Fulton County Completes Network Security Upgrade - InformationWeek

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Fulton County Completes Network Security Upgrade

The improvements give county IT officials the ability to monitor instant messaging and other activities by employees.

Employees working for Fulton County, Ga., will want to be very discreet about the amount of instant messaging they do on the job from now on. They might also want to delete any peer-to-peer file-sharing apps they've downloaded from the Web. If they don't, the county's Department of Information Technology now has the ability to figure out who's using what and put a smackdown on any employees using their taxpayer-funded PCs to do things other than work.

The county's IT department on Friday completed a network security upgrade that can detect the amount of network resources being consumed by different applications across the county's 5,500 PCs. Using its newly upgraded high-performance packet-processing applications server from CloudShield Technologies, the county can even read instant messages that employees send and receive.

"We let people know there's no confidentiality with their messages and their department heads will be paying them a visit," says Rod Smith, the county's chief security officer. The county's network and PCs are public property, and any information coursing through its information systems is available as an open record.

Use of instant messaging, radio broadcasts over the Web, and peer-to-peer file sharing applications such as Kazaa are not new to the county, but their proliferation had recently begun "eating up bandwidth that I am purchasing with taxpayer dollars," says county CIO and IT director Robert Taylor. "We had a person going around all the time to clear up nothing but Kazaa downloads."

Not a good thing, particularly as Fulton County expands its E-government initiatives to provide the county's 886,000 residents with greater access to county records via the Web. One such Web-based application offers residents real-time information about the value of their property.

Rather than upgrade the network by investing in additional DS3 lines, which would have cost about $8,000 per month, Taylor and his staff decided to make better use of existing network resources. This made sense, he says, given that his IT budget has remained essentially flat at about $20 million per year since 2000. "An upgrade would cost more money--money I don't have," he says.

Fulton County IT first installed its high-performance packet-processing applications server, which is part of CloudShield's Open Network Services Platforms family of products, last December and last week began upgrading the server to more closely monitor network traffic. CloudShield in June launched the CS-2000, its latest Open Network Services Platform. Fulton County's appliance runs applications for: logging, identifying and profiling the host computers communicating over the network; managing and enforcing its Instant Messenger policy; scaling up Cisco IOS-formatted access control lists; and gaining visibility into traffic statistics, applications, and network flows.

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