windows Server but can use a network appliance to enforce policies and directly communicate with the Microsoft NAP agent. If you have Macintosh or Linux computers, then you need to look for cross-platform support. There is much debate about where to enforce NAC, but I believe that the best place is at the network layer layer 2 or 3.

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    There are now several NAC appliances that are relatively easy to deploy and manage. Also, it's best to find a solution that provides centralised management for both employee and guest accesses. Mobile employees pose a huge risk to your network, but visitors, partners or suppliers working on site bring an even greater danger, since you have no way to manage those devices. A good NAC solution should enable you to provide guests with controlled and safe access either to the internet or a select group of printers or network resources, without exposing the rest of the network.

    It is useful to be able to implement NAC in phases, so you aren't disrupting your network or your workers or creating a burden for your help desk. Your first task is to monitor your environment. Gather the information you need and understand what is actually happening with devices on your network.

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    Implementing NAP and NAC Security Technologies: The Complete Guide to Network Access Control

    Many IT managers are shocked by what they find. One IT manager discovered he had several virtual machines on his network he was unaware of another found that more than half of the laptop computers were not running the latest security patches yet another found their desktop security suite was incorrectly configured and that all of their desktop firewalls were disabled. This insight into your network is one of the greatest benefits of NAC. While few companies deploy NAC for this reason, it is always the first thing IT staff notice and appreciate.

    Never before have they been able to have this central view of every device on the network and, importantly, the security status of those devices. In spite of your efforts, employees often ignore the rules.

    Understanding the NAC universe

    Even with NAC, you need to think about authentication of both devices and users. For example, many companies are now using Wi-Fi access points to provide easy wireless access to the corporate network, but they forget to add the necessary security. But in our recent survey of 40 small and medium enterprises, more than half used a shared password for all wireless access. Regardless of your choice of encryption, this is an obvious Achilles heel because individual users cannot easily be identified and any change to the shared password creates massive disruption. Identifying wireless users and dealing with changing a shared password regularly is one task that makes wireless access a management nightmare.

    This requires every user to authenticate with his or her own username and password when connecting. Although initial setup of WPA Enterprise can be difficult, the day-to-day burden of changing a shared password is eliminated. WPA Enterprise also means you can give guests access by creating a guest user. I have yet to meet an organisation that didn't have at least one computer on their network that was out of compliance or that presented a direct threat to the network.

    Network Access Control - CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 - 2.1

    No matter what they have, if they don't have a way to check devices before they access the network, they risk having a virus or other threat spread across the company. While you may not be able to control everything your employees do, you can take control back of mobile computing and implement better policies and technologies that make sure all devices accessing the network are healthy and secure. You forgot to provide an Email Address.

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