Agency adds do-it-yourself security

Washington State Human Rights Commission

Instead of using the state government's virtual private network solution

to serve its far-flung workforce, the Washington State Human Rights Commission

opted for a private approach that was less expensive and easier for its

employees to install.

The commission went live this spring with a product — Imperito Networks

Inc.'s SafeSecure Access — that enables people with little technical experience

to install software for access to agency systems.

That's important for the small agency, which has 50 employees in four

offices from one end of the state to the other.

Commission employees investigate allegations of discrimination in arenas

such as housing and employment. They routinely go out into the field for

investigations and other business, so having a secure connection to the

agency's system was important.

With only one information technology administrator, Tim Reynolds, serving

the agency, it became a cost issue as well.

"The closest office is a three-hour drive and furthest is six to eight

hours, depending on the traffic," he said. That made it difficult and expensive

for him to continually do installations and reinstallations on computers.

Reynolds said he had considered using the state's government network

to connect field employees through a wide-area network, but that arrangement

was too expensive. He said he also considered the state's Department of

Information Services' VPN solution.

It's "actually pretty nice, [but] it was far too complex for my users

in the field to install," he said. That VPN required several pages of instructions

to install several pieces on a computer, he said.

However, Reynolds said that the product from San Mateo, Calif.-based

Imperito makes the process of adding a user to the network much easier.

He can log on to the company's Web interface for systems administrators,

say he's adding a new client and provide the new user's e-mail address.

Instructions are sent to the new user who is given one page of instructions

and a link to download the software. "From an IT point of view, it's simple,"

he said.

Another feature of the Imperito system, which uses public-key infrastructure

among other security features, is that he can see who's supposed to be logged

in to the system. With the state system, he said he would have had to call

the Department of Information Services to find out that information.

Andrew Morbitzer, senior director of marketing with Imperito, said one

of the major problems with IT security is that "it tends to be very difficult

to use because the underpinnings are very hard." He said his company spent

four years developing a product that would be easy for anyone to install.

To use the Imperito system, Reynolds said he had to submit a proposal,

documentation and diagrams to the state to get approval, which took two

weeks. He said he estimated his agency would save about $1,400 a year. "For

us, it's huge," he said of the savings.

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