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How a partnership is securing Tasmania’s largest private sector employer, Federal Group

As Tasmania’s largest private sector employer, Australia’s longest running hotel group and operator of the country’s first legal casino, Federal Group is a diverse organisation with plenty of history.

The third-generation, family-owned company employs more than 2,000 people in businesses spanning the casino, gaming, tourism, hospitality, retail and transport sectors. Its scope and scale mean that its operations need to be efficient, reliable and trustworthy, particularly in the highly regulated gaming industry.

Federal Group’s large size also creates a lot of complexity in terms of keeping its systems secure. In April 2021, the company was subject to a ransomware attack that brought down many of its core business applications, including its financial systems and hotel check-in platforms.

Kent Bawden, IT Vendor Manager at Federal Group,  says the company’s gaming operations were also compromised.

“Federal Group’s Wrest Point and country Club Tasmania casino gaming operations were the businesses that were really impacted by the cyberattack,” he says.

We were more vulnerable than we had estimated. That would be one of the learnings. It’s not a matter of if, but when you are subject to cyberattackers.

Building trust in the cloud

The pressure was on for Federal Group to restore its affected systems as soon as possible, and improve its cybersecurity posture so it can predict, respond to, and prevent future threats.

The company engaged Microsoft partner and managed services provider Quorum. Quorum is also a member of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association and a founding member of the Cloud Collective – a strategic alliance of four leading Microsoft Gold partners Quorum’s Managed Detection and Response Service Cyber One launched in 2020 to provide support a spectrum of customers from those with a strong Microsoft security strategy to those that do not currently have the resources to respond to advanced and emerging threats.“Cyber One is designed to help organisations of all sizes aggregate, monitor and respond to key security signalling available within Microsoft 365, Azure and beyond,” says Mark McLean, Managing Director at Quorum.

Entrance of a casino
Federal Group’s casino gaming operations were also compromised due to a ransomware attack in April 2021 (Source: Federal Group)

“It’s managed by a team of cybersecurity experts and is based on Microsoft Sentinel, which offers a cloud-first, flexible and scalable solution for our clients. It also leverages all of the Defender products across both Microsoft 365 and Azure, and integrates Microsoft Graph Security API to give us richer data insights and improve the automation of our IT service management system.”

By using Quorum’s Cyber One platform for its endpoint security and the Defender tool within the Microsoft stack, Bawden says Federal Group is already reaping the benefits with response times (MTTD and MTTR) being significantly reduced from hours to minutes.

“We have onboarded our entire fleet, which consists of approximately 1,000 endpoints and 100 Servers on-premise and within Azure. Notably our Microsoft Secure Score has risen markedly by over 50% within six months,” Bawden says.

Federal Group is also leveraging the expertise of Quorum’s Cloud & Infrastructure Services team to assist with architecting and deploying Azure Arc, and ensuring it is aligned with the organisation’s cybersecurity strategy.

“Our partnership with Quorum has been invaluable to understanding the full breadth of Azure Arc capabilities and what it can look like to keep our company secure in the cloud.

Critically, this has also allowed us to stay ahead of the tightening regulatory requirements experienced by the gaming sector, with full confidence that our organisation is far more secure than it has ever been.

A blossoming partnership

The partnership between Federal Group, Quorum, and Microsoft has been so fruitful that Federal Group has renewed it for another year.

“One of the things we’ve really liked about working with Quorum is that it feels more like a partnership rather than a sales pitch, and that’s critical to who we align with in the market,” Bawden explains.

“Quorum took a very much ‘what are you facing and what are you trying to achieve?’ approach. Coupled with their team’s deep heritage and knowledge in the latest Microsoft technologies it really fits the bill.

“There’s also plenty of collaboration and information sharing between Federal Group, Quorum, and Microsoft. That’s a key factor in any relationship of this nature; where you truly work together towards a goal that will take some time to achieve.

“Those partnerships are the ones that last.”