City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is the world’s most international university1 with 4,000 students and academics from around the globe, attracted by its unique focus on meeting the challenges of the One Health, Digital Society, and Smart City movements.
Its international outlook helps deliver outstanding research results and academic achievements, featuring students of more than 80 nationalities and an extensive exchange program with 400 partners in 44 countries.
In this environment, with extensive sharing of huge quantities of data, and collaborative mobile and remote working on a vast and global scale, protection of students’ and academics’ work presents a major challenge for CityU’s IT managers.
“Our students come from all over the world and bring their own tech to campus and access our networks via Wi- Fi,” explains Harry Chan, CityU’s assistant IT manager (Security).“ We have to assume that some may be hackers, or that the tech they are using to access our network has been compromised by other hackers.
“Equally, although many of our professors are experts in their field, they’re not familiar with computing—or how vulnerable they are to an attack. Opening a document from a student may seem safe, but it may contain something malicious. We have to adopt a Zero Trust approach and build our defenses on that basis, that’s our philosophy.”
For almost a decade, Palo Alto Networks technology has become an increasingly important shield in the university’s cyber defenses. The partnership began with the installation of a Palo Alto Networks PA-5250 Next-Generation Firewall, expanding in recent years to embrace Traps endpoint protection, WildFire malware analysis and AutoFocus threat intelligence.
Palo Alto Networks PA-5250 Next-Generation Firewall is delivering robust, market-leading2 network protection and control for CityU, automatically blocking a diverse range of known and unknown threats without compromising the end user experience.
“Palo Alto Networks had the best combination of features and was the most suitable and capable for our environment, providing extra levels of security, such as application control and intrusion protection,” explains Chan. “It’s enabled us to identify the source of security risks, at individual student level, to take action to prevent attacks and educate students to avoid these risks.”
The performance of the Next-Generation Firewall in strengthening CityU’s defenses meant that when the university wanted to upgrade its endpoint security, the Cortex XDR agent was a prime candidate.
After a rigorous selection process, CityU deployed the agent across 4,000 workstations at its Kowloon campus, providing users with a combination of protection against attacks including malware, exploits, and ransomware.
“Deploying the Cortex XDR agent was very straightforward, and the consultants at Palo Alto Networks provided good advice and support, so the implementation was quite smooth, and the agent is operating very successfully. In fact, it exceeded my expectations.
“It is protecting us against a wide range of malicious programs that traditional, signature-based antivirus protection simply cannot handle— and it’s providing valuable information about threats for us to help users to operate safely.”
CityU also uses Palo Alto Networks WildFire service to enhance the performance of the Cortex XDR agent. WildFire accesses vast quantities of live, global data and threat intelligence, and then applies that knowledge to agents in the CityU environment, automatically identifying and protecting against new or previously unknown threats.
Says Chan: “WildFire gives us an additional level of detail about the very latest threats and enhances our decision-making about how best to organize our security.”
Completing the Palo Alto Networks security portfolio at CityU is AutoFocus threat intelligence. “AutoFocus provides useful supplementary information, another level of detail to understand what’s really going on in our network,” explains Chan. “In IT security, information is everything—you can never have too much—and AutoFocus helps us to build an accurate picture of threats and risky behavior by users—and what action we need to take.”
Chan believes the strength of CityU’s partnership with Palo Alto Networks is due to a growing understanding of the breadth and depth of its cybersecurity technology and product portfolio.
“Years ago, we saw Palo Alto Networks as predominantly a firewall provider, but now we see them as our strategic security partner committed to the Zero Trust concept, one that never stops developing new approaches to cybersecurity.”
“Its people are attentive too, regularly talking to us about security enhancements and inviting us to workshops to see the latest cybersecurity developments. We value the important contribution they make to CityU.”