at a glance

ORGANIZATION
Aviva Stadium

INDUSTRY
Leisure

CHALLENGE
After re-opening in 2010, Aviva Stadium was receiving crowds of over 51,000 but had no intelligence on the types of applications they were accessing on the network.

The stadium needed a robust network that allowed users to safely access Wi-Fi services during busy spells.

The team was faced with cost constraints for any new deployments.

SOLUTION
Palo Alto Networks PA-2050 firewall deployed on a flexible, staged payments process.

PA-2050 monitors all network traffic in granular detail—monitoring both known and unknown threats from a single security engine.

WildFire™ portal detects and destroys new threats in the cloud, before entering the company network.

RESULTS
Aviva Stadium can see and control what applications individuals are using, identifying and eliminating threats before they get to the system.

Team is made aware of new threats instantly, creating threat signatures within an hour rather than days.

Spectators enjoy a seamless Wi-Fi experience with all applications safely enabled.


Background

The Aviva Stadium is Ireland’s world class venue for international sporting events, music concerts and business conferences. Boasting the title of the oldest sports stadium in Europe, it is also one of the most modern in the world. Since a major stadium revamp in 2010, the Aviva Stadium has become not only an iconic landmark in the Dublin skyline, but with a capacity of 51,700 people, a world-class location for international names ranging from Manchester United to Madonna.

In line with providing the best service to users and customers, Aviva Stadium must ensure its IT platform is robust, scalable and intelligent. During major events including the Six Nations Rugby or global digital conferences, thousands of spectators need to use the stadium’s Wi-Fi to stream video and use applications across the network.

Security is an essential part of this makeup, where customer and host systems need to be protected. This is no easy feat given the varying numbers of users, the wide range of applications in use and the frequent spikes in traffic. Network vigilance has therefore become a vital and on-going requirement.

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

When the stadium was first re-commissioned, two firewalls from Juniper were installed. Ronan Burke, IT and Automation engineer for Aviva Stadium, quickly recognised that the firewalls were largely reactive rather than proactive. Crucially, they also lacked the ability to analyse or filter network traffic.

“On public networks this large, you have to know as much as you can about the traffic,” says Burke. “The risks of threats being uploaded or bandwidth overloaded are too great. In order to mitigate this and provide the level of service our visitors expect, we needed to understand what was in use, by whom, and manage our network and security policies accordingly.”

Working with The NextGen Group, a leading distributor of network, security and digital media solutions in Ireland, Burke looked at different firewall options and eventually chose a next-generation firewall solution from Palo Alto Networks. Burke was instantly impressed with the solution, and comments: “The technology blew us away.”

He continues: “From passive blocking to intelligent filtering, the difference of the next-generation firewall was major. In fact, with our first sweep we discovered two sleeping botnet slaves on tertiary systems. They were not active but they had not been identified by our existing firewalls. They were a disaster waiting to happen.”

Essential Visibility

Having seen the next-generation firewall in action, Burke and his team then needed to justify the investment to the company board. Agreeing to a staged payments process with NextGen Group, he says, was invaluable to this process.

“It was exciting to see the capabilities Palo Alto Networks offered, but as with any new spend, budgets are always an issue,” says Burke. “The team was very understanding here and created a flexible plan that took a huge burden off our shoulders. It was a win-win situation for us.”

The team installed a PA-2050 firewall in the communications path, which breaks down traffic according to application, ports, users, content and as-yet unidentified malware. The network visibility that this delivers is crucial for the smooth security and network management at the Aviva Stadium.

Burke says: “Palo Alto Networks offers a heuristic view of traffic, which is based on experience, so we can see if users are on Twitter, Facebook or video streaming. Before, we were blind to the traffic on the network. Using this level of information, we can not only analyse current traffic but also future proof our scalability requirements.

“This is very important also for policy implementation—that great bugbear of most corporations. If you cannot measure then you cannot dictate how policies are working.”

Stadium-Wide Protection

The next-generation firewall works over global networks and also allows for broad implementation of corporate polices, allowing Aviva Stadium to extend security policies beyond the corporate offices to remote users and visiting spectators.

Starting with determining the application identity, the technology facilitates the linking of application and user into a location independent enablement policy that protects traffic against all manner of threats, known and unknown.

Stopping new Threats at Point of Creation

Another key feature of the next-generation firewall is its ability to stop new threats. Burke states: “New malware is emerging every day and we were previously struggling to keep up with that pace. With threats constantly changing it could take days for the process to recognise new signatures. But with the next-generation firewall, the process takes under an hour.”

Through deploying WildFire, the cloud-based malware detection portal from Palo Alto Networks, new threats are quickly detected and destroyed quickly, before even touching the company network.

Limiting the threat of new malware is extremely important for the stadium as threats such as password stealing botnets are able to change their signature on a daily basis and then self-destruct, leaving no trace that they ever existed.

A Grandstand Experience

Overall, Burke is assured that his purchase has been entirely justified, and confident that the Aviva Stadium has the perfect technology platform to meet its security and networking needs, now and long into the future.

He concludes: “We want to create an unforgettable match day experience for all visitors to the Aviva Stadium, and providing a faultless Wi-Fi infrastructure, free from threats and optimized on a per-user level, is a modern requirement that we have to be able to deliver. With Palo Alto Networks, we have the ability to deliver all of this in a single box, providing total ease of use for the management and, more importantly a top-of-the range online experience for the spectator.

“The rest, of course, is down to the players on the pitch.”


 

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