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How the Pandemic Is Redefining Security at the Network Edge

 

By Rob Chapman, Director of Security Architecture at Cybera, a PDI company

In less than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has permeated nearly every aspect of the business world. Some of that impact has been the immediate shock we've all experienced. But even if that shock eventually wears off, other impacts will likely become permanent fixtures we must account for-especially in highly distributed IT environments.

We're already starting to see monumental shifts in business culture and strategy. These shifts are challenging even the most adaptive businesses, many of which are still adjusting to new market dynamics that typically take a decade to form rather than just a few months.

Spotlight on the Network Edge

One of the most significantly disrupted areas in IT has been the way we access, move, and secure data at remote locations. The pandemic has placed the spotlight directly on the network edge, which many highly distributed businesses rely on to conduct their business operations.

With the massive migration of employees who are now working from home-including many of the IT personnel who support them-the network edge must now support the same level of capabilities we typically expect from corporate data centers. For IT teams, that means effectively delivering the same high levels of comfort, reliability, and security. Failing to accomplish this can put your business at risk, especially in regard to cybersecurity.

During the pandemic, we've already seen a rise in phishing schemes seeking to exploit both human and technical vulnerabilities. And, with so many employees and IT staff now operating at the network edge, we must be much more vigilant about protecting against external bad actors as well as the actions-however innocent-of internal employees.

Why? With so much more business activity happening at the network edge, there's far greater potential for configuration mistakes and human error. As a result, we need to ensure that our security policies and strategies account for this higher risk exposure.

SD-WAN for Greater Agility

The good news is we already have reliable technologies to meet these relatively new security challenges. In fact, the technologies that originally enabled the network edge are also the ones that can solve the challenges created by the pandemic-while also paving the way for digital transformation.

In particular, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology has solved the unique problems that traditional networking solutions couldn't. At its core, SD-WAN is primarily a way to connect remote locations in a distributed enterprise network. It operates as an overlay at the network edge, enabling remote sites to consolidate multiple network functions and applications over low-cost broadband connections.

A Foundation for Hyper-Adaptive Business

Because it is software-based, SD-WAN reduces the number of network devices and connections needed at each remote site, significantly lowering network complexity, cost, and risk. Agile, hyper-adaptive, and enabled by the cloud, SD-WAN can help you quickly adjust to changing business dynamics, such as the new ones caused by the pandemic.

Here's an example. A few years ago, I was with several CISOs at a security summit where one discussion stood out more than the rest. Someone asked, "What can't you live without and what really gives you the most bang for your buck?"

A CISO at a healthcare company said something like, "We acquire a lot of smaller companies and integrate them into our portfolio. The IT operations for these smaller shops can run the spectrum of pretty good to awful. But I can't waste time treating each shop like a snowflake. Instead, I have them deploy our secure SD-WAN platform and funnel all their traffic through our security stack. This gives us immediate visibility and control over everything going in and out of the new environment without us having to change how they operate."

That story has resonated with me throughout the pandemic since so many businesses are facing strategic questions about being acquired or acquiring someone else. We'd all like to take advantage of new opportunities or be able to quickly adapt to new requirements. Having a secure SD-WAN edge platform allows you to maintain your agility as new opportunities arise-without getting locked into expensive and difficult-to maintain traditional WAN solutions.

Technology Controls and Security Enforcement

When it comes to cybersecurity, SD-WAN is ideal for supporting a hyper-adaptive business model. For instance, SD-WAN makes it much easier and more cost-effective to securely deliver, test, and deploy new apps and services in a non-disruptive manner. It also makes it easier to centrally roll out security policies across heterogeneous networks.

When you combine SD-WAN with the right technology controls and security enforcement policies, you can significantly reduce the "blast radius" of user/employee actions-whether unintentional or malicious. The same security procedures, policies, and strategies that you activate in response to the pandemic can ultimately create a foundation for cybersecurity that will pay dividends for years to come-all the way to the network edge.

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About the Author

Rob Chapman 

As Director of Security Architecture at Cybera, a PDI company, Rob Chapman is responsible for the company's overall cybersecurity architecture and PCI compliance initiatives. During his career, he has focused on areas ranging from academic and enterprise technologies to big data and audiovisual systems. Chapman has a Masters in Educational Leadership and Instructional Technology from Tennessee Technological University. He currently resides in Columbia, TN.

Published Tuesday, January 19, 2021 7:45 AM by David Marshall
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