Stay up to date on the latest Cisco security threats and other news

While there are a wealth of available resources for staying on top of the latest Cisco-related news, some of these sources aren't necessarily timely, which can really become a problem when it comes to security issues. David Davis tells you how you can avoid this by using RSS feeds and Cisco tools to receive security updates and other news directly from Cisco.

If you follow IT news, you've more than likely read Cisco-related news articles about new security vulnerabilities, company acquisitions, or new product releases. In addition, you probably have a favorite list of sources. You may get your Cisco information from magazine publications or online news Web sites—or even TechRepublic's IT News Digest newsletter.

Of course, these articles typically make the information appear as if it's "hot off the press." But many of these stories base their information on articles Cisco has published on its own site. So, what may appear to be news may actually be days or even weeks old.

However, there are easier ways to get the latest Cisco news in a more timely manner. While this may not matter when it comes to new products or recent acquisitions, timely information takes on much more importance when it comes to security updates, which are often critical. Let's look at how you can use RSS feeds and Cisco tools to receive security updates and other news directly from Cisco.

Get to know RSS

If you're not yet familiar with Really Simple Syndication (RSS)—an XML-based format for content distribution—there's no better time to learn than now. Many IT pros view RSS as the best way to receive timely news—of any kind, on any topic.

CNET offers a helpful RSS Web page that includes a video tutorial, glossary, and, yes, even RSS-related news. In addition, CNET features a substantial RSS Feeds Directory, and TechRepublic offers its own RSS feeds for articles and downloads.

Cisco features several Web sites, including Security Advisories and Field Notices, to help you stay on top of the latest security threats and other news. (You must log in to access these Web pages.)

However, it's difficult to find the time to visit these Web sites on a daily basis, and you can quickly begin missing pertinent information. Let's look at some ways you can make sure the appropriate Cisco news comes directly to your computer.

Sign up for Cisco RSS feeds

Cisco offers free RSS feeds that are available to everyone. These feeds let you receive security notices immediately from Cisco without having to search for the information. Cisco also offers its own news feed.

For more information on these services, check out Cisco's security-related RSS feeds Web page and its news-related RSS feeds Web page. Here are links to three of Cisco's RSS feeds:

Take advantage of Cisco's tools

Cisco also offers a couple of tools that are more configurable than an RSS feed. However, keep in mind that in order to take advantage of these tools, you must be a registered Cisco user—you can't be a registered guest. Cisco defines a registered user as someone who has a login and also has a maintenance agreement (or is a partner or reseller).

You can find available tools on the Cisco Tools and Resources Web page. (You must log in before accessing this Web page.) Let's look at two of the tools I've found most useful: the Product Alert Tool and the Bug Toolkit.

Product Alert Tool

Cisco's Product Alert Tool (again, available only to registered users) lets you create custom e-mail alerts based on technologies, product lines, or categories of products. Click the Figure A thumbnail to see what the interface looks like.

Figure A

After setting up your profile, you'll begin receiving news alerts based on your chosen criteria. Click the Figure B thumbnail for an example of a recent alert e-mail I received.

Figure B

Bug Toolkit

The Cisco Bug Toolkit (once again, available only to registered users) allows you to perform searches on known bugs for specific models of Cisco devices or operating systems. Click the Figure C thumbnail to see an example of searching for Cisco IOS bugs.

Figure C

In addition, you can save the search and set up e-mail alerts. According to the criteria you select, you receive an e-mail anytime a new Cisco IOS bug emerges. Click the Figure D thumbnail for an example of one of these alert e-mails.

Figure D

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David Davis has worked in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.

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