How four institutions manage security threats

The layered approach has been successful, as have been Juniper’s products. Northwestern first began using Juniper close to 10 years ago but recently replaced its original routers with the same kind from Juniper. “That shows our confidence in their function,” Koh says.

Securing distance education

The University of Central Florida, with 21 regional delivery sites, has more than 23,000 students taking online courses. UCF’s data network has become a critical resource that supports education, research, administrative services, and campus communications—particularly for those students engaged in distance education.

“The network is a part of how we teach and how we do business,” says John C. Hitt, UCF president. Maximum network reliability, then, is mandatory—and security issues must not be allowed to jeopardize the network that employees and students depend on every day, IT staff knew.

Yet, network security threats were costing the university money and time. The steady increase in viruses, DoS attacks, and similar threats made it clear that improved network security and monitoring were required. UCF decided to implement a security solution that included:

•    Perimeter security with Cisco PIX security appliances and Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series service modules;
•    Intrusion protection with Cisco IDS sensors and the Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series IDS Service Module, to identify and classify known and unknown threats; and
•    Secure wireless and VPN connectivity using Cisco VPN 3030 concentrators to establish secure connections across TCP/IP networks, including the internet.

Now, the university’s computer systems are securely protected from both internal and external risks, campus officials say. For example, the IT team was able to quickly respond to the Nimda worm in 2001, preventing it from spreading across the UCF network. Cisco technology enabled the team to track the affected machines and immediately remove them from the network, UCF officials say.

Quinnipiac University, in Hamden, Conn., has a much smaller student body but faces the same challenges, needing to walk the tightrope between giving users easy access to information and the constraints of government and industry privacy and protection standards.

For instance, the Higher Education Act of 1965—recently reauthorized with strict rules regarding copyright—and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protect sensitive student information. Quinnipiac wanted to make sure it was compliant, so Brian Kelly, information security and network operations director for the university, knew he and his team needed to redesign their enterprise security strategy.

The first step was to gain a clear, real-time view of security issues across the network, via a sophisticated intrusion prevention system (IPS) from Hewlett-Packard. Kelly uses the IPS to aggregate and analyze logs from various watch points throughout the enterprise. Drawing information from a single database, rather than going from device to device to pore over system logs, has enabled Quinnipiac’s IT team to accomplish more comprehensive monitoring, auditing, reporting, and event mitigation.

“Before our IPS, we were using a series of home-grown utilities to try to aggregate and sift through system logs,” Kelly says. “But we don’t have a lot of full-time employees, so we either missed things or wasted valuable staff resources.”

Now, the team has instant access, via a single pane of glass, to critical security data, including network usage and possible threats. Team members can more easily deploy, update, and enforce access and configuration policies. And automating these tasks and giving appropriate personnel customized information frees up IT resources to be used on other, more strategic projects. It also empowers users to make better, faster decisions about data and network protection, Kelly says.


Laura Ascione

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