Network managers looking for an inexpensive way to better secure traffic crossing their networks have been invited to check out a free application from Intoto.

Intoto, a provider of security software for enterprise network equipment and CPE gateways, used last week's Interop show to introduce a standalone intrusion-prevention system (IPS) application that the company says will help small and mid-size companies looking for enterprise-scale security tools.

IntruPro IPS software can be downloaded onto a standard Linux x86 server and plugs in to the network in front of or behind an existing firewall. The company says the application is designed to prevent intruders from exploiting existing vulnerabilities on customer networks and computers, the vendor says.

IntruPro IPS uses signature detection, protocol anomaly and traffic-anomaly technologies to determine the source of potential threats and then alerts network administrators of the suspicious activity. It is designed with stateful application-inspection capabilities to help reduce false alarms, and because it sits in line with the firewall, as soon as the software detects an attack, it will drop the malicious packets before they reach their intended target, the company says.

"To date, high-performing, enterprise-class network security has been out of the reach of many small and midsized enterprises due to cost constraints, yet just because they're small doesn't mean these companies don't have major security concerns," said Sathyan Iyengar, CEO of Intoto, in a company press release.

The company is also launching a community around the free application, dubbed OpenIntoto, in which network administrators can download the products and share their experiences.

IntruPro IPS can also identify bandwidth-intensive applications such as P2P and IM, and let network administrators control application use and bandwidth consumption. Such capabilities can help smaller companies better secure their networks at less cost, industry watchers say.

"IPS systems are the next-generation firewalls. With increasing complexity of exploits and vulnerabilities, small businesses are increasingly susceptible to attacks and require the same level of protection as larger companies," says Charles Kolodgy, research for secure content and threat-management products at IDC.

Intoto, which licenses its software to makers of such network equipment as routers, switches, gateways and security applications, says the unthrottled application is free for download and use for an unlimited time. Customers wishing to receive signature updates would need to sign up for an annual service subscription, which is $1,000 per year per installation.