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Vicinity Centres needed to secure its newly remote workforce and to ensure wanted its new cybersecurity investments not only provided robust protection for remote workers, but also supported its secure access service edge (SASE) initiative.
Customer Name: Vicinity Centres
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Number of Employees: 1400
● A complex security environment with remote users and different types of IoT devices
● An incumbent proxy solution with reliability challenges
● The need to improve operational efficiencies and resiliency
● Reduced internet outages
● Gained ability to protect users’ web activity regardless of location
● Secured remote workers
● Protected shoppers using guest wi-fi at the shopping centers
● Reduced investigation time from a day to an hour for some incidents using Investigate
Fast pivot to remote work calls for enhanced cybersecurity, resiliency
One of Australia’s largest retail property management companies, Vicinity Centres owns and operates 62 shopping centers. In addition to providing guest wi-fi for shoppers, these spaces rely on many digital elements that connect directly to the internet – such as digital wayfinding, digital media screens, and even counters that measure foot traffic – to fulfil the company’s vision to “reimagine destinations of the future, creating places where people love to connect.”
The sudden move to remote working during the pandemic and complexity of its security environment prompted Vicinity Centres to reevaluate its approach to securing the cloud edge and IT infrastructure.
The company’s incumbent secure web gateway (SWG) fell short of providing adequate protection for the remote workplace. “We’ve had some operational challenges with the current web proxy solution, which didn’t address our requirements for protecting our remote workers,” David Wang, network and security engineering manager at Vicinity Centres, explains. “It also had some resiliency and performance challenges, which impacted our users. When we had a big internet outage, I realized we needed to remediate the existing on-prem web proxy solution.”
The team wanted to improve performance and reliability for its users, be able to efficiently inspect and control web traffic, and better protect its remote workers.
When remote employees began accessing applications directly through the internet rather than through the data center, it further heightened the need for a new SWG.
“In an ever-evolving pandemic, we needed to improve operational efficiencies and be more resilient at the same time — and our investment in the Cisco Secure portfolio was part of that strategic IT roadmap and our move to the hybrid cloud,” Glenn Ong, Head of IT Operations at Vicinity Centres says.
“In an ever-evolving pandemic, we needed to improve operational efficiencies and be more resilient at the same time — and our investment in the Cisco Secure portfolio was part of that strategic IT roadmap and our move to the hybrid cloud.”
A stepping stone towards SASE
Vicinity Centres explored a replacement SWG solution that could both secure remote workers’ connections and align with the company’s longer-term SASE initiative. Umbrella combines the broadest set of cybersecurity functions in a unified cloud-native service and integrates with Cisco SD- WAN, a critical element of a SASE architecture. Cisco Umbrella’s capabilities supported both the current and future objectives.
Glenn says, “We introduced Cisco Umbrella during the COVID-19 crisis. Cisco Umbrella was already part of our enterprise security strategy, and we fast tracked the rollout of the solution as we were able to demonstrate that Umbrella would give us many security benefits and address the security challenges imposed on us by the pandemic.”
Vicinity Centres appreciates the fact they can protect both DNS and web traffic. One of the SWG capabilities that the team uses is SSL decryption, which enables them to decrypt and inspect encrypted web traffic and block hidden attacks. They also leverage Umbrella’s Investigate console for a complete view of the relationships and evolution of internet domains, IPs, and files. “We had a distributed denial- of-service attack on our website. Using Umbrella Investigate, we were able to get some really good information and could clearly see a spike in DNS resolution requests. Umbrella validated that there was an attack, and we were able to provide the data as forensic evidence to law enforcement.”
Currently, Vicinity Centres is exploring using Cisco SecureX to automate and aggregate threat data from Umbrella, Cisco Secure Endpoint, and Cisco Secure Email solutions. “When we looked at SecureX, we saw the benefit of having end-to-end visibility of threats from a traffic journey perspective,” Glenn says. “We asked, if the platform picked up a threat, could we enforce an action over there? Could we trigger an orchestration workflow related to any threat, to protect our environment?”
“We had a distributed denial- of-service attack on our website. Using Investigate, we were able to get some really good information and could clearly see a spike in DNS resolution requests. Umbrella validated that there was an attack, and we were able to provide the data as forensic evidence to law enforcement.”
Vicinity Centres has been able to boost resiliency and operational efficiency for the organization, as well as tighten security for its remote employees. The migration from the legacy SWG to Umbrella was a relief for David because he no longer worries about internet outages and disruptions to employees and customers. “No matter where our employees work, we know they’re protected when they’re connecting directly to the internet, and we have full visibility into all the web traffic from Umbrella’s secure web gateway,” he adds. “And because of the DNS-level protections in place, we gained an additional level of comfort.”
For any incidents that do arise, they’ve been able to speed up security investigations. “For some incidents, we’ve cut investigation time from a day to an hour thanks to Umbrella Investigate,” Glenn says. “And when we have a request to resolve an incident, we can do it 20% faster now that we have Umbrella.”
As Vicinity Centres looks ahead to its upcoming cybersecurity initiatives, it plans to implement SD-WAN and use Umbrella’s automated SD-WAN integration to achieve direct internet access, breakout traffic locally, and centrally manage policies for remote offices. “We’re looking forward to enabling SD-WAN and to pushing Cisco Umbrella to the edge, supporting our SASE initiative. We want to allow local internet breakouts where it makes sense, and then really push the security feature to the edge level and the edge of operational technology, and segregate between IT, OT, corporate, and Wi-Fi traffic,” David says. “Our ultimate goal is to continue driving business resiliency.”
“We’re looking forward to enabling SD-WAN and to pushing Cisco Umbrella to the edge, supporting our SASE initiative. We want to allow local internet breakouts where it makes sense, and then really push the security feature to the edge level and the edge of operational technology, and segregate between IT, OT, corporate, and Wi-Fi traffic.”
-David Wang, Network and Security Engineering Manager, Vicinity Centres