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Investec rolls out system to monitor desktop security

Investment bank Investec plans to deploy sophisticated software to monitor the security and configuration of up to 4,000 desktop machines used in offices in eight countries.

Investment bank Investec plans to deploy sophisticated software to monitor the security and configuration of up to 4,000 desktop machines used in offices in eight countries.

The software, supplied by Promisec, allows Investec to monitor the use of external devices, such as memory sticks, wireless cards, and software configurations, without having to install software clients on each machine.

“The one thing the technology is giving you is an insight into exactly what is happening in your environment, software installations, hardware installations. Devices with two network connections, devices with the wireless turned on, etc,” said David Cripps, group information security officer at Investec.

The bank, which is just beginning to exploit the capabilities of the software, has used it to identify laptops where wireless networking has been accidentally enabled, exposing the company network to a potential breach of security.

“We are using it for producing ad hoc reports, for example on the use of thumb drives. Its very easy to run a report on how many thumb drives, and from which manufacturers, are in use in the organisation,” he said.

Investec introduced the software, Spectator Professional, four months ago, after evaluating alternative technologies that would have required it to install agents on each user’s machine.

“We chose this because it was the only agentless technology. An agent-based technology will often need several months to make sure the agent does not introduce its own problems in a complex environment. To install agents in a critical environment can be time consuming,” said Cripps.

The bank is evaluating the software on 500 desktops in its UK offices. It is looking at further uses for the system, and is aiming to expand its use across the global network.

The system is capable of locking down PCs, preventing staff plugging-in unauthorised devices, or downloading unauthorised software. It also allows organisations to create a “white list” of authorised applications, enabling them to block spyware and other malicious software from running.

Alan Rodger, an analyst at Butler Group, said the technology was a cost-effective solution for securing Windows desktops.

“It is very useful, because in my view the presence of a USP port as standard on a PC does not suit enterprises. The leading enterprises want to protect their network from content that escapes virus checking or applications that have not been validated,” he said.

Being able to secure desktops without having to install monitoring software on each machine, was a big advantage for businesses, he said.

This was first published in July 2006

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