Check Point expands VPN connection options

In a move designed to give users a greater range of devices to connect to virtual private networks (VPNs), Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. announced three feature upgrades to its software Tuesday.

Check Point unveiled what it calls "Universal VPN," an upgrade to the software that runs its VPN gateways -- the devices that connect remote users to networks -- that will allow anyone using a standard Web browser to access Web-enabled applications over a VPN, said Leslie Stern, senior product marketing manager at Check Point, which has its U.S. operations in Redwood City, California. A VPN is a secure method of connecting to remote systems using the Internet as if it were a component of a private network.

Users will now be able to access Web-enabled applications and services that support secure HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) using any browser that supports SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), she said. To enable this feature, administrators need only change some settings on the gateway, she said.

Some other companies, including Neoteris Inc. and Aventail Corp., offer products that also give access to programs and files using Web browsers. Check Point's offering is a bit different, though, in that it also brings the full infrastructure of Check Point services with it, Stern said.

Universal VPN "is more about broadening the choice of the way clients can connect," she said. "Our goal is to provide the broadest range of choices that we can."

The upgrade also features support for the VPN client that ships with Windows, she said.

The second new feature added by Check Point is VPN routing, which will allow businesses to deploy new and more complicated VPNs, she said. The upgrade will speed "hub-and-spoke" networks and allow such networks to be moved from frame relay systems to the Internet, she said. Hub-and-spoke networks are those in which a series of branch offices are connected to a single central location connected to other hubs.

Lastly, Check Point upgraded its VPN-1 Secure Client with a client security assurance component. Client security assurance will allow the VPN client to perform security checks on the PC it is installed on to ensure that the system has a basic security configuration, she said. The standard checks will cover Windows and Web browsers, though third parties can create their own custom checks, she added.

All three upgrades are immediately available at no charge to customers currently under support contracts.

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