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Axent to thwart hacker technique

Security firm Axent will announce Monday an upgrade that will give network managers an easy way to control access to root privileges on Unix machines.

Network security firm Axent Technologies (AXNT) expects to announce Monday an upgrade that will give network managers an easy way to control access to root privileges on Unix machines. "Seizing root" is a technique hackers/crackers often use to break into computer networks.

Axent calls the upgrade to its OmniGuard Unix Privilege Manager (UPM) the first "out-of-the-box" lock on who gets access to root privileges on workstations running a Unix operating system, thus protecting data on Unix networks.

"We are trying to make a Unix network a lot safer," said Jim Bowerman, an Axent vice president. "To do routine management, you have to pass out root credentials to too many people, and that creates a safety and security hassle. Once you do that, you've lost all control. It's like giving out master keys to everybody for everything."

The security risks include not only hackers from outside the network, but also internal vandals and accidental errors.

"Our product is a highly cost-effective way to delegate limited authority without compromising system security," Bowerman added.

While other means of protection exist, the company said, they are often so costly or require so much overhead that companies often protect only some of their most critical Unix servers, leaving others unprotected.

The new upgrade, version 2.1, to OmniGuard/UPM lets users delegate root access to other administrators without giving away the password. Model configuration files serve as templates so users can implement protection in a matter of hours. UPM also protects Oracle and Sybase root passwords.

The new product, shipping next week, is priced according to the number of managers and agents deployed. Pricing for the UPM manager is $1,995; $995 for the UPM agent for Unix servers; and $95 for the UPM agent for a Unix client. The upgrade also is available to Axent customers on maintenance contracts.