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Insure data - it pays.


Don Odell, systems engneer at Metropolitan Life Insurance's New York office, wasn't around when Met Life didn't secure its regional front-end processor.

But he doesn't see how any insurance company can not do so today.

"In all aspects of industry," he adds, "you have to have the flexibility within your network to support a wide range of users--whether leased-line, or dialers from home such as the handicapped."

New York has a staggering 1190 user profiles to comb through. The other computer centers average below 100.

"It's important to be able to verify who's calling into your network, not only security built within the applications but front-end-processor support security," he says.

Met Life has protected its data network with special systems since the early '80s. Most of this is now done with Defender products from Digital Pathways, Mountain View, Calif. It's a ferocious Cerberus that guards these gates.

Challenge & Response

The equipment is set up in "callback security" mode.

Optimum Electronics DL1000s had been the mainstay for many years for applications in which a "challenge and response" is issued. These hardware devices, between modems on each end of the transmission path, have encoded onto their microchips all calculations needed to do challenge-and-response. After the challenge-and-response is completed, the device links to the mainframe--without customer callback.

Defender now protects each of Met Life's four computer centers. It offers more flexibility as well as the advantage of callback.

"We use it primarily for access for programmers, dialing in from home, and people accessing our professional office systems such as electronic mail," Odell says. "Primarily we use the callback function. But we're experimenting with SecureNet, a device that works with a special algorithm in the challenge-and-response format. You're not restricted by the callback number. The user can call from anywhere and have the same access."

Met Life is also experimenting with a four-port serial adapter board to protect Banyan and other LANs.

LAN Security

"As communications technology gets better, we're starting to connect LANs to our mainframe. LANs can accept dial-in users. It's important to protect not only the LAN but access to the front-end processor through the LAN with some kind of security device. The equipment could work for this."

Odell says the cost is worth it; the service, good.

"We have a good working relationship with Digital Pathways." He adds with a laugh: "Bill-pay probably wouldn't agree."

He won't talk about installation and upkeep costs.

"We have maintenance contracts with Digital Pathways. We found very few service calls are needed. The equipment, once installed, works very well."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:front-end processor security
Author:Gitlin, Bob
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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