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Charleston Southern Puts Trust in Arctic Wolf for 24x7 Protection from Growing Cyberthreats

“Arctic Wolf Managed Detection and Response checked all the boxes for us. It allowed us to continue our daily functions without having to worry about monitoring our network and user accounts all day, every day.”

Shannon M. Phillips, Technical Director, Charleston Southern University

Data breaches are steadily rising at universities, costing an average of $4.77 million per breach, according to a recent report by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security. The report also revealed that higher education ranked seventh on the list of 17 industries that face increasing cyberthreats.

That’s because hacking into university networks can be quite lucrative for cyber thieves. Universities routinely store a large amount of data, including personal identifiable information (PII) such as social security numbers and financial information that—in the wrong hands—is typically used for identity theft and to open fraudulent accounts.

The potential for data breaches kept Charleston Southern University Technical Director Shannon Phillips up at night. There hadn’t been a significant cybersecurity incident at the university, but Phillips knew that threats were mounting throughout higher education. Plus, recent ransomware attacks were increasing in their tri-county area—one target was located right behind the university. For two years, Phillips lobbied to add a security position to his team, which included just himself and two technical staff. However, the university couldn’t compete with the higher-paying firms in the area that attract top security talent.

Phillips decided the university needed a managed solution that would alert the team to security threats they could investigate internally—and a partner that could take over and respond to cyberthreats when the situation warranted. Included among its needs were 24x7 security monitoring to assure its environment was always being evaluated for cyberthreats. Given the typically tight budgets in smaller universities, it also needed a solution that wouldn’t require a large financial investment.

Phillips began to research cybersecurity solutions. He quickly became interested in providers who could offer managed detection and explored the options. Charleston Southern evaluated Carbon Black and others, but then discovered the Arctic Wolf® Managed Detection and Response (MDR) solution—which lined up perfectly with the university’s needs. Arctic Wolf MDR provides 24x7 monitoring of networks, endpoints, and cloud environments to detect, respond to, and recover from cyberattacks, which would give Phillips’s team greater confidence in the school’s cybersecurity posture. The solution also included a Concierge Security® Team of security experts and engineers, which would give the university a team to contact at any time. In addition, the Arctic Wolf solution was very affordable.

“Pricing was important to us, but the most important thing was the fact that Arctic Wolf had a team of people to manage threat monitoring and response,” said Phillips.

Making the Case for Managed Detection and Response

Yet, Phillips didn’t have the final say on whether to sign on with Arctic Wolf. He had to make the case to Charleston Southern’s executive team. He noted that the university’s cybersecurity insurance required it to have safeguards in place to protect the confidentiality of student and staff information. Phillips also leveraged the recent local ransomware attacks to instill a sense of urgency. But the reason that resonated above everything else was the astronomical costs that could come with a cyberattack.

“I compared the cost of a cyberattack versus the yearly cost of having the Arctic Wolf Managed Detection and Response solution; the numbers are very compelling,” said Phillips. “Eventually the case was heard and approved.”

Seamless Integration and Monitoring

Charleston Southern University has more than 550 faculty and staff that use devices connected to the network. Arctic Wolf Agent endpoint agents were added to each device and connected to the university’s servers. Starting out, the university conducted a test with 18 people and let things run for several weeks to see how everything performed on their computers. Most of the people in the test group didn’t even realize Arctic Wolf was monitoring their environment. Following a successful test, the solution was rolled out for the remaining staff and faculty.

The university also uses Microsoft 365 and the integration with Arctic Wolf’s solution was seamless to monitor threats via email. In addition, the Arctic Wolf solution picks up the university’s virtual private network (VPN) that some faculty and staff prefer to use. The university began deployment just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning in the U.S. With many staff working remotely, the ability to integrate with the VPN became extremely valuable. The Arctic Wolf solution also provided guided setup that made the deployment process quick and easy. With the other solutions the university evaluated, rules had to be set up for every type of incident, which would have made the process more cumbersome and complicated.

“The deployment was definitely easier than we expected,” said Phillips. “We expected more hardcore work on our end and we were thankful it was seamless.”

About two months into the partnership, Phillips received his first evening call from the Arctic Wolf concierge team alerting him to a threat detected on the server. Based on the information provided by Arctic Wolf, Phillips made the quick decision to have his internal team block the threat.

“Arctic Wolf made the right decision to call me and our team was able to take care of the issue within a few hours,” said Phillips. “Their solution allows you to sleep soundly at night, which can be rare in my profession.”

Eyeing Even Stronger Security

In addition to weekly reporting, Arctic Wolf and the university’s technical team conduct monthly meetings as well as quarterly reviews to find ways to strengthen the university’s security posture. Together, they jump into the system to see what’s happening. For example, the Arctic Wolf team looks at whether the university’s firewall has the latest rules setting and whether new firmware needs to be set up. They also share what’s coming on Arctic Wolf’s product roadmap, along with industry best practices that can provide immediate improvement to an organization’s posture.

“Arctic Wolf Management Detection and Response is a company saver. They save your company, your data, and keep everything secure for you.”

Shannon M. Phillips, Technical Director, Charleston Southern University


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