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Technology Corridor

Virtual reality comes of age in the power industry.
Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 2003

graphics, and new analytical tools [is ideal] for people who are not strong analysts," Sukman added.

While system operators use 2-D views of the PNVS, an executive dashboard provides 3-D images that, while highly informative, are less action-oriented.

AVS and ConEd have found a way to harness the power of interactive graphics to manage the power network. But in these days of increasing security consciousness, VizSim also provides valuable tools for maintaining safe and secure facilities.

VizSim For Utility IT and Physical Security

Computer Associates (CA) launched a security application this spring that makes substantial use of VizSim. Called eTrust 20/20, it provides interactive 3-D access to the large databases assembled by CA's eTrust suite of enterprise security products, which, among other functions, manage identity-based security, collect information regarding physical and electronic access to various internal and external assets by company personnel and others, and oversee electronic security of enterprise assets.

In a modern secure facility, employees' access rights are set in a central location. The security database will include such information as what buildings, floors, and rooms individuals may enter, and even what times they may enter. An individual's security profile will also include e-mail passwords, data access rights and passwords, and other information describing privileges and restrictions related to the physical and data security of the company. Typically, physical access is controlled by key cards or similar devices, and in high-security facilities, biometric devices. Logging is done continually, so after a period of time, a profile of each individual's activities is built.

Generally, this type of security does a good job of discouraging casual intruders and errant employees. But it has a major drawback. As time elapses, the security log files grow, and grow, and grow. What's more, few enterprises rely on just one vendor for security solutions, so they have to handle a variety of file and data formats. Analyzing the logs becomes less and less convenient, and finding valuable information becomes a data mining task that can be daunting and unrewarding.

Even if a security breach is narrowed down to a few suspects, analysis of the data is a significant task. That's where CA's new solution comes in. eTrust 20/20 is not particularly flashy. It displays information that has been consolidated from security logs by another CA product, eTrust Security Command Center, in an obvious and easy-to-read fashion. eTrust 20/20 uses 3-D graphics in an unusually smart way, to provide information that is easy to grasp and easy to manipulate.

For example, say that the security chief of XYZ Power and Light gets a report that one of its competitors is about to release a product suspiciously similar to the one her company has in closed beta testing. In fact, she discovers that ABC Inc.'s product is so similar to her company's new invention that only someone with access to the company's trade secrets could have developed it. Who provided the information to ABC Inc.?

Knowing there were only a few dozen people with access to this information, the security chief calls up her access logs in eTrust