Overview

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts not only serves as a living memorial to a famous U.S. president, but it’s also known as a National Cultural Center for music, opera, theater, dance, and a wide range of other performing arts. In a typical year, the center serves two million visitors and sells 1.6 million tickets for its 2,000+ award-winning performances and exhibits.

Concerned about potential performance issues that might be caused by cyber security attacks, the center wanted to maintain its excellent reputation by ensuring a seamless and efficient customer experience. By implementing Imperva’s FlexProtect Pro solution, the center improved its ability to detect and prevent malicious robot attacks, thereby significantly reducing potential impacts on customer transactions.

Business Problem: Bot Blindness

In early 2020, when ticket sales had just gone live for an important annual event, Andrew Cary, Vice President of Digital at the John F. Kennedy Center wanted to ensure that customer transactions went smoothly and trouble-free. Preventing performance issues caused by malicious internet robots—called bots—was a primary concern.

The Digital team had recently migrated from internal website hosting to a third-party backend system on Amazon Web Services (AWS), built and managed by their agency, Adage Technologies. Says Andrew, “Delivering a great first impression for the new site was critical to ensure robust ticket sales and to protect everything we stood for, including the Kennedy name.”

However, the mission might now be at risk. The team at Adage had noted that bots could potentially cause performance issues as attacks were escalating industry-wide and if left unchecked, could account for nearly 40 percent of traffic. The center had employed popular Web Application Firewall (WAF) and bot detection solutions, but as these proved capable of detecting only about 5 percent of bot traffic, they needed to find an alternative solution.

Business Solution: Perfect Performance

The technical experts at Adage turned to Imperva to solve the center’s bot problems. They replaced the suspect WAF and bot detection solutions with Imperva’s FlexProtect Pro, which brings together five powerful SaaS-based application security capabilities to protect against attacks. These include Cloud WAF, Bot Protection, IP Reputation Intelligence, Imperva’s Content Delivery Network (CDN), and a powerful Attack Analytics solution. Adage knew that Imperva was a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader and that FlexProtect Pro would provide the center with complete application security delivered as a service.

“Imperva’s portal and dashboard is not only informative, it’s also very easy to understand and navigate while not being too complex, says Andrew. “Imperva offers great customer service and having a dedicated account representative is an experience that’s not often available.”

Business Results: Freedom from Fear

When event tickets went on sale to the general public, and Adage reported the results, it was a great relief for Andrew and the team that Bots were no longer a concern.

“The Imperva solution performed flawlessly by detecting and eliminating attacks, and substantially reducing the possibility of bot-related issues which had been a growing concern.” Added Andrew.

Imperva’s FlexProtect Pro provided bot blocking customizations “on-the-fly” to ensure seamless and rapid customer transactions. Weeks later, the center’s popular web-based educational content program experienced almost no bot issues as well, allowing hundreds of thousands of users (largely kids and families) to be entertained while sheltered-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Imperva’s capacity to detect and eliminate bots allowed the Kennedy Center to deliver a perfect service to thousands of our customers,” says Andrew. “Knowing that our public website is so well-protected affords us the peace of mind we need to focus on looking after our customers and the day to day running of the center.”