THE MAGAZINE

Consolidating Authorization

By John Wagley

One important way organizations can strengthen their network and IT security is by strengthening and consolidating the process surrounding network access and authentication, say many security professionals. One solution, from vendor Centrify, can help strengthen authentication across a variety of Microsoft, Linux, Unix, Macintosh, and other platforms. The solution lets IT administrators manage employee access as if each were using Microsoft’s Active Directory.

Consolidated Communications is one company that has implemented that approach. The company needed to do something because making changes to its Unix and Linux servers and systems when, for example, an employee joined or left the company, or when it was necessary to grant network access to temporary contractors, could be time consuming, says Scott Griffith, the company’s senior Unix administrator. The process required a significant amount of programming knowledge, he says, and could be “very unwieldy and clunky,” even, at times, a bit “of a nightmare.”

In addition to improving and strengthening the authentication process across different systems and platforms, Griffith says his company also needed a better way to conduct authentication audits. Consolidated needed to comply with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, he says, which requires organizations to have strong authentication and to effectively audit and produce reports on security and regulatory requirements.

When he explored available solutions, Griffith heard positive reviews of Centrify. After a bit of research, he concluded that it appeared to be relatively easy to install and use and would be a good fit for the company.

Installation involved downloading a comparatively light piece of software and then setting up some basic security controls. Centrify helped with the setup process, which was not challenging, he says. The vendor continues to be supportive, when necessary.

The solution has also been easy to use and manage, with few issues since installation, says Griffith, adding, “It just does what it’s supposed to.”

The software has significantly reduced the amount of time Consolidated needs to spend securing and managing employee authentication, says Griffith. It’s also reduced the time the company needs to spend on regulatory audit reports.

Going forward, Griffith hopes to take advantage of some recent Centrify enhancements and new capabilities. Centrify Suite 2012 has a product called DirectManage, for example, which the vendor says would reduce the time it takes to discover, configure, and join new types of systems across platforms. The cost of Centrify Suite starts at $385 per server and $65 per workstation, according to the vendor.
 

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