Toronto Hydro launches managed firewall to “protect” data network users

Operators of Toronto’s municipal WiFi network yesterday launched a managed firewall service, which they hope will protect users of its wire line data network service from a projected increase in online attacks in the coming year.

Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc. (THT), owners of the One Zone network that blankets more than six square kilometers of the city’s core, said its data network customers can now avail of a configurable security service to suit their business.

It’s a flexible offering that business can use depending on their “unique organizational requirements,” according to Dave Dobbin, president of THT.

He said the service comes in four stock settings or as a fully customized solution.

Does the firewall service exempt users of THT’s network from employing security measures at their end of the connection?

Absolutely not, says a Toronto-based security analyst.

“No matter how secure an access point is there will always be a way to get around it,” says David Senf, director of security and software research for IDC Canada.

“If the connection is not secured at the user’s end, assaults such as a man-in-the- middle attack may still get through,” he said.

Network attacks appear to be on the rise. The costs associated with network breaches are expected to increase by as much as 20 per cent in 2008, according to a recent study by IT research firm Gartner Inc.

To date, the THT network connects 490 commercial buildings in the city.

THT did not release any subscription rates for its firewall service but said customers that sign up for a 12-month contract before December 21 will get one month free.

Dobbin said the managed service frees users from the financial burden of setting up their own firewall infrastructure as THT absorbs the capital cost.

Managed services can offload the complexities of firewall operations, while providing 24/7 security monitoring and upgrade services. The model can also reduce the need to hire or train firewall experts.

Senf said many firms in Canada that do not have the resources to deploy and monitor their network can benefit from the services offered by THT.

But IDC’s Senf said WiFi network users should not let their guards down.

He said messages sent over WiFi should be encrypted.

Businesses shopping around for a managed firewall service should look for value added features worth investigating such as: initial consulting and security auditing, ongoing proactive security management, routine reporting and remote access support.

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