Royal Holloway in association with Vectra

“Universities are an attractive target and uniquely vulnerable to cyber threats. Our Vectra solution deals with threats without adding to the workload of our teams”

Michael Johnson, CIO at Royal Holloway

With the stunning Founder’s Building unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1886 and just 19 miles from central London, Royal Holloway, University London, has one of the world’s most beautiful campuses. It ranks as one of the top 25 universities in the UK, is situated on 135 acres of parkland and has over 11,000 students and 2,000 staff members.

The challenge

Like many universities today where technology is at the forefront, Royal Holloway is constantly challenged with defending against a wide range of cyber threats.

As a centre of research and excellence in cybersecurity, Royal Holloway is a particularly attractive target for threat actors. Its large population of students and staff regularly connects to multiple devices, presenting a broad attack surface.

Facing threats with limited resources, the Cyber Security team at Royal Holloway was under huge pressure to keep up with the increasing workload of manual investigations in response to suspected vulnerabilities.

The solution

Royal Holloway needed a solution that could detect threats that managed to penetrate their network, or those that originated from inside their perimeter defences, without needing to perform manual intervention. After evaluating multiple solutions, Royal Holloway selected the Cognito network detection and response (NDR) platform from Vectra.

The Cognito® NDR platform automates the hunt for cyberattackers, shows where they’re hiding and tells you what they’re doing. The highest-risk threats are instantly correlated to compromised host devices and prioritized by severity. This way, security teams can respond quickly to stop the spread of attacks and avert data breaches.

Using the Cognito platform, the Cyber Security team at Royal Holloway can focus on high fidelity alerts and relevant information instead of being overwhelmed by alerts. Now, any critical threats can be automatically shut down.

The result

Cognito Detect identifies and stops cyber attackers across cloud, data centre, IoT, and enterprise environments. It uses AI-derived machine learning models to deliver real-time attack visibility and place attack details at your fingertips. Within two days of being installed, the platform was able to display attacker behaviours in the Royal Holloway network. Within two weeks, it had self-tuned for normal traffic patterns to provide valuable insights – improving efficiency and reducing workloads.

The metadata provided has helped review sanctioned applications and practices, as well as improve security guidelines for Royal Holloway.

In addition to enhancing the detection of cyber attackers in its network and reducing workloads, Cognito Detect provides real world experience of innovative NDR software for graduate employees at Royal Holloway and plans are underway to support employability placements for students studying its highly respected Computer Science and Information Security Programmes.

“Vectra is making a real difference. It helps protect us from growing cyber threats, while making a contribution to training the graduates who will protect it in the future.”

Michael Johnson, CIO at Royal Holloway