City of Airdrie saves on monitoring network threats

The City of Airdrie, Alta., has realized a 75 per cent reduction in costs for network threat monitoring and real-time employee Web usage reports that are more accurate and more frequently available than before.


Previously, the City was paying an annual subscription of $12,000 for a cumbersome system that would take up to two weeks to generate a report. “We concluded there had to be a better way,” said Paul Hurst, network administrator for the City of Airdrie.


It was important for the City to be able to protect employees from external Web threats while also monitoring employee Internet usage on the job. After deploying Web security software from Wilmington, Mass.-based Astaro Corp., Hurst said the IT department now has reports available on a daily, weekly and monthly basis that indicate bandwidth utilization by username, not solely by IP address as was the case before. “We could never isolate it to the user,” said Hurst.


With better network security management, the City can also protect its employees from Web sites that track usage and collect statistical data, said Hurst.


The Web security tool also lets the City bar categories of Web sites deemed inappropriate, like porn sites or those displaying provocative attire. Hurst said that is particularly important should an employee be making a presentation to an audience and suddenly something embarrassing appears on the screen.


“Can you imagine being in a boardroom and you click on a link and all of a sudden you’ve got something up on the screen that was a mistype or happened to be malicious in nature? That’s all prevented,” said Hurst.


Angelo Comazzetto, Astaro product manager, said that because the crowded security market has produced a floodgate of tools, customers are beginning to look upon security tools quite differently.


“Customers have got to the point where they don’t care about security lineage, how many patterns you have in the last 200 days, or your threat prevention,” said Comazzetto. Instead, they care for more “convenient” features that they can actually relate to on a daily basis, such as what employees are surfing on the Web, and not that the chosen software “blocked 10,000 attacks.”


In the case of the City of Airdrie, as a public organization, it was important to know how the Web was being used as a tool, said Comazzetto: “Is Phil renovating his house for three hours each day by buying parts form Home Depot?”


Hurst said that while employees might perceive the security reporting as Big Brother looking over their shoulders, the City has always made it clear that the workstations are not for private use. “The reality is that it’s not your PC,” he said. “It’s a public workstation.”


For the time being, the City will continue to monitor and analyze traffic, with the possibility of using that intelligence to draft new corporate usage policies. Defining a policy for instant messaging tools is one such potential area, said Hurst.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau 

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