Standardization and visibility are key to maintaining a secure posture for a growing business, says Leon Davoyan, CTO of fast-food chain Dave’s Hot Chicken.

Dec 07 2023

In A World Without Perimeters, Visibility Is Key to Cybersecurity

It’s hard to stop an enemy you can’t see, but the right tools supply the visibility these companies need.

Up-and-coming fast-food chain Dave’s Hot Chicken has experienced phenomenal growth, from a single pop-up location just six years ago to a franchise business with more than 100 restaurants in five countries and another 700 locations in development.

That kind of growth is exhilarating for corporate leaders. For CTO Leon Davoyan — who is responsible for making sure that the company, its employees and customers are protected against cybercriminals — it’s also nerve-wracking. The key, he says, is a combination of visibility and standardization, ensuring that each of the company’s locations conforms to a single security protocol, and then getting the kind of intelligence from its tools that it needs to secure its network.

“We, the franchisor, dictate exactly what the franchisee needs to purchase, what subscriptions they need to buy,” says Davoyan. “We own the network configuration, manage the network for them and monitor it on their behalf.”

The pandemic added transformative changes on top of brisk growth as restaurants installed ordering kiosks to reduce face-to-face interactions and employed online ordering and third-party delivery services. At the same time, the corporate office moved from fully in-person to completely remote.

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From a security perspective, Davoyan says, “The focus shifted away from, ‘How do we keep the corporate office, the corporate network secure?’ to, ‘Well, these guys are connected to their home network, which we know is not secure, so how do we look at network security?’”

It’s important to realize that security is more of a process than a destination, says Pete Finalle, a research manager for IDC’s security and trust team. Every advancement creates new opportunities and changes the risks. For example, modern endpoint devices are far more powerful than they were just a few years ago. That’s empowered greater mobility, but it also changes the stakes on security.

“Networks in general are more porous than they used to be, so having visibility into the devices and their traffic is essential,” Finalle says. “This has changed the focus from protecting the perimeter to protecting dispersed and fragmented devices and resources. Identity and authentication have become integral components for securing the modern network.”

Dave’s Hot Chicken employs Fortinet solutions, including FortiGuard Security Services, to get the visibility needed to keep restaurants up and running and protect every device used by employees, regardless of location.

“The game did change a little bit,” he says. “Rather than securing the enterprise on the network side, we shifted to securing each endpoint at the system level.”

For Davoyan, it’s not just about restaurant operations. He’s equally invested in protecting Dave’s Hot Chicken customers, whether they are logging on to a location’s public Wi-Fi or using their customer loyalty accounts.

“It’s evolving so much that we’re having to think about security beyond the four walls of our physical business and our digital business,” he says. “We love our customers, and we have to do whatever it takes to make sure that they have a good time with us.” 

READ MORE: Learn how to take your endpoint security to the next level.

Why Visibility Is Key for Network Security

In a world where traditional perimeters have been replaced by hybrid infrastructure, it’s not just franchise businesses with far-flung locations that must work to secure their networks.

Visibility is key for network security,” Finalle says. “Most tools analyze devices and traffic for anomalous behavior, threat signatures or other indicators of compromise.”

Finalle says he foresees more changes ahead as hybrid work matures as a model for doing business. He points to digital experience monitoring as a path many businesses may take in the quest for secure connectivity. DEM is IT management technology that measures performance and helps IT teams resolve issues by monitoring the health of all systems between end users and applications.

“DEM is becoming an important feature for benchmarking the performance of both the network and network security,” he says.

Leon Davoyan
It’s evolving so much that we’re having to think about security beyond the four walls of our physical business and our digital business.”

Leon Davoyan CTO, Dave’s Hot Chicken

“The new hybrid perimeter has expanded to encompass the main office, branch offices, industrial facilities, smart building equipment, and remote workers accessing resources in the corporate data center and in the cloud,” Finalle adds. “Now more than ever, hardware appliances, on-premises virtualized software and Security as a Service are being used simultaneously to accommodate these increasingly complex environments.”

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Simplicity Is an Underrated Part of Security

When Reed Britton joined Saatva in 2021 as its IT security analyst, the luxury home furnishings retailer was in the midst of re-envisioning its business model. Once entirely web based, Saatva was expanding on a model piloted in 2019 in New York City, creating viewing rooms in cities across the country where customers can experience the company’s products before purchasing.

Each viewing room is equipped with up to a dozen networked computers. Saatva licenses Cisco Meraki to develop security controls, rules and policies for those devices. Britton can block malicious sites and use content filtering to reduce the risk profile.

Saatva’s small IT team also monitors threats at endpoints using CrowdStrike Falcon Insight XDR, which pinpoints where threats are and where they are coming from.

“We have CrowdStrike installed on the devices so that when a user happens to install or download a piece of software, and there’s something piggybacking on that — a potentially unwanted program — we’ll get an alert,” Britton says. “The alert will tell us that the download was blocked, and the file was quarantined. It also provides a severity level, all tied to a device, user and time of day. It’s very granular.”

Britton says that simplicity is an underrated part of strong security. Complexity can often hinder response times and hide issues. “If it becomes too complex, you can’t monitor or support it appropriately,” she adds.


Secure Access Wherever You Work

Aflac, a Fortune 500 company providing supplemental insurance and known for its distinctive spokesduck, operates a complex network architecture serving a wide variety of associates.

“Our employees and independent agents access their personal computers or laptops from anywhere they may be, while our onsite employees access their devices from their desktops,” says Tim Callahan, Aflac’s global CISO. “We have major hubs of network activity where our largest concentrations of people are based, including New York City, Columbus, Ga., and Columbia, S.C.”

In 2017, Aflac adopted a work-from-anywhere disaster recovery model that made a quick pivot to mass remote work relatively painless. This proved critical when the pandemic struck in 2020. Callahan’s team uses a zero-trust security architecture to reduce risk exposure and deploys Zscaler.

Reed Britton
The alert will tell us that the download was blocked, and the file was quarantined. It also provides a severity level, all tied to a device, user and time of day. It’s very granular.”

Reed Britton Security Analyst, Saatva

“Users are removed from the network and get the access they need directly from our cloud provider, enabling us to secure and control data through the Zscaler cloud,” Callahan says.

Aflac uses Zscaler Risk360 to interpret data streams for risk. With the reduced risk surface a zero-trust architecture provides, individual users are the primary targets for bad actors trying to access systems to cause havoc.

“We’re getting, with Risk360, a view into the potential for compromise and lateral movement,” said DJ Goldsworthy, Aflac’s vice president of security operations and threat management, at Zenith Live 2023. “The first thing adversaries are going to do is try to gain a foothold, and then they’re going to try to live off the land and move from system to system.”

Zscaler Risk360 increases visibility into incoming traffic and internal data flows, allowing Aflac’s security team to see vulnerable areas and address them before they become a way in. “We also have a security certificate model for initial access,” he added at the conference. “If our issued certificate is not present, we deny access.”

UP NEXT: Checkout how these businesses keep their endpoints secure.

Photography By Matthew Furman

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