McAfee Vulnerability Manager Lets Australian Energy Company Proactively Assess and Manage Vulnerabilities

Integral Energy is a state-owned energy corporation operating in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. Integral Energy has 2,500 employees and over 50 years of experience in managing one of Australia’s largest energy networks. Every day, the company distributes electricity to more than 2.1 million people in households and businesses across 24,500 square kilometers.

So that it can stay focused on the business of providing energy, Integral Energy outsources most of its IT operations to a third party. The company’s limited IT staff has one person dedicated to keeping its network and systems secure.

Needed: accurate, timely vulnerability assessment
“In today’s environment of ever-changing threats, systems on our network will always have vulnerabilities,” says Ian Robinson, Integral Energy’s Manager of Planning and Infrastructure. “Being aware of those vulnerabilities is only half the battle, however. With ever-shrinking patch cycles, I also need to know which ones need urgent attention and which ones can wait.”

As the company has limited information security resources, Robinson knew the job couldn’t be done manually. “We tried different vendors’ vulnerability scanning services on an ad hoc basis,” he says. “But, to enable proactive protection of our network and comply with ISO 27001—which is the corporate objective without necessarily achieving certification—I knew I needed more reliable and timely vulnerability management.”

A clear winner
To find the right network-based vulnerability management solution, Integral Energy issued a Request for Proposal (RFP). Having tried both hosted and internally managed solutions, Robinson determined the latter would be a better fit given the size of Integral Energy’s network.

Integral Energy put all the solutions that were submitted through a series of extensive tests, evaluating technical as well as non-technical aspects, from supply chain maturity to centralized management features and integration capabilities. “The clear winner in almost every category was McAfee Vulnerability Manager,” says Robinson. McAfee Vulnerability Manager automates and simplifies inefficient processes as it quickly and accurately discovers and prioritizes vulnerabilities and policy violations across managed and unmanaged networked systems. When delivered via a secure, hardened appliance, Vulnerability Manager installs easily and delivers low cost of ownership while increasing the efficiency of existing resources.

Integral purchased five McAfee Vulnerability Manager complete, plug-and-play, high-performance appliances. Within several days, Vulnerability Manager was assessing vulnerabilities across the entire network.

Integral made the decision to also add McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator®(ePO™), an easy-to-use centralized management console. “ePO offers the opportunity to bring some further consolidation to our currently uncoordinated set of security management platforms,” states Robinson. “Implementation of the McAfee solution was straightforward, with no network disruptions.”

"The biggest benefit of McAfee Vulnerability Manager is that it enables us to quickly and accurately discover, assess, and prioritize vulnerabilities much faster and more comprehensively than anything we tried before."

Ian Robinson
Manager of Planning and Infrastructure, Integral Energy

Visibility across all 4,200 devices
From the ePO console, Robinson could see for the first time, an in-depth listing of all the assets on Integral Energy’s network—a total of 4,200 devices. “Having a concise inventory of our information systems assets is a huge benefit in and of itself,” says Robinson. “ePO and Vulnerability Manager give us visibility that just wasn’t possible before.”

Vulnerability Manager produces reports that help the company’s outsourced IT staff. A prioritized action list of remediation tasks for server, desktop, and network management staff allows for fact-based conversations about security operations procedures and improvement opportunities in patch processes.

Fast, accurate, and automatic vulnerability scanning
“The biggest benefit of McAfee Vulnerability Manager, however, is that it enables us to quickly and accurately discover, assess, and prioritize vulnerabilities much faster and more comprehensively than anything we tried before,” says Robinson.

Vulnerability Manager pinpoints the most valuable assets, targets high-risk vulnerabilities and remediates according to criticality, enabling Integral Energy to automate processes and create efficiencies. They also are able to stay on top of vulnerabilities and policy violations with automated updates.

Vulnerability Manager automatically and continually scans the devices on Integral Energy’s network, matching up-to-the-minute threat information continuously supplied by McAfee’s Avert Labs with detailed information on each device. McAfee Avert Labs, the world’s leading security research organization, has more than 200 researchers worldwide working around the clock to find and prevent security threats. “Having up-to-date information from McAfee‘s Avert Labs is like having a security intelligence service on staff,” says Robinson.

Prioritization, flexibility, and speed
Unlike most other vulnerability management solutions, McAfee Vulnerability Manager presents information in qualitative as well as quantitative format to help Integral Energy prioritize vulnerabilities. Integral Energy can now visualize and rank the risk potential of new threats by correlating them with existing assets and vulnerability data. For instance, using the solution’s Threat Correlation Module, Robinson can view a number that ranks risk for every asset on the network. This number is a weighted indicator of threat significance based on an asset criticality rating he has defined, the threat impact value assigned by McAfee Avert Labs, and other factors. This information makes it much easier for Robinson to prioritize threat response so that the most important systems are protected first.

Vulnerability Manager also gives Robinson the flexibility to classify or group assets multiple ways. With Vulnerability Manager and ePO, he can run reports anytime and hone in on specific devices—scanning, for instance, by business function, geographic region, asset value, or owner.

Summary
With McAfee Vulnerability Manager, Integral Energy’s information security manager can quickly and accurately find and prioritize vulnerabilities on all of the company’s 4,200 networked systems. “Vulnerability Manager helps me make informed decisions so that I can direct resources at the most severe vulnerabilities and threats and protect our most critical assets,” says Robinson. “It also helps us minimize ‘fire drills’ and enables us to comply with the ISO 27001 vulnerability management requirement.”

Integral Energy

Customer profile

Australian electric utility company

Industry

Energy

IT environment

The company’s network has approximately 4,200 nodes. IT operations are primarily outsourced. Only one person is dedicated to information security.

Challenges

The company needs to be able to accurately detect and assess vulnerabilities to proactively protect the systems on its network.

McAfee solution

McAfee Vulnerability Manager automatically detects all devices on Integral Energy’s network and provides instant threat assessments.

Results

  • Quickly and accurately discovers and assesses systems vulnerabilities
  • Enables threat prioritization and proactive, informed decision making
  • Provides in-depth visibility regarding network assets
  • Facilitates compliance with ISO 27001 standard