Written by Julie Preiss on May 28, 2020
How a Top Visualization Studio Secured Remote Workers in 4 Days
Keeping Creativity Flowing Freely – and Securely – During COVID19
Binge-watching has become the new international pastime during the global COVID19 lockdown. As sports stadiums, amusement parks, concert stages and movie theatres are silent, people are turning to their TVs and computers for entertainment. A recent study found that 75 percent of respondents are watching more streaming content than ever before. And 73 percent of those said they are watching services like Disney+, Amazon, Prime, Hulu and Netflix. A study in the U.S. reveals that the average American is now streaming eight hours of content per day.
With so many people turning to entertainment, how do studios keep creating content even as they are physically shut down and their workforce is geographically scattered?
A top visualization studio based in LA found a way to keep production rolling even as they transitioned their 250 employees to a work from home (WFH) scenario. The Third Floor (TTF), which partners with blockbuster clients like Marvel, Disney and Lucas Films, did the seemingly impossible in four days. They were able to relocate their employees from the office, where they enjoyed a tight air-gap network, to their home environment without sacrificing security.
At first it may not seem like secure network access for visualization artists is that big of a deal. But if you consider the value of the intellectual property being created, you understand why it’s essential to TTF’s technical director, Jeremy Oddo. He poses the question: What if the next Marvel movie plot leaked during production? The financial and reputational ramifications would be severe. That’s why his team takes security seriously. In fact, they undergo multiple audits a year to ensure they are meeting the most stringent guidelines.
As the pandemic unfolded, Jeremy and his IT team realized that they would need to act quickly to keep production moving forward. They immediately ruled out using antiquated VPN technology to provide remote access to their network resources. As Jeremy noted in a recent webcast, VPNs provide ubiquitous access to users, exposing far too much of the IT infrastructure and creating unnecessary risk.
Working with a technology consultant at Shamrock, Jeremy took their advice and moved forward with a Zero Trust Network Access solution that provided a one-t0-one connection between the user and the resources they were authorized to use. Everything else on the network is invisible to them and potential cyber-attackers. The solution, AppGate SDP, provides fine-grained security needed to ensure each employee has access only to the resources they need to do their job and nothing more. Jeremy vetted the plan with TTF’s movie studio clients, who gave them the thumbs up.
Jeremy explained the difference between AppGate SDP and a VPN: The main difference is that a VPN creates a big tunnel and allows everything to go through. AppGate SDP allows you to look at individual connections and provision resources required for that user alone.
Essentially, TTF was able to extend their air-gap network from the studio walls to any location where their employees were now working. Jeremy explains: If an artist is working on a secretive project, you give them access in a highly secure manner. All the resources they are accessing still live inside the studio’s IT walls. They have a window into that resource and that resource alone.
When it came to installing AppGate SDP, Jeremy said the process was painless. His team started on a Saturday and prepped for the installation over the weekend. By Monday they were onboarding their first group of employees; by Tuesday their most critical group of employees were online and working securely. Jeremy said there have been no complaints from end-users, because the interface is clean and the friction minimal. He describes the solution as “a lifesaver” and is already thinking ahead to future use cases.
For example, he thinks AppGate will help TTF recruit great talent no matter whether they live. They will no longer be limited to those within driving distance to the LA studio or their locations in China and London. If employees can connect securely to the data that lives within the studio walls using AppGate, their physical location becomes irrelevant.
Jeremy said AppGate is his new favorite technology tool. He said it’s awesome to see the power of network micro-segmentation in action: You can see where people are going based on the resources you make available to them. This helps the security team make better decisions over time.
“We feel like AppGate is our new next-generation solution,” Jeremy said. “After COVID dies down we will use it for a lot of other things.”
About The Third Floor
The Third Floor provides a unique creative service to their clients. They use high-tech visualization techniques to digitally act out large parts of a film, like character movement and action scenes, to help directors see what they envisioned mind before shooting it. This process speeds up production and significantly lowers costs. Learn more about them here.