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Issue of January 2007
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Pioneering e-governance state

Andhra Pradesh (AP) is one of the first Indian States to deploy Information Technology in various government initiatives. Dominic K reports on the State that not only paved the way for a better administration but also brought affordable services closer to it's citizens.


Col Rao

When it comes to e-governance initiatives in India, Andhra Pradesh is one of those first few States to strike our minds. With its efforts dated almost eight to nine years back, the state embarked upon e-governance journey early on. It became one of the pioneers in offering affordable and easy to use citizen centric services with the cost efficient use of Information Technology.

Mega to Giga

Within the scheme of such IT driven activities, AP Secretariat became the seat of action for all the e-governance related activity. AP Secretariat was entrusted the responsibility of not only spearheading the e-governance projects but also keeping a very tight vigil on the health of its huge, distributed and complex IT infrastructure. AP secretariat was made the custodian of a large and complex IT networks, which not only connects the secretariat offices but also provides connectivity to its various departments, offices and districts across the state.

These departments are not housed in the Secretariat, but spread across the length and breadth of the state in its 23 districts through the existing 2 Mbps network. This is currently being upgraded to 10 Gbps network and limited to various districts. 1 Gig network to the 1,125 Mandals and a 100 MBPS network to the villages under the AP Broadband Scheme. If that doesn’t sound complex there’s more to add to it. About two thousand people work on just the IT driven projects thus making it even more difficult for the Secretariat to manage this behemoth infrastructure.

“At a time we have several IT driven e-governance projects running in this State. These workflow applications ride the IT infrastructure of the State and it is very complex to run it,” says Lt. Col. C S Rao, Joint Director, IT & Communications Department, AP Secretariat, Andhra Pradesh Government.

Snapshot

Industry: Government

Employees: 3,000

Deployed software from CA includes:

  • eTrust Access Control 5.2
  • eTrust Audit 1.5
  • eTrust IDS 3.0
  • eTrust SCM 1.1

    Switching and routing devices from Cisco

  • Switches include 1900, 2900,4500, 5000 and 6500 series.
  • Routers include 2600 series for LAN and 3700 for WAN

    Database: Oracle 10g

    Servers: HP ProLiant ML 570 along with Dell and IBM

E-Documented

The central database of AP Secretariat has over 63,000 scanned files, 1,74,000 e-files and 5,67,000 currents residing in it. These files are large and are often accessed by the users.

“Problem starts when the majority of these 2,000 odd people start accessing these databases at the same time. Under such circumstances the management and monitoring of the network becomes difficult to manage,” informs Col Rao.

The complexity is doubled when the network is not just confined to the eight buildings housing the AP Secretariat in one premise but spreads wide across the State in its twenty-three districts. The IT infrastructure connects the secretariat in a mesh based architecture over optical fibre backbone which further added to management and monitoring problems.

Information Security Concerns

The sheer size of the organisation made it most vulnerable for the virus, spam and trojan attacks. Many an intrusion attempts were earlier made on the organisation. “Network and information security was a greater challenge for us. We were not in a position where any security breach could go uninformed,” says Lt. Col C S Rao, Joint Director, IT & C Department, AP Secretariat, Andhra Pradesh.

“AP Secretariat, says Col.Rao, “didn’t have a proper security architecture due to which it faced many security threats of a diverse nature. The organisation was faced with some peculiar intrusions including the denial of service (DoS) attacks, trojans etc.” Secondly, spyware and spam was so widespread in the organization that it created a hurdle in the work and mostly the security of e-mails was compromised.

In such a complex environment the organisation required a complete information security architecture. The architecture need to be further complemented with proper tools and solutions to keep itself away from any threat both at the network level and at the host level.

In Brief

Why CA

  • Ease of use and fast customisation
  • Well documented presentation of products and services
  • CA's experience with complex organisation
  • Understanding the business and technical needs of organisation like AP Secretariat
  • Better customer support
  • Cost effective and technically superior products

    Key Benefits of eTrust

  • Centralised alert or event management
  • Mitigating the risk of virus attacks
  • Preventing proxy users from using unproductive sites
  • No bulk downloads
  • Protection from viruses

    Key Business Processes

  • Custodian of 50 critical e-governance projects running across the State
  • Seat of power for the entire State machinery and its 30 odd departments

    IT Environment

  • 2,700 Desktops
  • 42 Critical and Non Critical Servers housing workflow and other critical applications
  • Gigabit backbone
  • Internet on a 10 Mbps dedicated pipe.

Security Retreated

The Secretariat then thought of a comprehensive three-month audit of select IT infrastructure for key departments in the State Secretariat, two state government bodies namely the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services (APTS) and Directorate of Treasury and Accounts and a District Collectorate.

“It was imperative to secure the network and the applications running on it which enable secure and reliable transactions. The security audit was to make sure that Andhra Pradesh Govt’s IT infrastructure remains secured and any gaps in the security mechanism are accordingly kept at bay,” shares Col Rao.

Once a virus attack is detected, everything comes to a standstill. Until the entire thing is cleaned up, work doesn’t move further. “When there was an intrusion at network or host level, it took a long time to cure. There were some inherent vulnerabilities like Web defacements, stealing of information etc,” explains Col Rao.

Secretariat Secured

AP Secretariat then deployed both Network IDS and Host IDS known as Access Control from CA’s eTrust suite of products. Which includes the eTrust SCM and firewalls. These security tools are deployed not only within the Secretariat but also in a departments called Directorate of Treasury and Accounts.

The Content Manager offers content filtering mechanism on the SMTP, HTTP and FTP fronts. It has protected the organisation from being infected with virus attacks and spam to some extent. The browsing of the non-productive Websites has almost stopped now in the AP Secretariat. Deploying the SCM has enhanced spam filtering and also offers added protection from unwanted and unsolicited emails.

The Road Ahead

The AP Secretariat feels that a lot of information security related advisory shall come from the product companies like CA who have the expertise in both vulnerabilities assessment and new technologies. Further the Secretariat is also migrating servers to blades. Migration is also under way from NAS to SAN. Talks are also underway for a state database at Hyderabad along with a DR set-up at Tirupati or Vizag. The project is expected to be completed within a year and is funded by the Government of India (GoI).

 
     
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