A community college in Texas found a tool that enabled it to fend off viruses while coming into compliance, reports Greg Masters.
When a laptop came into his office with a record number 893 viruses, John Colville had seen enough.
The instructional technology director for Kilgore College (KC) and his IT staff were already experiencing a high number of virus attacks and malware, partly due to the fact that most of the college's staff and faculty had administrator rights. Complicating the situation, the community college – located in Kilgore, Texas, with another satellite campus in Longview, Texas – was moving toward taking more online credit card payments, driving a need for payment card industry compliance.
"When a machine was inundated with viruses and malware, our common course of action was to reimage and completely rebuild the machine, leaving the staff member without a machine for up to several days," says Colville. Plus, it would cost the staff hours in operating expenses.
It was time to find a cure and his IT staff got on the case. The first step involved reviewing and deciding on the solutions necessary to address the problems the institution was facing. Colville and System Engineer Luke Saintignan took charge of testing out a number of possible solutions and selecting the best one.
They chose an agent-based solution from Viewfinity that can be implemented through the Waltham, Mass.-based company's SaaS/cloud platform, via on-premise servers as a private cloud, or as an extension to Group Policy. This flexibility allows policies to be managed through the standard Group Policy Management tools, says Leonid Shtilman (left), Viewfinity's CEO.
"Through the use of automated policy settings, companies control end-user and privileged user rights for applications and systems which require elevated permissions," he says. "Our granular-level control enables companies to create policies based on segregation of duties for configurable, logical groupings: departments, applications, end-users, connectivity status, time of day and more."
The tool elevates administrative rights for certain processes or applications, rather than at the user account level, he explains. When permissions are raised, the elevation is performed directly within the security token of the specific user process. The application or process is started using the current user credentials as opposed to using credentials of another account.
These functions were just what Colville and his team at KG were looking for. "We chose Viewfinity because of its ability to support off-campus laptops, especially during the summer months when staff works remotely and the fact that policies are always active regardless of connectivity status," he says.
The deployment went very well. The IT staff decided to start its deployment with the biggest power user: the college's president. After he threw everything at Colville's team, they moved down the line to the VPs, deans, and eventually to nearly seven thousand students.
With the move to a least privilege environment and with the help of Viewfinity, Colville says his team has been able to better protect strict data from unauthorized users through elevated privileges. Users are given only those rights needed to perform their daily job functions and cannot access data to which they are not authorized.