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Housing company puts a new spin on Eaton IPM to trigger an air gap for cybersecurity

Grandeur Housing specializes in the sale of residential ready-to-move (RTM), manufactured, and 24-foot wide homes. Built and sold in Manitoba, Canada, homes can be completely customized in both form and function, from foundation to roof, to create a customer’s desired layout and look. Read how Grandeur Housing bolstered network security against ransomware and other cyberattacks by initiating an air gap using Eaton Intelligent Power Manager (IPM).

Summary

Challenge
The organization was seeking to bolster network security against ransomware and other cyberattacks by initiating an air gap.
Solution
Results
Grandeur Housing is now free to build on its core business, rather than worry about potential ransomware attacks destroying important replica backup data.

Challenge: bolster network security by initiating an air gap

Two separate ransomware events that targeted Grandeur Housing prompted the organization to seek a solution to prevent further attacks. With its backup server replicating data every weekday evening to an ESXI host server across a wireless link, the firm wished to instigate an air gap—a security measure that keeps secure networks physically isolated from unsecured ones such as the Internet. Grandeur Housing wanted its host server to remain offline except during replication, with the air gap extending to the ESXI host that acts as its disaster recovery (DR) server. 

After a technology partner suggested that Eaton might offer a solution, Grandeur Housing began to investigate whether the manufacturer’s Intelligent Power Manager (IPM) was capable of performing the desired air gap task. The goal was for a software to orchestrate the process, starting up Grandeur Housing’s replica ESXI host and then shutting it down once the procedure was complete.

Solution: Using IPM for an air gap

Although primarily developed to monitor and manage UPSs—as well as gracefully shut down loads during a loss of utility power, even in virtualized environments—IPM has proven to be an inexpensive, highly viable air gap solution for Grandeur Housing. 

"I think this is a very appropriate use of this technology from the standpoint of protecting key infrastructure from being accessed when you don’t want it to be. If there’s a ransomware attack or a fire, or if anything were to take out our main office site, we can replicate and have instant access to everything.”

Charles Sloane, Grandeur Housing technology manager

Deployed in May 2019, IPM and the PDU trigger specific actions on a schedule determined by Grandeur Housing. By signaling that power is off to the receptacle that the replication server is plugged into, the server thinks there was a power outage. IPM’s job is to initiate the startup and shutdown sequences. Currently, the trigger can be initiated at a particular time of day, a specific day of the week or a certain day of the month, with full calendar scheduling expected soon.

“It’s a great model for other companies to consider. I imagine there are probably a number of Eaton customers who have the ability to do this and may not even realize it. They could already have all the pieces in place. It’s definitely a value-added capability.”

Charles Sloane, Grandeur Housing technology manager
Yet another bonus has been noteworthy electric savings for Grandeur Housing, a direct result of its DR server being able to remain powered down the majority of the time. The Eaton solution also has the ability, through its Environmental Monitoring Probe (EMP) Gen 2, to send an alert if a rack temperature or humidity level exceeds the desired norm and can even be stretched to include relay contacts connected to an open door or a water leak detector.

“If we were ever attacked during office hours—when a lot of attacks happen—our off-site replication data is protected because the server is off, so there’s no opportunity for access to be gained to it. I feel very good about our setup here and that we are protected by multiple layers.”

Charles Sloane, Grandeur Housing technology manager

Results: With the Eaton solution, Grandeur Housing is now able to...

• Execute a daily air gap to help ensure business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives
• Safeguard against ransomware attacks while enhancing overall cybersecurity
• Start up and shut down its VM environment
• Enjoy power savings resulting from its DR server being shut down much of the time

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