USPS moves to remote-access server

The U.S. Postal Service will use a remote-access and security product from a California company to allow more than 7 000 remote users to connect to the agency's intranet.

USPS has standardized on the integrated access server developed by Livingston Enterprises Inc. Pleasanton Calif. to allow remote users to connect securely to the agency's National Network Service Center.

Livingston's PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server consolidates analog Integrated Services Digital Network and frame-relay services for remote dial-up access to networks. Its features include authentication of remote users and filtering capabilities which specify the particular information on the network that users can access. USPS will use PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server for all Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol applications provided over its intranet including World Wide Web Telnet database and electronic-mail servers as well as access to the Internet. Rick Yost USPS' software systems administrator said in a prepared statement that USPS chose Livingston because it was the only vendor that could meet the agency's stringent requirements.

"The PortMaster 3 is one-tenth the size of our old modem pool setup so it saves a lot of space in our network facilities while at the same time centralizing and simplifying management " according to the statement. "When it came to the complex security and filtering issues we needed to address Livingston had a leg up."

Livingston officials did not return phone calls.

The product will provide USPS with an interim mechanism for secure remote access while MCI builds a massive telecommunications structure for USPS which will be one of the largest intranets ever built. MCI in March was awarded the $3 billion 11-year Managed Network Services contract to build that infrastructure.

USPS selected PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server after testing it at its data center in Minnesota where more than 5 000 Postal employees have dial-up access.

Yost said the product's Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service and its filtering features prompted the agency to purchase 23 PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Servers.

RADIUS is designed to eliminate the security vulnerabilities that are caused by adding modems to networks. In large networks each time a modem or access point is added vulnerabilities multiply. RADIUS is a distributed scalable client/server security solution which separates user authentication and authorization from the communications process to create a single central location for user authentication data.

When remote users dial in for access RADIUS searches its user database for the profile of a remote user in order to verify the identity of the user and access privileges. Access privileges may change often Yost said but the product automatically updates user profiles to reflect these changes. In addition to using Livingston's PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server USPS will be using digital modem technology to allow end users to migrate to a 56 kilobit/sec dial-up service.

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