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Classi: Increasing security in education with Google Cloud and Security Command Center

About Classi

Established in April 2014 as a joint venture between Benesse Holdings Corp. and SoftBank Corp, Classi develops and operates the Classi educational platform. The platform is used by more than 3,000 junior and senior high schools across Japan.

Industries: Technology, Education
Location: Japan

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Educational cloud platform for schools, Classi, leverages Google Cloud and Security Command Center for new feature development and data analytics and to strengthen security.

Google Cloud results

  • Automating everything from risk and threat detection to ticket creation, and alert notification to administrators
  • Detecting application vulnerabilities, as well as misconfigurations and settings with elevated risk
  • Detecting threats and unauthorized access in the cloud environment

Detecting threats to protect against cybercrime

Classi Corp. (Classi) develops and operates the cloud-based Classi educational platform, which is used by more than half of Japan’s high schools and by one in every two high school students in the country. Linking to devices such as smartphones, tablets, and PCs through a single Classi ID, Classi makes it much easier for schools to communicate with parents and students. The platform also helps to record school life, learning progress, and creates individual adaptive learning programs to provide optimal learning opportunities for each student.

Person typing on laptop with Classi interface on screen

Analyzing data easily and securely

In order to optimize the building of new features and data analytics, Classi began using Google Cloud about three years ago. "We adopted BigQuery as a data analysis platform because it offers excellent performance and functionality. We can return results just by entering a query without worrying about provisioning the hardware required to run it," explains Mr. Ito, Data Scientist and General Manager of the Data AI Department at Classi.

Classi also uses Google Cloud to create proofs of concept and provide data for collaborative research with universities. In order to enhance security, it also uses Security Command Center. “Because of a security incident in 2020, I felt the need to strengthen our security including implementing risk assessments and automated checks,” says Mr. Namekawa, a Data Engineer in the Data Platform Team of the Data AI Department. “Previously, we had left the security of each project to the project manager, but going forward we wanted to introduce a system that would enable more standardized, integrated management. In order to achieve this, we decided to make the move to Security Command Center."

Ease of use and accurate detection of vulnerabilities

Classi began using Security Command Center in November 2020, initially using the free tier. "We used the free tier for two to three months. It was easy to use, and we were able to detect vulnerabilities and misconfigurations effectively,” says Mr. Ito. “Nevertheless, we decided to move over to the premium tier in February 2021, largely because the number of services we had in Google Cloud was increasing and with that the risk of cloud vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. We also wanted to expand our monitoring coverage to the application and container layers."

Today, Security Command Center is integrated into Classi’s ticket management system, chat system, and more by utilizing Pub/Sub and Cloud Functions. The moment Security Command Center detects a vulnerability or misconfiguration, it automatically integrates with Classi’s ticket management system to register a ticket. Simultaneously its chat system then notifies the administrator of the project affected by the alert.

Tickets registered in the ticket management system are classified into three categories: those that require an immediate response, followed by action required, but not immediate, and those which do not require any action. Clicking on a ticket displays the details of the issue and how to respond. Once the issue is remediated, Security Command Center detects the change and the ticket is automatically closed. A list of all the alerts that have been made is shown in the Security Command Center dashboard and users can also search alerts by folder or project.

When building this system, Mr. Namekawa said he found it helpful to be able to draw on assistance from Google Cloud, who has been providing daily support by sharing product milestones and updates."There were a lot of alerts at first, and although they were categorized from high importance to low, we found it a bit difficult to decide how to handle them at first. What findings to accept, which to resolve, and in that case who best to handle the resolution. Thankfully with the best practices sharing of the Google Cloud team, we were able to work through these issues,” he says.

“The ability of its security detection to keep up with the changes in our environment has made security management of that environment much easier,” he further adds.

“Now, the entire company is more secure as a result of this initiative, not just the Data AI Department. By making full use of the Security Command Center mechanism, we are developing more robust services. It is an integral part of our business.”

Mr. Ito, Data Scientist and General Manager, Data AI Department, Classi

Expanding detection coverage with premium tier

Moving to the premium tier of Security Command Center has allowed Classi to increase the scope of detection coverage substantially. “Security Command Center has made it possible to visualize our risks and accumulate insights on how to deal with them,” says Mr. Namekawa. “Previously, personnel checked each project individually, but now it is possible to visualize risk in a unified manner."

Mr. Ito adds: "Initially, the results of the security scan were enormous, I was overwhelmed by all the information it was providing. But following some tweaks, the scan results were reduced to about one-third and now I think our security is stronger. Before Security Command Center, minor misconfigurations and failures to implement a security control might go unnoticed. I'm glad this is no longer the case."

“When we launch new services, we need to think about how to secure them,” says Mr. Kudo, a Python engineer in the Learning Team of the Data AI Department. "I use Kubernetes to develop new services, and I wanted to understand what I should pay attention to when it comes to Kubernetes and container security, so I turned to Container Threat Detection, which has been really helpful in setting a secure foundation for our application security."

Mr. Hirata, a Python Engineer in the Learning Team of the Data AI Department, adds “Using Web Security Scanner, we can now easily detect vulnerabilities in applications and check them in Security Command Center with the touch of a button. It is all so easy to use."

Currently, tickets automatically created by the ticket management system go to the Data AI Department as a group for handling. In the future, Classi will utilize the ticket management system to assign the tickets to specific members to decentralize the response and reduce noise. In addition, the company also plans to use automation so that issues that can be resolved without human intervention are automatically and immediately dealt with, speeding up resolution and reducing the response workload.

"Security is a continuous journey, not a destination,” says Mr. Ito. “Now, the entire company is more secure as a result of this initiative, not just the Data AI Department. By making full use of the Security Command Center mechanism, we are developing more robust services. It is an integral part of our business.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Classi

Established in April 2014 as a joint venture between Benesse Holdings Corp. and SoftBank Corp, Classi develops and operates the Classi educational platform. The platform is used by more than 3,000 junior and senior high schools across Japan.

Industries: Technology, Education
Location: Japan