Emirates Group rolls out SecurID solution to crew

Although security has become increasingly high profile within the airline industry over the last year, Emirates Group has always placed the safety and security of both its staff and data at the top of its agenda.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  November 5, 2002

Token Security|~||~||~|Although security has become increasingly high profile within the airline industry over the last year, Emirates Group has always placed the safety and security of both its staff and data at the top of its agenda. As a result, the airline group opted to deploy a solution from RSA Security, which provides its flight and cabin crew with two factorial secure authentication to internal applications and information, such as flights schedules.

Emirates flight staff are issued with RSA’s SecurID tokens, which generate a new code every 60 seconds and a user pin number, both of which they require to access information via the web.

“Users have something that they know, which is their pin number and also something that they have, which is their token that changes every 60 seconds. We call that strong two factorial authentication,” says Miles Rippon, regional director, Southern & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa, RSA Security.

“It’s like a bank giving you a new ATM card every minute, its impossible for someone to hack into it because the password is changing every 60 seconds. A password is used once and after 60 seconds it has expired,” he adds.

With Emirates crew continually travelling the globe, the group needed a reliable and secure solution that would enable employees to access information over the web from locations such as internet cafes. However, IT staff in Dubai wanted reassurance that only authorised users would be entering the systems.

“[The flight and cabin crew] are always travelling and are very rarely here in an office in Dubai, so there was a need to give them access to applications from anywhere in the world. The strategic direction of the company was to web-enable those applications and make them accessible from the internet,” says Laserian Kelly, manager, information systems security, Mercator & Emirates Group.

“[What] we looked at was how to allow the crew to come into those sites securely, so that we could identify them and know that there was no risk of compromise to their passwords. This was where the SecurID fobs came in,” he adds.

For the flight staff the procedure is straight-forward, when they visit Emirates’ portal they enter their user ID and then use the token and pin number to gain access to flight schedules and rotas.

Staff collect and register their tokens with the airline’s distribution centre, while Emirates’ IT Group, Mercator, houses a central server that has tools to monitor which users log on and at what time.

“The central server is the A server. This is where the tokens authenticate to and it’s one central piece, which is integrated with the internal network. It’s quite a simple solution to manage and does not [carry] a big overhead,” comments Kelly.

The scalability of the solution has also proved critical to Emirates. Initially, the solution was rolled out to 1000-2000 employees over two years ago, but this number has since increased to 4000 users, and with Emirates expansion plans already well documented this number is set to increase in the near future.

“We have also extended it to other areas, such as using the SecurID to access our e-mail over a web link. So when certain staff are travelling it eliminates the need carry a laptop, they can just take their SecurID token,” says Kelly.

Emirates is also investigating the possibility of integrating virtual private network (VPN) connectivity and Citrix-based solutions into the SecurID solution. “We find the tokens are already [capable of] integrating with all the major products that we are looking at. So in terms of scalability and future proofing we find it is a very good solution,” comments Kelly.

Emirates has been working locally with RSA’s partner, Paramount Computer Systems, and as such, has benefited from having two lines of support.

“We get our first line of support through Paramount and our second line through RSA’s call centres. So we have the comfort factor that we have somebody on the ground in Dubai and also backup in Europe,” says Kelly.||**||

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