K&S Group turns to managed security

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This article appeared in the Issue 172, 16 May 2005 issue of CRN magazine.

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Queensland-based transport and logistics veteran K&S Group identified the need for a broad-based IT security solution to protect the company from an exponential rise in the number of hackers, viruses and other obstacles to business continuity.

Like many companies, K&S had for years managed internal anti-virus applications to tell it when something had already infiltrated the company’s systems.

However, it quickly realised over the past few years that it needed to ramp up its commitments to proper security or face the consequences.

Group IT manager Brian Wharton says K&S fortunately had never had to deal with a major security breach, but with the amount of worrying activity now being reported,"we really thought that it was just a matter of time". Just over 12 months ago,Wharton went looking for something that would look after all aspects of IT security, from anti-virus protection to spam filtering, spyware, firewalls and VPN.

A former colleague told him to check out a product called Network Box, from the company of the same name, and after meeting with representatives in Melbourne, he decided to sign on the dotted line. It was the first and only solution he looked at.

Network Box describes its offering as something that "looks like a product but is actually a service". Based on open source software, it covers a broad spectrum of network perimeter security issues such as firewall, intrusion detection and prevention, gateway anti-virus and spam filtering, as well as VPN and web content filtering, all backed by a comprehensive reporting engine as well.

"We came to choose Network Box because we realised our current firewall wasn’t adequate in terms of manageability, versatility and capacity.

"We now have the one device managing anti-virus, spam filtering, spam analysis, connection and pass-through of our VPNs, as well as web content and web access filtering, firewalling, intrusion detection and the reporting of all of that," Wharton says.

The Network Box is constantly monitored, maintained and updated by security experts at one of the 13 Network Box Security Operations Centres around the world. Key Network Box partners include Kaspersky Labs and SurfControl.

It is logistical

If ever there was an Australian company that highlighted the need for information systems to run uninterrupted 24x7, it is K&S Group.

Comprised of K&S Freighters, K&S Agencies, K&S Integrated Distribution and K&S New Zealand, the company has been providing transport, warehousing and logistics support to industry for more than 55 years and controls one of the largest company owned fleets in Australia, more than 160,000sqm of warehousing and a large range of rail and sea containers.

With 1000 staff across Australia and New Zealand, the company handles thousands of transport orders every day that carry important times and dates for customers nationally and internationally.

Byran Wharton
K&S Group's Byran Wharton

For Wharton and his team of 17 IS specialists, their challenge is to keep 350 PCs in action for around 400 full-time users. And, in common with increasing numbers of companies across ever more diverse industries, K&S understood the need for managed IT services so that it could focus fully on its own business, safe in the knowledge that its security matters were being taken care of. "I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder the whole time, especially when it comes to security," Wharton says.

In fact, the company only deployed Network Box two weeks before the outbreak of the infamous Blaster Worm.

"We had Network Box in for a few weeks when Blaster came along. At the time, a lot of major concerns we knew of were hit while we were protected from it," Wharton reflects.

Wharton says he was previously spending too much time and effort actually monitoring the company network, and he and the team are now able to concentrate on issues more directly related to the running of the business. "We were looking for a device and managed services to support us 24x7 -- they [Network Box ] manage the devices in the background almost transparently to us, which means that we have more time to concentrate on other things."

According to Network Box director Andrew Tune, the growing IT security threats facing organisations has fuelled demand for solutions with a strong managed services component.

"We are seeing customers that were trying to do their managed security inhouse and finding it too onerous," he says. "This is not something that’s getting any easier."

Since putting in the initial device, the load K&S is putting on the Network Box is 10 times that of just over a year ago and the company has doubled its initial $12,000 investment in the solution.

"This is not because we underestimated things, but because the demand and the usefulness of that device has grown over such a very short period of time. It was coincident with the installation of Network Box that we really began to  notice the number of intrusion attempts that were occurring," Wharton says.

Tune says that in one week, the company updated every one of the systems it manages 751 times. "If you try to mange that in-house, you won’t do as good a job as us, or you’ll go insane trying," he says.

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