Travis Perkins uses Splunk’s flexible cyber security monitoring to protect against customer data breaches


When it comes to security monitoring and protecting its business against cyber attack, building supplies retailer Travis Perkins turned to US analytics company Splunk, adopting its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud offering to monitor both its on-premise and cloud systems.

Nick Bleech, head of information security at Travis Perkins, said that flexibility and the underlying data model is what set Splunk apart from the alternatives in the security analytics market.


The major retailer, which owns 19 brands including Wickes and Tool Station, has already moved a great deal of its data to the cloud, including customer, operations, stock and logistics information. However, some data is still locked on-premise in its many physical locations across the UK.

Bleech was given a simple remit when he started at the company three years ago: "My brief was very simple. We have taken that leap of faith with the cloud and you have to crystallise and mitigate that risk for us. My brief was to take what there was by way of a security function and bring that up to date."

Read next: Travis Perkins cuts service desk response times for 24,000 employees with ServiceNow ITSM

Travis Perkins stores the majority of its logistics, warehouse management, stock and customer data in the AWS cloud. It has moved to Google enterprise apps and sent its SAP Hybris ecommerce platform into the cloud.

Although the plan was to have everything in the cloud by 2020, Bleech still needed a security monitoring tool capable of traversing cloud and on-premises data from its network of 2,000 physical locations across the UK.

"The security monitoring challenge therefore was hybrid," Bleech explained. "We are going hell for leather for the cloud but having to reach back into on-premise."

"So I thought: 'we need to look for something flexible and adaptable'. I compared Splunk with IBM and HP and smaller players and we went for Splunk on a pilot basis using hardware that was sitting dormant."

"In the end we ran a nine-month pilot, which proved the flexibility was there, connecting to new apps and cloud services and also the stuff that was legacy and would be around for years to come."

Travis Perkins was an early adopter of Splunk's SaaS cloud product and continues to use it.

Security monitoring

One of Bleech's first initiatives was to move on from a stuttering deployment of NitroSecurity (recently spun off by Intel) and into security monitoring with Splunk. Aside from flexibility, what set Splunk apart from the alternatives was its data model, specifically giving security analysts the ability to dig into a threat after the event.

He explained: "After remediation action has been done analysts can assess the status of that remediation. So having that complete data history without having to do any complicated navigation around the data model is the difference with the Splunk way of doing things."

Threat landscape

Travis Perkins uses Splunk to protect itself against malware and ransomware attacks on customer data. According to Bleech, the business doesn't tend to get targeted with zero-day attacks.

Read next: Travis Perkins cuts costs and increases vehicle safety with telematics

Bleech also focused on getting Travis Perkins PCI-compliant so that it can't be hit with a Target-level breach of customer card details.

"Nonetheless the attackers will be after things like personal data, bank details, trade customers account details," Bleech said. "Even getting PCI put to bed we still have sensitive financial data we need to protect."

Machine learning

Travis Perkins is eying Splunk's new machine learning capabilities too. Instead of having a room full of security analysts staring at dashboards, Bleech envisions Splunk providing a way of surfacing these insights automatically with the help of machine learning algorithms.

Read next: Splunk brings machine learning capabilities into its tools and launches toolkit for customer's own algorithms

"We are seeing this Hollywood scenario for security folks where you get a succession of small things occurring that start to build up that you would have ignored," he said. "So pattern recognition and anomaly detection becomes important."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

8 highly useful Slack bots for teams