Network Security – It’s Everybody’s Business

As the week kicks off, we are greeted with yet another network security breach making headline news. The story comes from Bangladesh’s Central Bank, where hackers failed in their “e-heist” to transfer $951M of funds, yet still managed to make off with a cool $81M, which they moved to the Philippines and then funneled towards Casinos there. A security investigation blamed the breach on lack of basic network security infrastructure – no firewalls, and outdated second hand switches. The problem here seems pretty obvious, but is there more than meets the eye?

Security is always a combination of three pillars: technology, people, and process. In this case, technology was blamed as the primary culprit, and rightfully so. Large organizations have IT security teams responsible for “hardening” the overall infrastructure. They build high walls (firewalls) and set traps (Intrusion detection) around the city to protect the perimeter. The problem is that more and more frequently, attacks are coming from the inside.

The SWIFT room in Bangladesh Bank is located on the 8th floor of their building in Dhaka. It is 12 x 8 feet large, containing four servers, four monitors, and a printer. It has no windows, and would appear quite physically secure. However, the rules of traditional IP networking meant that the room is exposed to the wider network, spanning across to other remote locations. The culprit in this case was not the second-hand $10 switch, which an engineer decided to deploy to connect the stations and the printer. The real culprit was relying on legacy network technology that does not offer genuine network segmentation.

Enhanced Network Security Through Segmentation

To draw an analogy, think of traffic on a traditional computer network like sending a letter through the standard post office system. Your envelope stops at each location, mixing with other envelopes as it is routed across the system. Now think of a courier model, where your envelope is put into a special package, hidden from the outside world, and flies directly to the destination without being exposed to any stops. Modern network technologies, called Fabrics, allow you to encapsulate traffic streams from different systems. This segregates your network into secure isolated zones, each completely separate and hidden from the rest. Fabrics also have the additional benefit of automating the response to possible breaches, dynamically moving attackers to quarantine zones, and immediately alerting network administrators.

Some might think this is a third world problem, and more developed countries have moved on. The truth is, this is a global problem. In the US, one of the largest department stores recently faced a similar breach when hackers were able to access its network using an HVAC contractor. To use our analogy, the envelopes that contain the contractor’s traffic were being mixed with the customer payment envelopes on the same postal system (network). Why was the contractor access not cordoned off? Exactly the same answer; we continue to rely on the same insecure legacy network technologies. The vast majority of enterprise networks globally have yet to move on.

While some network manufacturers continue to promote complex legacy systems, the impact on their customers is huge. Every time a CIO or network manager decides to invest in traditional network technologies, they are exposing their business and inviting hackers in. The headline news is a constant reminder for us to embrace the next generation of network technologies, and secure our businesses from both external and internal threats.

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Avaya Delivers on Olympic-Sized Network

Michael Phelps. Usain Bolt. Simone Biles. We’re just a week away from watching these decorated athletes take the world stage at the Rio Olympic Games. With millions watching from around the globe, records will surely be broken in the pool, on the track, and atop the balance beam.

I love the Olympics. While the world struggles with so many negative events (including some that are plaguing the Olympic host city of Rio), every two years the Olympics remind us to be proud of our roots and our fellow countrymen, to support teammates and to strengthen bonds across cultures. It’s truly an event that inspires us to celebrate. There are quite simply no other events that come close to bringing us all together like the Olympics.

A Look Back: Avaya in Sochi

In 2014, Avaya had the privilege and challenge of building an Olympic network for the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. It was a significant undertaking. We needed to construct a brand-new network infrastructure under a tight, unmissable deadline (they wouldn’t postpone the Opening Ceremonies for us—I asked!). We needed to respond to an ever-evolving scope of work. The physical location of Sochi and limited means of access provided some interesting scenarios for equipment logistics. And, here’s the kicker, we needed to deploy and manage the world’s largest guest network. No pressure!


Let’s talk about that physical location. The Sochi Olympics were a first for Russia and the rural environment required that the infrastructure and venues had to be built from scratch with multiple organizations involved in delivering each location. The Avaya team worked ‘round the clock for two years to deliver on our network. Thanks to the vast expanse of the Olympic venues, we ended up creating the world’s largest Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) network via Avaya Fabric Connect. It was truly an amazing feat, years ahead of what others in our industry had been accomplishing.

Avaya Atop The Medal Stand

During the Games, we ended up serving 40,000 athletes, administrators and staff, media, International Olympic Committee officials and volunteers with data, voice and full Internet access. And we unveiled a number of firsts as the Official Supplier of Network Equipment:

  • Built our most ambitious network ever, a cutting-edge, multi-service, all-IP network that was able to support the demands of the first mobile device generation.
  • Supported 40,000 users with an estimated three devices per user.
  • Built seven separate (stealth) networks, virtualized and redundant and deployed with Avaya Fabric Connect.
  • Speed of up to 54 Terabits per second and linked by 90 kilometers of optical fiber.
  • First deployment of IPTV in Olympic history with 36 HD IPTV Channels.
  • 2,500 wireless access points.
  • 6,500 IP phones.
  • 50,000 Ethernet ports.

Phew…that’s a lot of firsts! If we were an athlete, we’d have plenty of hardware around our necks.

Olympic torch

So where are we now? You might think we plateaued at Sochi with our Olympic Network, but it was really just a blip in our Networking story. At the time of the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies, we had 100 fabric deployments worldwide. That number has since grown to 700. And it’s safe to say we’ve expanded further than large venues. Our exponential growth is now evenly distributed across eight industries: education, government, hospitality, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, transportation and telecom. Avaya itself fits into that last bucket, with more than 200 fabric nodes deployed (and growing) internally by our own IT department while inter-connecting labs over a carrier IP MPLS network with Fabric Extend.

Avaya Networking Reaches New Heights

One of our biggest (literally!) accomplishments since Sochi happened in Dubai…about 1,500 miles south of the Olympic venues. Here you’ll find the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa and it’s outfitted with, you guessed it, Avaya Networking.

Burj Khalifa

The team responsible took a legacy network configuration and transformed it into a multi-tenant network split into logical domains with eight cores and four server farm layers. The complex implementation was completed without interruption to any services and zero downtime. Talk about reaching new heights!

I’m proud of our Avaya team for continuing to bring home the gold with every new Fabric deployment. And if you’re keeping track of our medal count, then you know we’re well ahead of the competition!


What Our Predicted 2016 Trends Reveal About the Future of Business

At Avaya, we’re always looking forward. When creating a road map for the future of the company and the benefit of our customers, my team and I look ahead to anticipate the communications needs of tomorrow.

Last year, we predicted that midmarket companies would move to more cloud-based solutions; video would become a formidable channel; and Web chat would play an increasingly pivotal role in delivering omni-channel support. Do these trends sound familiar? These are all very real business conversations happening today. As we enter 2016, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves yet again, “What’s next?”

We thought long and hard about the trends that businesses should expect to see in 2016. Interesting conversations led us to an even more interesting question, “What do these projected trends say about the future of business?” We concluded that the world revolves around the customer now more than ever. As a result, when making purchasing decisions about communications tools and technologies, there needs to be a greater emphasis on customer use cases. Ask yourself, “What specific use cases am I solving for?”

We identified key trends to look for in 2016, and each says something really exciting about where the enterprise is heading:

More networks lean on Fabric

The increasing volume of data and bandwidth utilization from the burgeoning number of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and “smart,” connected devices such as healthcare devices, home security systems and appliances, vending machines, check-out stands, etc. will drive traditional networks to the breaking point. Mesh topologies and Fabric-based technologies will become increasingly attractive as the answer for cost-effective solutions that can accommodate the capacity needed and flexibility required for the constant changes in network traffic. Decades of client server architectures are coming to an end.

Customer contact centers become more flexible and connected

Omni-channel access/pre-routing will gather momentum as smartphones become the interface of choice for customers. This means much more efficient handling of customer inquiries, leading to greater satisfaction, lower costs for balancing and distributing incoming customer communications over multiple locations, and easing IT operations for the business.

The percentage of people connecting to an enterprise will continue to be increasingly digitally dominated from browsers and mobile applications, which will drive specialized ways of serving those customers from the customer experience (CX) perspective. This dynamic will also drive customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing-oriented projects for the more innovative companies.

As customer satisfaction scores for video within the contact center outrank other channels, we will continue to see more video deployed as an option to increase customer engagement. Video capabilities enhance the ability to develop the personal relationship with a customer, establish trust more quickly and allow agents to better understand the customer’s need, which can lead to improved time to resolution.

Enterprise-grade WebRTC gains momentum

Enterprise-grade WebRTC conferencing from desktop and mobile browsers will speed the ability for participants to join common virtual areas without launching separate applications.

Automotive telecommunications will become a fast-growing customer contact center channel

With sensors and telematics systems becoming more common in automobiles today, information on vehicle usage and driver behavior is more readily-available, providing an opportunity for manufacturers, dealers and OEMs to forge closer relationships with customers, increase loyalty to their brand and increase margins. Specifically, sensor-based reporting on car maintenance and usage enables more convenient, proactive services for car owners, alerting them to upcoming maintenance, repairs or safety issues. Sensors and telematics also provide opportunities for tie-ins with insurers, such as safe driver discounts, not to mention access to a myriad of other services.

Further proliferation of wearable technology will drive customer satisfaction

Over the next four years, sales of wearables worldwide are predicted to increase almost eight-fold from last year. The explosion will make the most important device we carry – our smartphone – even more significant by expanding its role as our personal hub by serving as a proxy for our wearable tech.

But a less talked about, must-watch dynamic is the evolution of wearables in in the workplace, beyond the contact center. As headset and communications technologies continue to evolve, new wearable technologies hone in on special applications for workers who need hands-free access to information and communications capabilities. For example, a remote healthcare worker could use communications-enabled wearables to video call with city-based surgical teams when operating on a patient.

The “guest” experience in sports and hospitality gets connected and smart

Analytics for sports and entertainment will no longer be just about the athletic performance. Fan analytics − or the analysis of data collected from fans across several touchpoints − will help venues measure, optimize and monetize the fan experience.

And with Facebook’s release of Oculus, we can expect to watch the virtual reality scene play out for sports fans. The technology will provide the red button experience both in the stadium and at home. For example, using just a smartphone, fans could choose 50+ camera angles to watch the game from while still in their seat. This could include views from the goal, corner flag or the umpire’s hat, even the players’ shirts. The hotel room will be an extension of your home as – with your permission – it will know your context and provide all your usual connectivity.

Connected Government will become the new normal

Connected Government will emerge, embracing social media through multimedia communications. Text-to-911 will ramp up quickly, but fade just as fast, as citizens embrace total immersion in Face2Face911 through video and pictures from their broadband-enabled smart devices.

They try really hard, but messaging apps will not replace email

Email is a communication tool that by now is simply part of doing business worldwide. Unlike messaging apps, email has structure. There are subject lines, the ability to reply to one or many, the ability to categorize, create folders, and the list goes on. The basic structure is, for the most part, consistent between email providers. Furthermore, a Gmail user can email an Exchange user and so on. While messaging apps are trendy and fun to use socially, they are the newborns of the written communications world who have no organization skills and  a lot of growing up to do.

Hybrid/private clouds remain the business critical application workhorse for next 5 years  

Going to the cloud has many benefits, but it can lead to some new challenges that businesses need to consider. As solutions move from homogenous, monolithic technology to heterogeneous technology running on layers upon layers of cloud infrastructure, customers get increasingly concerned about cloud security and accountability for service delivery/support of the full solution. Customers will demand accountability and value from their “point” vendors, requiring strong relationships and mastery of the infrastructure implications, which includes the cloud applications, as well as the network and desktop/mobile devices that serve them.

Customer relationships rule for vendor differentiation, as support increasingly relies on self-service and self-healing systems   

The value-add of contracted support is becoming less visible as leading-edge vendors put more remediation and proactivity into tools and systems. As a result, vendors need to develop strategies and underlying system intelligence to improve customer experience with offers that help increase adoption and full value realization. Vendors will need to intentionally work to maintain the human factors of the service event to overcome the depersonalization that may result from increasingly technical solutions by implementing things such as relationship-based routing and service deliverables combined with high-satisfaction channels, most notably, video.