Networking equipment giant Cisco Systems and a trio of allies in the anti-virus industry Tuesday declared war on malicious network worms.

In a partnership with security specialists Network Associates , Symantec and Trend Micro, Cisco launched its Network Admission Control program to thwart the spread of worms across enterprise IT networks.

Cisco, which makes a range of security products in addition to routers and switches, said the program will provide increased protection for businesses at the risk of virus infection from remote user connections to networks.

The program, part of Cisco's Self-Defending Network Initiative, could be particularly helpful in blocking infection from the likes of Blaster and SoBig -- two recent network worms that wreaked havoc on corporate networks globally.

The Network Admission Control program is designed to allow Cisco's routers to assign privileges when a remote user (the 'endpoint') connects to an enterprise network. Those endpoints, Cisco explained, are the biggest risk to a network because, for the most part, security patch deployment cannot reach home users who are not connected to the network.

"Recent worm and virus infections have elevated the issue of keeping insecure nodes from infecting the network and have made this a top priority for enterprises today...Many organizations were successful at stopping recent worm attacks at their Internet boundaries, yet still fell victim to the exploits when mobile or guest users connected their infected PCs directly to internal local area networks," Cisco explained in a statement.

"Eliminating this type of threat will require a combination of strengthened policies and network admission control systems," the company added.

In the interim, the program will be married to security software offerings from Network Associates, Symantec and Trend Micro and will target individual systems running Windows 2000, Windows NT and Windows XP.