SSL VPN first allows clientless mobile access

Network provider Neoteris has improved support for mobile users in the latest version of its Access Series secure virtual private...

Network provider Neoteris has improved support for mobile users in the latest version of its Access Series secure virtual private network.

The company said it was the first Secure Sockets Layer VPN product for mobiles that did not require client software to be installed on the device.

Neoteris hopes clientless VPN access will appeal to businesses that want to allow employees in the field to access the corporate network from handheld devices. The SSL capability will allow employees to access e-mail and other corporate applications from a web browser on a mobile device - either Opera on Symbian or Internet Explorer on Pocket PC.

Clientless SSL VPNs are particularly suitable for mobile handset use. The devices are becoming popular in the healthcare, manufacturing/logistics and transport industries, where staff use them to access patient records, inventory look-ups and driver and vehicle details.

John Delany, an analyst with Ovum, said, "Clientless VPNs are important, especially for Symbian devices, where storage space is limited. The less software on the machine the better. As with fixed networks, using IPSec [an IETF security protocol] is the cheaper method and is the obvious candidate where the user is connecting fixed sites, but if connecting remote workers from random locations, IPSec is less suitable than SSL."

VPNs establish a "tunnel" for secure communications between two points on a public network. They enable remote employees on fixed or mobile devices to access an organisation's core networks. There are two broad types of VPN: SSL and IPSec.

In the SSL version, when an SSL session is started, the server sends its public key to the browser accessing it, which the browser uses to send a randomly generated secret key back to the server for that session. No software other than the browser is required.

IPsec works at layer three and secures everything in the network and is thus more secure than SSL VPNs, but at a cost. It requires a client to be preconfigured with software to operate on a given network with a certain IP address.

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