Integrated security lowers costs and boosts protection for Alberta Urban Municipalities Association

By Graham Bushkes – VP, Public Sector and Channels, Fortinet Canada

Graham Bushkes – VP, Public Sector and Channels, Fortinet Canada
Municipalities face many issues – infrastructure deterioration, rising housing costs, and the need for resiliency planning, especially in the face of the pandemic. Now, cities are becoming an attractive target for ransomware attacks.

Conflicting demands can make it challenging for municipalities to allocate funds for network security improvements. In Alberta, one municipal association has found a solution by offering Fortinet enterprise-level security as a service to its members.

Starting at home

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) supports 85 per cent of the province’s residents by providing municipalities and community organizations access to solutions-based advocacy and innovative business services.

During an internal vulnerability assessment, AUMA determined that the organization was at increased risk of cyber-attacks. Its core infrastructure systems were from three different vendors, making it hard to handle security events happening across the network. The Association manages insurance and employee benefits for its members, so data privacy is a top concern. The AUMA IT team needed to fully understand what data they had and where it was being stored and accessed, to reveal their potential vulnerabilities. Getting that clear view of the complete technology stack would never be possible using multiple vendors.

To remove the barriers caused by disparate vendors, AUMA’s IT team decided on a more integrated approach by consolidating its firewalls and network with the Fortinet Security Fabric. The AUMA rolled out a Security-Driven Networking strategy with a FortiGate firewall to secure its wide-area network (WAN) edge and the local-area network (LAN) edge. To ensure the seamless visibility the Association needed, they also went with FortiSwitch secure access switches and FortiAP access points, helping provide secure wireless connectivity.

The combination of Fortinet’s integrated network edge protection and secure access provides the AUMA with end-to-end network visibility, with multi-layered detection and instant response capabilities. Previously, if the AUMA’s legacy endpoint solution detected an issue, it would take at least half a day for remediation to begin. Now, AUMA’s new managed services provider, Stratejm, can take immediate action against threats to the network, providing much-needed peace of mind.

Impact on the bottom line

Beyond improving response time, AUMA leveraged its investment in Fortinet’s Security Fabric platform to lower its operational costs. As demand fell, the entire technology stack could be managed through one console, resulting in a 43 percent lower support cost.

AUMA also added security information and event management (SIEM) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities. With SIEM, they were able to combine threat information from the system into actionable intelligence. The cloud-based implementation of FortiSIEM enables information flows from the Fortinet security solutions and its server logs, network management tools, Azure, and web server logs.

Then, FortiSIEM correlates the information and evaluates it against indicators of compromise, filtering millions of data points down to a handful of incidents. A cloud-based FortiEDR solution that protects endpoints before and after infection, replaced legacy solutions. By integrating FortiEDR with FortiSIEM, the endpoint security solution can automatically run playbooks that stop data breaches and tampering, as soon as they are detected.

New value-added service, new revenue stream

The FortiSIEM and FortiEDR cloud solution work so well for AUMA, they have partnered with Stratejm to extend a managed version of each solution as a service to its members. By working through a cloud-based, managed “security as a service” approach, AUMA can provide cities and towns with enterprise-class solutions at a reasonable cost. Through a revenue-sharing arrangement with Stratejm, the organization now offers a vendor-neutral threat risk assessment, in addition to the managed FortiSIEM and FortiEDR services. Now, the AUMA has a Managed Technology Services business unit and anticipates five figures in new revenue and more growth potential in the years to come.

Alberta’s communities can only benefit from these value-added services, making network security one less thing to worry about in a world full of risks and challenges.

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