CashSwitch offers secure online remittance portal

CashSwitch is joining the online financial services market with its secure remittance service for money exchange houses.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  July 10, 2002

Exchange facility implements Cisco and HP solutions|~||~||~|CashSwitch is joining the online financial services market with its secure remittance service for money exchange houses. The company, backed by Oman-based Bahwan Cybertek, has already signed up Emirates Bank Group (EBG), Thomas Cook Al Rostamani Exchange Company and Al Fardan Exchange for its online remittance service, which will be run from Dubai Internet City’s (DIC) e-hosting centre.

CashSwitch will provide users with a portal through which they can complete transfer exchanges with its partners. Under the initial phase of the project, the service will facilitate remittances to India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Other countries will be added in the second phase of the project.

“We aim to make it extremely convenient for users to transfer funds, offering them flexibility of time and place to make their remittance and eliminate the usual problems involved with physically going to an exchange house,” says S. Durgaprasad, CashSwitch’s vice chairman.

“CashSwitch is not an exchange house, but we provide an Internet channel for the customers of our exchange house partners, namely Thomas Cook Al Rostamani Exchange and Al Fardan Exchange,” he adds.

For example, account holders with EBG banks, such as Emirates Bank International, Middle East Bank and meBANK, can use the CashSwitch service to securely transfer money from their account to the exchange house account for remittance funding via the CashSwitch channel.

“We always seek innovative electronic delivery mechanisms that can be provided to our customers. CashSwitch linkage provides the ability of direct debits from a bank account via an e-commerce site,” says Mohammed Al Jallaf, senior manager, electronic banking services, Emirates Banking Group.

To ensure ease-of-use, flexibility and security for the remittance transactions, CashSwitch has deployed a comprehensive technology infrastructure at its DIC e-hosting centre, based on HP hardware and Virtualvault its secure operating system, Oracle database, BEA WebLogic transaction server and Cisco networking and security solutions.

Security has been a top priority in the construction of the portal. As such, Cash Switch has implemented a host of PIX firewalls, intrusion detection systems and encryption software, while Cisco’s NetRanger solution provides intrusion management.

“As far as security goes it is all built around Cisco equipment,” says Bhaskar Raman, vice president of technology, CashSwitch. “We have got multiple layers of firewalls — we have front end firewalls and back end firewalls for the applications and database area,” he adds.

An additional security filtering layer is provided by Virtualvault, a hardened HP-UX operating system. The platform allows for secure connections between enterprise applications and databases to Internet users, and also integrates with Trusted Gateway agents.

“Between the two firewalls sits Virtualvault, which is a military grade B2 security operating system from HP,” explains Raman.

The core network was designed by Bahwan Cybertek and is based around Cisco’s 3600 multi-layer routers, which facilitate communication between the various financial houses and banks, while the vendor’s Catalyst 4000 switches have been deployed for local area network (LAN) connectivity.

The connections between CashSwitch and its partners are based on either leased line or the Internet. To secure the Internet connections CashSwitch has deployed virtual private networks (VPNs), while 128-bit secure socket layers (SSL) provide encryption for the transaction pages.

“We have dedicated VPN cards on the front end firewall where the VPN sessions are terminated,” says Raman. “Data is exchanged between ourselves and partners using two SSL sessions providing both security and privacy. Added to this, transaction debits and credits are performed under the secure domain of the bank, with minimal details required by the CashSwitch portal,” he adds.

The substantial bandwidth capabilities of its partners have also lessened the load on CashSwitch’s network architecture, which provides sufficient capacity for future scalability.

“Scalability and availability were also key concerns in the design of the portal. With the high bandwidth provided at both the CashSwitch and partner end, we assure our customers quick business transactions,” Raman comments.

CashSwitch is also deploying a host of policy-based and physical security procedures for its staff within the DIC facility.

“We do not co-share our facility at DIC with anybody else,” says the technology vice president. “We have our own network operating centre and from there we monitor what is happening at our data centre.”

CashSwitch has implemented Cisco’s Security Policy Manager to monitor and change policies on its firewalls, routers and other Cisco kit.

However, employee access is not just restricted by technological barriers but also physical ones with the e-financial company dictating which areas employees may or may not enter.

“We have got a host-based solution at each and every stage to monitor who goes into each area and to monitor whether they are authorised to go in there. For example, the Oracle administrator has got no rights to go into the application area,” says Raman.
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