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IGN Locks Down Endpoints

IGN Entertainment uses technology from Bit9 to control what its end users can access - and what they can't

When your business is entertainment, you get used to rapid change. But when it comes to IT security, change isn't always helpful.

No one knows this lesson better than IGN Entertainment, an online entertainment division of Rupert Murdock's News Corp. IGN, which operates a wide variety of gaming, movie review, and lifestyle sites, is faced with a burgeoning business -- and a complex security problem.

"Because we grew largely through mergers and acquisitions, we have a bunch of small companies that all had their own way of doing things," explained Robert Lugo, network security engineer at IGN Entertainment. "To protect company information, all business units need to adhere to common procedures. But meeting that objective has been difficult for us."

Among its many businesses, IGN operates a variety of video game sites, including GameSpy and TeamXbox; a popular movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes; and a lifestyle Website, AskMen.com. The sites attract more than 35 million unique users -- mainly males from 18 to 34 -- each month. In addition, IGN works closely with other News Corp. Web enterprises, such as MySpace and American Idol.

With its diverse businesses and ever-changing security requirements, IGN Entertainment needed some structured method for handling endpoint security. In the spring of this year, Lugo and his team caught sight of Bit9's Parity application and device control system, which promised the potential to bring sanity and consistency to the company's desktop mishmash.

Parity, a desktop software tool, examines desktop applications and permits users to run only approved programs. The security tool does not discriminate. No matter whether a user is a top IT administrator with lots of privileges or an administrative assistant with very few, if they try to run a banned program, the Bit9 product shuts them all down.

"What intrigued us was that Parity operated at the hash level, so we were assured that once we banned an application, no user could run it," stated Lugo. Under the hash-level approach, Parity creates a digital fingerprint of any rogue application and prevents it from loading. Many other such tools operate at higher levels, making it possible for a user to simply bypass security by renaming the application.

The Bit9 software had a few other enticing features. For example, where many endpoint security products only stop applications with malware signatures or questionable behavioral patterns, the Bit9 system bans any program that is unknown. Parity also helps companies control the spread of malware: If a virus or worm invades an enterprise network, a network administrator can hit a button in Parity and prevent all new software from loading on any machine, while end users can continue to work with approved programs.

The software's performance also impressed Lugo. "Other applications, such as Spygate's firewall and Altiris, do similar things to Parity, but they are not as efficient, and their user interfaces are more complex," he explained. If IGN Entertainment moves an employee from one level of authorization to another, the change happens in seconds, he said. With other products, it could take hours.

The Parity implementation was not without bumps. "There was an issue with our antivirus product," said Lugo. Because the AV software was monitoring Parity continuously, it slowed users' machines down significantly. A programming change fixed that problem, so the Fox subsidiary began rolling out Parity in May.

IGN Entertainment now has Parity operating in its Brisbane, Calif., location, which has about 500 users. The company plans to roll it out to its 1,000-employee Los Angeles office in the coming months.

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