Pharmaceutical Leader AstraZeneca Collaborates Securely

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AstraZeneca, with $21.4 billion in annual sales, is one of the top five pharmaceutical and health care services providers in the world. AstraZeneca specializes in medicines to treat cancer, cardiovascular conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, the central nervous system, pain, and respiratory illnesses. The company employs 64,000 around the world, with 12,000 of those working in the United States.

The pharmaceutical industry is as competitive and regulatory intensive as it gets. In 2004, AstraZeneca invested $3.8 billion into new drug research and development, and has 11,900 employees dedicated to drug and treatment research and development. With so much invested in R&D, the company needed a secure and manageable way to collaborate internally, with its contract research organizations, and academic and biotechnology partners. We needed a secure way to share documents with our business partners, says Patrick Meehan, lead technical architect at the company.

Previously, AstraZeneca used a secure collaborative application it had built in-house, which required a VPN client to be installed on each users system. This proved to be too much of a high-management burden. We were always getting [help-desk] calls about it. Either it didnt work, we had to constantly adjust firewall settings, or similar annoying issues, says Meehan.

AstraZeneca needed to find a better solution. A few of its requirements for the project included that there be no plug-ins or software that had to be installed on the end users systems. The secure collaboration tool had to be seamless to the end user, and Web-based. We wanted no setup overhead or concerns about having to open firewall ports, he says.

After several internal pilots were completed, AstraZeneca chose Cyber-Ark Softwares Inter-Business Vault. Its proven to be very easy to deploy and maintain. Theres no need to tweak any code, says Meehan.

Just like a physical vault, Cyber-Arks Vaulting Technology was developed to create information safe havens. Cyber-Arks Inter-Business Vault incorporates layered security protection provided by its integrated firewall, authentication, access control, session and data encryption, content inspection, secure backup, version control, and other granular security controls. Cyber-Arks Vaulting Technology makes it possible for companies to create an instant Wide Area Network (WAN) to securely connect and collaborate with their partners, subcontractors, and customers over the Internet.

End users need only a Web browser to access a highly secured vault. Information is secured via HTTPS and Cyber-Arks specialized encryption, and companies can choose to integrate other authentication methods, including public key infrastructure, RSA security, or Windows Domain authentication. With Inter-Business Vault, security managers can create highly-specific access rights, so that users see only the vaults theyre authorized to access, as well as limit how long individual users and Vaults are active.

The other vendors programs evaluated by AstraZeneca proved too cumbersome to deploy and manage, or simply failed to provide the complete solution AstraZeneca required.

AstraZeneca first deployed the Inter-Business Vault for use within its drug development process. The investments and information tracking needed to bring a new drug to market is overwhelming. It can take more than a decade before the drug can pass FDA approval, and millions of pages of documentation can be generated. Its estimated that it costs pharmaceutical companies $1 million for each day a drug is under development. Thats why its so costly for any pharmaceutical company to have any time wasted waiting for overnight couriers and inter-office mail. Cyber-Ark provided a quick way to speed the process. One of the key benefits Cyber-Ark brought to us is the ability to exchange data and documents more quickly with our business partners, says Meehan.

Another key benefit, explains Meehan, is Inter-Business Vaults ability to provide complete version control for each file uploaded to a vault. When files are placed inside the Vault, new versions are created and existing files are never overwritten. This powerful version-control mechanism protects against deliberate and unintentional data corruption and has been extremely useful, says Meehan.

Inter-Business Vault has proven so useful at creating highly-secure collaborative groups, AstraZeneca now uses it throughout its organization.

Whenever a new business unit needs to create a secure collaborative workgroup, Meehan simply adds the users, and sets the security polices for the new Vault which, in many cases, can be created in a day. Its that simple, says Meehan.

George V. Hulme is an internationally recognized information security journalist

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