Mac users are being offered a new and feature-rich alternative to Apple’s in-house OS X VPN client, free of charge to individual users.

NCP’s Secure Mac Client for Leopard 10.5 and Snow Leopard 10.6 claims to greatly extend the basic features of Apple’s built-in client while offering compatibility with a wider range of IPsec VPN gateways.

Notably, the software comes with a built in firewall that can make decisions about the sort of connection available, activating security rules as appropriate.  It can also overcome the limitations of IPSec tunnelling, such as where a firewall will not permit such connections, using what the company calls ‘VPN Path Finder’. This is basically a fall back to https on port 80.

For business users - who do pay for the product - the Secure Mac Client can use third-party VPN configuration files, ideal for automating the gateway setup. The software’s cryptographic engine is certified to FIPS 140-2 level.

“After successful beta testing and customer demand, we are pleased to launch NCP Secure Mac Client. The suite offers enterprise features and possibilities, which far exceed the usual VPN features of a common client,” said NCP’s sales director, Simon Ford.

Almost as interesting is the fact that Mac users are being offered a sophisticated business product at all. “We offer the same features as provided in the long established NCP Secure Client for Windows,” added Ford.

In February of last year NCP launched the first VPN client for Windows 7, in advance of the operating system itself being launched. Windows business users enjoy a wide choice of such add-on software programs to solve every conceivable connectivity and security problem. Mac users – and Mac businesses in particular – aren’t always seen as being as serious a market.

The software is available free of charge – it normally costs 120 euros or $144 says NCP – but this offer is time limited. Interested users should contact [email protected] quoting ‘NCP Mac for free’ as the subject line. The managed enterprise version will be available ‘soon’.

Downloads are available from NCP's website.