Higher Education Organization Improves Cybersecurity Posture with NodeZero

by | Nov 16, 2022 | Customer Story

When the director of technology for a higher education organization went looking for a better way to identify and prioritize security weaknesses on the school’s servers and networks, his first interaction with Horizon3.ai and NodeZero started off with an impressive bang.

“I wanted to see proof of concept, and Horizon3.ai solved one of our biggest security holes because of that PoC,” or proof of concept, he says. On the first op, NodeZero was able to compromise the domain admin account.
Not just one account, in fact, but four, via an LLMNR vulnerability.

Without a lot of work, we were able to clean that up before we even licensed NodeZero – that was huge,
says their IT director.

Cybersecurity presents a complex challenge for the school, as it is spread out over several campuses and managed remotely. The director of technology is their highest-ranking technology staff member at the organization. The role oversees 400 endpoints within the organization, in addition to securing roughly 600 students on their own VLAN/Subnet during the school year.

NodeZero offers more specificity

Previous pentesting options were helpful, but often left the team chasing down vulnerabilities that turned out to not actually be exploitable.

“Often, it was just informational, and didn’t really affect your security,” he says.

With Horizon3.ai, “One of the things that really struck me was that it isn’t just the tool – and the tool is fantastic – but it’s the people around the tool who are available, in the chat, scheduling meetings. When I was running the PoV (Proof of Value) someone was there.”

He was also sold on NodeZero by its capability to run on demand.

“What sold me on it was seeing it at work and, because we know security is a journey and not a destination, the idea of being able to continuously run scans and pentests is great,” he says.

The team now runs weekly pentests to maintain vigilant cybersecurity on their network, he notes.

Getting the most from your time

Time management and focusing effort is huge in maintaining a strong security posture. Chasing down every lead with equal time and energy isn’t helpful when we know that not every vulnerability is actionable.

“You have critical down to informational severity issues, but I believe a tool a lot more when it says this is a critical misconfiguration we have compromised – oh and by the way, here’s your hashed password,” he says. “When that’s happened, I recognized the first and last character and knew that was the password.”

Context scoring based on critical impacts helps hammer home where to best deploy limited resources to secure
the environment.

“It’s the difference between casing a house and saying how I might be able to break in – that window might not be locked, that door doesn’t seem secure. But if you can actually break in, that’s critical. It’s the difference between telling me something might happen versus something did happen.”

Easy fixes but you need to find them first

While the LLMNR vulnerability wasn’t a huge challenge to fix, discovering it was a bit of a shock, the Director of Technology explains – and that’s why regular tests are so helpful. Security is so expansive it’s hard to cover everything.

“We try to work to secure our network, but it’s possible for any organization to miss things or have little holes” in their security, he says. A solution like NodeZero can find those small gaps that leave the organization open to risks so the team can shore them up quickly and easily.

“With stuff like LLMNR, the fix isn’t hard if you have the tools to fix a lot of machines at once,” he says. It’s identifying those risks in the grander picture that is the real struggle.
NodeZero helps uncover what you don’t know, he says, and tells you how to fix it so you don’t spend time researching the answer.

“You’re not chasing your tail following a large list of vulnerabilities,” he says. “It cuts down the task of securing your network because you’re starting at the critical, most impactful things. You get a view of things you just aren’t going to have without a pentest.”

Since starting to incorporate NodeZero into their security profile, other features, such as external pentesting, have been released and added to the solution’s usefulness.

“There’s a lot of tools out there that just hand you the tool and you’re on your own,” he says.

“The support, being able to set up a time to answer a question, it’s all been helpful. They work with us as opposed to saying ‘We got ‘em, on to the next account.’”

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