Out of the woods: Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union and AccelOps

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Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union
Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union

A credit union with 17 branches in Alaska found the right tool for logging, not of timber, but of its data assets, reports Greg Masters.

Resources running low is not something one usually associates with the state of Alaska, but that is exactly what happened at Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union (FCU), the third largest credit union in the state. It wasn't a shortage of fish, game, oil or natural beauty that the full-service financial institution was faced with. Rather, it had outgrown the capabilities of its existing log management and security information event management (SIEM) system.

The Anchorage-based organization – which offers credit union, investment and insurance services, as well as mortgage and business lending – found itself in need of a solution to not only protect its assets, but that would also satisfy the mandates of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and the standards of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

Denali Alaskan FCU, which manages $440 million in assets, operates with 300 employees in 17 branches in all major communities across the state, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Eagle River, Wasilla and Kenai. The challenge for Keith Bennett (left), the company's vice president, information technology, was to implement best practices to protect the company's information assets and those of its members.

“With running a small network group, we needed a solution that was easily manageable, including the regular processes of adding/deleting/configuring devices, upgrading the software, being able to quickly research information, and to retrieve meaningful reports,” he says.

The information technology department that Bennett (left) manages has nine full-time and two part-time employees responsible for all operations, equipment and software as well as support. The department is broken down into a network team to manage the infrastructure, security and applications, a help desk group providing support, and a project manager.

His entire network team got involved in the search for an upgrade. “I had both my network and server administrators looking at different solutions,” he says. “Since my admins will be the ones that perform day-to-day management of the system, as a group they were the ones to watch demonstrations, and physically install and test different solutions.”

Bennett worked with his team to ensure solutions met needs and to get their feedback of each solution, and then worked with the vendors to ensure that the solutions met needs in regards to security and compliance. Of the products they assessed, none monitored security, performance and configuration as part of an integrated solution. That made a solution from AccelOps stand out, he says.

“We needed a solution that satisfied the compliance requirements of our regulators, and one that we could more easily manage and scale,” he says. “All the log and SIEM products we looked at have the basic canned reports designed for regulatory compliance.”

With limited staffing, Denali needed a solution that was easily manageable, with out-of-the-box functionality, implementation, compliance coverage and scalability, he says.

Additionally, the tool needed to be easy to implement, as well as support Denali's environment. “We are expanding our current security capabilities and general infrastructure,” says Bennett. “We also wanted to have more operational visibility and wanted to take advantage of netflow information. All of that increased the amount of event data and potential noise that we would need to filter to be more effective in monitoring security activity. We also wanted a system that would help automate our investigation and reporting processes.”

AccelOps met all these requirements, he says. In fact, he explains that the solution offered more useful functionality than what he and his team were first looking for from SIEM/log management products.
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