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You’ll Never Guess How Many Devices are on Your Network


Agentless device security gives city agency new visibility into security threats.

Government agencies may be alarmed to discover how many devices are connected to their networks.

That reality hit home for the New York City School Construction Authority, which builds and rehabs schools for the five boroughs of New York. The authority’s 1,300 employees use about 3,000 devices —roughly the number of devices authority leaders thought they’d find when they turned on a new network monitoring service.

They were in a for a huge surprise.

“We’ve gone from what we thought was about 3,000 devices to about 9,500 to 10,000 devices as of today,” says Manny Innamorato, chief information officer for the construction authority, which typically runs 200 to 400 active job sites.

Triple the connected devices means an attack surface that is three times larger. That’s a lot of risk to manage for an agency that builds 10 to 12 schools per year in a district with more than 1,800 buildings and 1,500 current projects.

The authority’s construction sites depend on wireless networks to keep supervisors in contact with engineers, architects, vendors, subcontractors and more. The authority also stores digital data on building designs, financial records, vendor contracts and personal information, all of which require strong protection.

“A critical factor for us is making sure none of that information slips out of our hands,” Innamorato says. Securing these wireless networks gets more complicated every day as more network endpoints come online. Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming increasingly pervasive. And running wireless networks in the middle of a densely populated city brings a host of unexpected devices trying to connect.

Thanks to its new network monitoring service, the construction authority’s IT team now has a tool to manage risks, identify threats and fully comprehend what’s happening on their networks.

“When we first turned it on, we started picking up vehicles parked out in front of the building that were trying to attach to our Wi-Fi,” Innamorato says. “That was very enlightening. Not only do I see the devices, I know the software they have on them. I know the patch levels; I understand the operating system.”

The service uses a technology called agentless device security. Conventional network security uses agents (software and hardware) to constantly scan for signs of anomalous behavior. But these agents soak up system resources and degrade performance. That raises risks for public agencies running mission-critical, real-time applications.

Moreover, most IoT sensors cannot use agents, so any network with these devices must use agentless monitoring.

“You can’t secure what you don’t know you have,” cautions Sumit Sehgal, strategic product marketing director for Armis, which supplied the agentless device security platform that revealed all those unknown devices on the construction authority’s network.

Agentless monitoring tools like the ones Armis developed run in the background in passive mode without affecting system performance. Advanced algorithms and a massive database of all known devices help the platform identify every endpoint on the network. The platform also helps establish threat models to anticipate potential breaches and stop them in their tracks.

“It’s helping us to really get a handle on who’s on our network today, who’s on our guest network and who’s temporarily there,” Innamorato says. “It gives us a better way to see what’s happening at all times and to understand the holes in our infrastructure.”

Read the full case study or watch the webcast to learn more about how the New York City School Construction Authority uses agentless security tools to improve visibility and strengthen project for critical assets and systems.