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Network security is a top priority for Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU, a “credit union’s credit union” that provides investment, lending and payment services to 1,200 clients throughout the U.S. and Guam. Bob Frank, Vice President of Information Systems, and his staff of 18 use a defense-in depth-strategy that includes intrusion prevention and 24-hour-network monitoring from SecureWorks, an Internet security service in Atlanta, GA.
Mid-Atlantic is equipped with top-of-the-line firewalls, and Network Services Manager Jeff Sarlouis and his team monitor them religiously for suspicious activity. A national security firm runs random, unannounced vulnerability scans against the network on a monthly basis. Although these “white hat” hackers haven’t been able to penetrate the system, Frank wanted another layer of protection with around-the-clock monitoring and alerting. “We want alert responses instantly. Not the next day,” he says.
It wasn’t feasible to build an in-house staff for 24x7 network monitoring, but Frank was determined to find an affordable answer. He launched a search for an intrusion detection service that could meet his standards at a price point the CFO could live with. His team researched the market and narrowed the field to three companies.
Short-listed vendors were compared in three areas: technology, service levels and pricing. Atlanta-based SecureWorks emerged as the winner in all three categories, with the company’s ability to prevent intrusions, rather than simply detect them, a key factor. Another plus: 24x7 network monitoring is part of the package. “The pricing was excellent,” says Frank. “So we checked credit union references, found out SecureWorks is a good company to work with, and the decision was pretty obvious.”
Like most network administrators, Jeff Sarlouis is constantly pulled in many directions by system alerts and user requests. When he and his co-workers were assigned the task of installing and configuring the SecureWorks iSensor, Sarlouis was pleasantly surprised. “It was very simple,” he says. “We installed it between the firewall and our router, assigned it an IP address and it was up and running.”
Setting up online reporting preferences was quick, too, says Sarlouis. “The interface is intuitive,” he says. “In just an hour or so we classified the alerts, how we want them managed, and how we want to be notified. At that point their security experts wrapped up the configuration and started around-the-clock monitoring.”
SecureWorks analysts continually track new threats and vulnerabilities and update Mid-Atlantic’s iSensor remotely with new signatures and patterns. On rare occasions the appliance operating system is upgraded, the scheduled middle-of-the-night reboot usually lasts less than a minute.
Rare, too, are Mid-Atlantic’s calls to SecureWorks for technical support. “When we do call, the security analysts answer immediately and are extremely knowledgeable about the system,” says Sarlouis.
The credit union’s Board of Directors expects a quantifiable return from the SecureWorks relationship. Frank downloads daily reports that show network threat levels, attack activity by type and by frequency, and a summary of malicious activity. “SecureWorks is good about condensing a great deal of information into a readable format,” he says. He reports to the Board with confidence—based on facts—that the iSensor is detecting and blocking malicious traffic before it can compromise the network, while allowing legitimate data to flow uninterrupted.
This last point is key: not one of Mid-Atlantic’s 1200+ clients have ever complained about not being able to do legitimate business with the credit union since SecureWorks was contracted to protect the network. This was very important to Mid-Atlantic since they had never received a complaint before and couldn’t afford any issues with their new system. “SecureWorks delivers a complete security solution,” says Frank. “We rate them a very solid 9.5 out of 10.”