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«It has to make sense from both the operational and security points of view.»

Risto Wieland,

Director IT, Swiss Re

About Swiss Re

Swiss Re was formed by Helvetia Versicherungen, Schweizerische Kreditanstalt and Basler Handelsbank in 1893 following a terrible fire in Glarus. The company's sphere of influence has been global from the outset, with the major San Francisco earthquake of 1906 representing a big early test. Be it hurricanes, earthquakes or winter storms — Swiss Re has dealt with many natural catastrophes over the course of its history. But the company has also lived up to its responsibilities following disasters caused by people and dreadful events, like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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When it comes to company global networking, the Switzerland-based reinsurer Swiss Re relies on security and availability. That's why Risto Wieland, Director IT, and his Infrastructure Team only implement solutions that make sense from both the operational and security points of view.

Mr. Wieland, IT security is no doubt right at the top of the priority list for a global reinsurer.

→ Risto Wieland: That's certainly the case. Swiss Re has very high expectations in this regard. Our company stands for stability and quality throughout the world. So we need to prioritize security and availability.

Which helps explain why IT security is anchored not only in our processes but also in our corporate culture. Swiss Re creates an awareness of IT security among new employees, followed up with special training, and the topic is also firmly established in our continuing professional development program.

How do you believe this topic changed over the years?
→ The internet has completely changed everything — both in terms of the way we work and the nature of the threats to the company.

These days, no company can afford not to be permanently connected to the internet. Companies need to be globally connected over the internet like we, people, need air to breathe. Not only as a means of communication, but increasingly also because business- critical applications and data are used on the internet.

«The design for the Zurich location was then completed in two days. I have never experienced anything like it in my 20 years in the industry. This gave me great confidence that we would get to grips with our proxy problem quickly and efficiently.»

You mentioned the change in the nature of the threats. Can you go into more detail?

→ Security remains a really big issue. In general, it is reasonable to assume that at least one third of the attacks on an organization or company are carried out through the browser.

But a threat can also arise if the existing network infrastructure is not designed to cope with heavy internet usage. This results in the fast-expanding data traffic clogging up the proxy infrastructure and, in the worst case, the performance of the business-critical applications is then massively reduced. A further critical point is the user experience when accessing data on the internet, be it on a website or an application used from the browser. If full performance is not provided here, productivity declines while employee dissatisfaction increases.

So the challenge is to bring the internet closer to the users again without having to compromise on security or monitoring.

You and your colleagues from Operations have spent the last few months addressing these challenges together with the Information Security Team, and optimized the Swiss Re network for internet usage. What can you tell us about the project?
→ Data traffic in our network increased massively, of course, due to the use of social media and multimedia channels like YouTube. Our users employ these tools at the workplace for both private and work reasons — it's hard to draw a clear line between the two these days. But usage became so intense and traffic so heavy that the performance of business-critical applications was affected.

With the rollout of video-conferencing and document sharing, coupled with the shift of applications to the cloud, the user dissatisfaction was further intensified due to the slow internet access. The users became impatient when they had to access applications or tried to surf the web. They compared the performance at the workplace with their private connection at home. Someone in Sydney wanting to view a local weather page and having to wait 10 seconds before it appeared was quite rightly annoyed.

«So the challenge is to bring the internet closer to the users again without having to compromise on security or monitoring.»


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