Equant Targets Intruders

Equant (NYSE: ENT; Paris: EQU) is taking aim at business hackers.

On Tuesday, the company will add an intrusion detection service to its portfolio of managed security services. Equant already offers a range of other security services, including managed firewall, remote access, and virtual private networks.

Intrusion detection, like other security services, is aimed at helping enterprises monitor their networks for intrusions by hackers inside or outside the organization. Equant's service is meant to help customers save the costs of implementing and managing their own security systems. The carrier says that over a three-year period, a typical four-site, in-house intrusion detection service could be two to three times as expensive as Equant’s service, based on identical equipment. Equant claims cost savings primarily come from not having to train and maintain a workforce to monitor the security equipment and alarms and alerts around the clock.

There's a growing market for services like these, analysts say. According to Gartner Inc., 60 percent of enterprises will be outsourcing at least part of their monitoring and security to third-party providers by 2005. By 2004, IDC predicts, the security services market will generate about $16.5 billion.

But Equant's new service won't appeal to everyone. "I can't see a large corporation giving up control of their security," says Erik Suppiger, an equities analyst with Pacific Growth Equities Inc.

Still, he sees good pickings among small to medium-sized businesses: “I think there will likely be good growth in the managed security market, particularly among low-end customers, because the economic case is so compelling.” Intrusion detection services like Equant's are a good addition to the managed firewall services that Web hosting companies already are offering this market, he notes.

Equant's service is based on intrusion detection gear from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), including the vendor's IDS 4210, IDS 4235, and IDS 4250. Equant says it picked Cisco after testing gear from "dozens" of vendors and after picking two other finalists, Enterasys Networks Inc. (NYSE: ETS) and Internet Security Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISSX). Cisco had a better alert rate and didn’t produce as many false positives as other gear that had been tested, Cisco spokespeople claim. Apparently, generating too many alerts can be a problem with intrusion detection products.

Equant has placed the Cisco IDS devices on its network to monitor all traffic flows. The software detects malicious activity from inside or outside a company that is targeted at customer networks, devices, appliances, servers, and operating systems and then sends alarms to network administrators. It can also block traffic from entering the network.

Equant has also partnered with Ubizen, a security event monitoring service provider, to beef up its offering. Ubizen operates its own security operations centers in Reston, Va., and in Belgium, and provides 24-hour, seven-days-a-week support. These services now are available to Equant customers through the alliance.

With this announcement, Equant is following the lead of AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and a number of smaller players that also offer intrusion detection services, including Guardent, Jetnet, LURQ, Node Warrier Networks, Peak10, and TruSecure (see AT&T Gets Security Savvy).

But AT&T's service is likely to be Equant's biggest competitor. Like Equant, AT&T has international presence and local support in many countries, along with hundreds of business customers to tap as prospects.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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