Sec-1 helps Abertay solve major security challenges

As a technologically-focused university, Dundee-based Abertay is under pressure to practice what they preach –there’s no doubt the institution delivers a perfect example of secure, leading-edge and commercially smart use of technology.

Among Abertay’s unique challenges is the fact that its 5,000 tech-savvy students bring in a constantly changing array of devices – from standard desktops, laptops, Android, Apple and Windows mobiles to PlayStations and Xboxes – that are expected to work immediately they connect to its network.

Abertay teaches courses like ‘ethical hacking’ and computer game design, meaning its firewall solutions has to be strong enough to seal off its Ethical Hacking Lab from the rest of the network, and to safeguard users who are trying out technologies like the Tor network and other services specifically designed to bypass firewalls.

In the face of these demands, Abertay has chosen to protect its network with WatchGuard firewalls, from information security solutions provider Sec-1, a WatchGuard Platinum Partner.

WatchGuard XTM 2520 & WatchGuard XTM 330s for speed & segmentation

The university relies on two powerful WatchGuard XTM 2520 firewalls, these were installed in early 2014 as part of a massive infrastructure upgrade that transformed its network from a 1-gigabyte to an 80-gig backbone. It also uses a WatchGuard XTM330 device to isolate the Ethical Hacking Lab.

Abertay chose SEC-1 as their trusted solutions provider due to their close relationship which had formed after Sec-1 initially supplied them with penetration testing services in 2011 and installed its previous generation of WatchGuard technology.

Abertay’s Senior Network Infrastructure Analyst, Matt Pollard, explained: “We had a number of criteria for pen testing and Sec-1 fulfilled all of these and also scored highly on cost??. Our view of Sec-1 is really positive. They are very approachable so when we’re looking at new technologies we frequently engage with them to seek advice and recommendations’

‘When it came to the network upgrade, Matt Sec-1 successfully delivered and exceeded Abertay’s wide range of requirements’

“We had a very, very large spec sheet,” he said. “The main benefits for us have been moving from a basic state full firewall, to a full layer 7 scanning platform. We managed to add IPS/IDS, application filtering, malware detection, Gateway AV, web filtering and all the other security features in one WatchGuard applicance. We have managed to combine a lot of security features which as separate units would not have made financial sense.

“deploying WatchGuard has allowed us to have much greater visibility on our network. WatchGuard’s data logging system, Dimension, has changed things a lot. It is easier to find faults, to generate reports on what users’ demands on the network are and we can easily visualise the traffic going through our network. That is a massive improvement and benefit for us.”

Crucially, the WatchGuards have helped Matt deal with the most demanding aspects of Abertay’s network management.

“We support a very diverse range of devices, not only because we have a lot of students, but are also a technologically-based university. Every new intake arrives with new gadgets and they’re all expected to work,” he explained. “Because our students learn game design and programing, they also expect access to games and a lot of games have unique requirements. We’re constantly having to adapt the firewall to enable certain games to work.

“There are also issues with stopping illegal things happening on our network, like copyright infringement – BitTorrent is very popular and very difficult to block, also Tor and Ultrasurf are used to try and bypass our security.”

This was one of the key reasons Abertay first chose WatchGuard technology, he said.

Managing Proxy Avoidance Tools

“When we tested all the firewalls side by side, we ran various programs against them like Azureus, BitTorrent, Ultrasurf and various proxy avoidance tools – systems designed to bypass firewalls – and WatchGuard rated the highest on these tests.

“We also needed something that could do all of these things without having any impact on our traffic speed, and the new WatchGuard systems do that.”

Matt added: “Sec-1’s support team has also been great.. The response time is fantastic and they are always friendly,helpful and escalate things to WatchGuard quickly if they cannot resolve it in-house, if we have any issues they are always resolved in a very timely manner.”

He concluded: “I would definitely recommend Sec-1 to other people. WatchGuard, from a support perspective, have been great and the firewall has become a much more mature product over the years we have been using it and it provides good value.”

About Sec-1

Sec-1 provides professional-standard information security solutions to a vast range of clients throughout the public and private sectors. Established in 2001, Sec-1 has continually built on all network security knowledge, ensuring it is always able to help with any current issues. This has enabled Sec-1 to create a number of tailored services, including the specialist IT Health Check for public sector organisations designed to support Public Sector Network (PSN) Code of Connection compliance. Sec-1 Ltd works within the following three core areas: security testing, products & services, and training.