Securing the NFL’s premier events like the Super Bowl LVII in February and more recently their Draft, brings a number of unique cybersecurity challenges. The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched sporting events in the world, with 115 million viewers this year. The Draft is also massive, with more than 300,000 people attending in Kansas City in April. Cisco is both an Official Cybersecurity Partner of the NFL and a sponsor. Given the gravity of these premier NFL events, our relationship, and the attractive target they represent to threat actors, Cisco has no margin for error – none. This network simply must be secure and available, especially considering the trust the NFL has chosen to put into our people and security products. It’s Cisco’s responsibility to make the NFL secure. And we have…

Sunny American football stadium

Cisco Customer Experience (CX) led the way for the second year in a row, planning, designing, implementing, and operating our security solution on behalf of the NFL. From an operational standpoint, Cisco is the eyes of the NFL, working closely with them as their security analysts and threat-hunters. Two and a half years since the engagement began and with four events behind us, CX has become an extension of the NFL’s team. With direct interface to NFL cybersecurity leadership, the 32 clubs, and other NFL partners, we’re not a bit player in keeping these events secure; Cisco CX is a trusted partner. “Cisco CX’s depth and breadth of experience in understanding the scale of and securing our environment from threats ensured that we were well-prepared ahead of Super Bowl LVII,” said Tomás Maldonado, NFL Chief Information Security Officer. That said, it is not only CX but all of Cisco, including Secure business unit and Talos Threat Intelligence, coming together as one unified experience.

While our security design varies from event-to-event, the Cisco Secure products used to support them have been constant. At the foundation is our Cisco Secure Firewall deployed in multiple venues (we’re responsible for securing the NFL at more than just the event), Cisco Secure Firepower Management Center, Cisco Umbrella DNS Security, and Cisco Malware Analytics. The most recent inclusion at this year’s Draft was our recently announced Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solution, a key threat investigation platform sitting on top of the security stack. It plays a critical role, being the glue binding together the security telemetry from all of our security products, designed to accelerate threat detection and response. The tight integration between all of these Cisco products proves the adage of the complete solution being greater than the sum of its parts – it is truly the case.

An interesting story from the Draft is where we deployed our solution, in front of an NFL broadcast partner with their own firewall, to ensure traffic coming in and out was thoroughly inspected to block threats before causing harm. As a result, we were able to catch security threats missed by the broadcast partner’s firewall thanks to our Secure Firewall, powered by Talos Threat Intelligence. Simply put, we blocked threats they didn’t.


Steve Nowell

Principal Security Architect

Cisco Customer Experience (CX)