Big Brother comes one step off the page

Adding visualization technology to security and monitoring tools has provided Computer Associates’ eTrust 20/20 the opportunity to take a closer look at employee activities.

Sanjay Kumar, president of the Islandia, N.Y.-based company announced eTrust 20/20 at CA World 2002 in Orlando in April.

Kumar said with the continuous importance placed on security, CA found there was a disconnect between software and hardware security practices.

He also noted that practically every company monitors access to their systems.

“While companies have the right to do that, we think there is a better way. My company can look at me logging on to e-mail and I prefer that they do that to protect me from intrusion.

“But I would prefer they not sit and watch all day. I would rather they use some sort of intelligent tool to figure this out,” Kumar said.

eTrust 20/20 collects log files from different sources and collects information from physical access controls and combines them to allow administrators to watch for abnormalities in behaviour.

“How do you figure out what is normal behaviour or abnormal behaviour? That is a lot of visualization,” Kumar said.

Michael Dortch, principal analyst for Robert Frances Group in Westport, Conn., said eTrust 20/20 could be a harbinger of things to come for several types of business and mission-critical security deployments.

“The ability to integrate, manipulate, and visually represent a holistic view of both physical and electronic security solutions will ease and improve management of such resources, and is in line with a general trend in IT towards consolidated management of diverse, dispersed resources,” Dortch said.

He added that the offering also uses CA’s historical strength in melding visualization technologies with IT-based management tools, something it pioneered years ago with its “Real World Interface” for early versions of its flagship Unicenter IT systems management offering.

The tool can visualize the floor plans of a building and can use physical access points to track an employee’s movements. The system will then create what would be the normal boundaries for employees physical and electronic movements. This will allow the system to set an alert when there is abnormal behaviour.

Kumar admitted there will be some false alarms at first, but the system will incorporate different situations into its boundaries.

eTrust 20/20 will take a copy of the footprint of the original program, which means hackers would have to get into the source and change it to wreak any form of sabotage, according to Kumar.

Dortch noted there could be trouble with adoption time.

“It seems unlikely that there could be rapid adoption of such a comprehensive and relatively unprecedented solution, since some amount of market education is going to be required. However, rapid adoption is not, nor should be, as important to CA or IT executives as successful adoptions that deliver clear business value,” Dortch said.

This product will be CA’s first to be offered on a subscription pay rate, and Kumar said it could range from tens of thousands of dollars to a million.

There are several different visualizations, clients will have to pick from. There is an icon-based simulation, the blueprint version and a virtual hallway and room visualization, to start.

The technology behind some of the system is still patent pending, but Kumar said he expects it to be available later this year.