Inside the Celtics' Infosecurity Playbook

The Boston Celtics' VP of technology explains how using the MacBook Pro and cloud-based services helped improve the franchise's IT security.

By Bill Brenner
Wed, July 07, 2010

CSO — Though the Boston Celtics lost its latest face-off against the L.A. Lakers last month, there's no doubt the team has been on a high the last few years, winning a 17th NBA championship banner in 2008 along the way. The hot streak means more attention and, by extension, more potential threats to the organization's sensitive data.

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So what's the biggest information security headache for an NBA franchise? In this Q&A, Jay Wessel, VP of technology for The Boston Celtics, gives a behind-the-scenes look at how Apple's MacBook Pro and Exchange-supported iPhone, cloud-based services and other tools changed the security landscape for an infrastructure often on the road and online.

Also take an inside look at how the NFL protects its players and games and a peek at World Cup security concerns.

CSO: When the team is on the road, what do you worry most about from a security standpoint? Hackers stealing playbook data?Wessel: This might surprise you, but basketball play data is not that big a target. In the NBA almost everyone knows everything because all the scouts are a close-knit unit. There's really not much they can find on our computers about game strategy that they don't already have access to elsewhere. For me, it's the conventional business side of the house that's of most concern: the personal information, customer credit-card numbers from when they buy merchandise. The threat of hackers intercepting e-mail messages is also a big worry.

What types of e-mails cause you the most heartburn?Wessel: Messages where trades and contract terms are being discussed between NBA officials, sponsorship proposals and contract talks. All of that goes back and forth by e-mail.

What are you doing on the technological side to mitigate the threat?Wessel: Most of the coaching staff are traveling with Macs. We didn't switch to Macs for security purposes but because the coaching apps are a better fit for Apple machines. But the nice side-effect is that there's a lot less malware targeting Macs. Specifically, we use MacBook Pros that are anywhere from new to 2 years old. Safari and Firefox are the browsers in use.

A lot of security practitioners get pretty heated when someone suggests Apple products are more secure than Windows devices.Wessel: I can understand that to some extent. I worry about researchers targeting Macs. I understand that as they gain popularity it's only a matter of time before hackers decide it's time to start attacking the Mac world. For some reason, though, the bad guys have continued to stay away for the most part.

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