Financial Advisory Firm Invests in Security

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
multilayered defense-in-depth security

Pioneer Investments, a global investment advisory firm, turns to a more sophisticated, multilayered defense-in-depth approach to boost security and compliance.

Operating an international financial advisory firm requires a sharp focus on security and compliance. In many cases, standard cyber-security measures aren't adequate. There's a need for a more sophisticated and multilayered defense-in-depth approach that spans IT systems.

At Pioneer Investments—which operates in 28 countries and relies on 350 investment professionals and 2,000-plus employees to address customer investment needs—monitoring and managing IT systems is a demanding task.

"We have a very complex network infrastructure that must support the needs of the business at smaller and larger locations," explains Ken Pfeil, chief information security officer. "In the past, we had best-of-breed disconnected tools. There was a need to consolidate and implement policies across the organization."

Pioneer needed to develop a single point of access and centralize controls. The company, which has $252.6 billion in assets under its oversight, requires that specific employees have access to highly sensitive data based on their roles and responsibilities.

"There is a balancing act between making the data available to advisors so they can get their work done and protecting it with the necessary controls," Pfeil says. Data segmentation and border protections are critical. "We have to make sure that no unauthorized data comes into the network or goes out from the network," he adds

At the center of the challenge: how to classify and tag data to reflect actual policies based on confidentiality levels, and how to ensure that the rules and policies carry through across various enterprise systems.

"It's a tough challenge in any business, but the volume of data we're dealing with—and the requirements for transferring and storing all the data—magnifies the challenges," Pfeil explains. In fact, in many cases, financial advisors and others must drill down into layers of data in order to fully understand what action to take or what advice to provide to clients.

As a result, Pioneer Investments turned to ForeScout Technologies CounterACT to create sophisticated enterprisewide security and compliance controls. Among other things, the solution has introduced context-based filtering, real-time monitoring, dynamic information sharing, and automation tools that allow IT and security staff members to respond to potential threats and exposures quickly and decisively.

"The solution has reduced risks significantly," Pfeil reports. It spans devices across the enterprise and takes action based on specific triggers. What's more, it detects potential malware or breaches that are not caught by traditional antivirus software.

The technology offers us a far more granular and contextual view that spans network users, endpoints and applications, Pfeil notes. For example, the firm can now identify potentially dangerous URLs that have become active within the last hour or two, but haven't yet hit antivirus signature lists. If he discovers a problem, he can feed the information into the antivirus software and issue an alert, while isolating critical data on a separate VLAN.

In the end, Pfeil explains, "We are able to make more advanced decisions more quickly and at the right point. The solution provides us with a defense-in-depth security model."

This article was originally published on 2014-11-03

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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