What Is Edge Security?
Edge security is a method of protecting data that sits on the “edge” of your corporate network. This means that it is either stored or transported through devices that sit outside of centralized data centers. Centralized data centers are physical units that store information and applications. In the past, these units provided all IT services to a company, but in recent years data is increasingly being handled outside, or far away, from these data centers.
An example of this in practice would be a retail company that has a data center at their warehouse where their products are made. Data stored on the “edge” of this network could come from sales data logged from one of their outlet stores. Another example is a company that makes an app, with the end-users who utilize the app being on the edge of the company’s network.
What Are Edge Security Solutions?
Edge security looks to protect data stored at these points. In recent years there has been an unprecedented rise in cloud technologies remote working, mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and increased network points. All these devices and access points open up a range of potential attack vectors that can be taken advantage of.
What is needed is a solution that combines web filtering, intrusion detection, and network security, to protect data on the fringe as well as the network core, without causing any deployment issues or complicated processes for admins. The solution to this is edge security solutions.
Edge security solutions are several security tools that aim to deliver advanced security and provide fast connection to users working outside of a data center.
What Makes A Good Edge Security Solution?
When looking for a comprehensive, air-tight, and secure edge security solution, the most effective products will have these features:
- Visibility: With so much data outside of the data center that can be left vulnerable, as well as having multiple devices connected to the network, the entire network must be always visible to administrators.
- Secured entry points: Effective solutions will have secure web gateways that carefully track and analyze all web traffic. Firewalls will also be implemented, successfully blocking any unwanted traffic with predetermined protocols by administrators.
- Secured data storage and transport: All data must be secured whether it is being stored or transported through the network. This can be achieved with strong encryption methods.
- Patch management and vulnerability checks: Airtight edge security solutions will come with patch management features that regularly scan and update patches in security and minimize potential surface attacks where needed by updating devices. Vulnerability checks on the network perimeter can flag for any potential entry points and have them fixed and regularly maintained.
- Malware protection: Having numerous connected devices opens numerous potential entry points for attackers to take advantage of. Having strong anti-malware protocols configured can help prevent compromised IoT devices from infecting servers.
- Threat detection: As edge computing will have an untold number of edge devices, admins simply won’t have time or the ability to oversee all potential security risks as and when they happen. This makes it crucial for an effective solution to have automated monitoring tools that can scan and flag for any potential breaches and security risks in real time.
How Does Edge Security Work?
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
Secure Access Service Edge is a broad term for software that enables edge security. SASE is a cloud-based security strategy that delivers WAN and security controls via a cloud service directly to end-users, no matter how close to – or far from – the edge they may be. This is implemented as a cloud computing service rather than through a data center. Its objective is to provide safe, secure, and fast access to end-users regardless of their location or device through a range of pre-set security policies that do not change regardless of how a user accesses their corporate network.
Edge security solutions can offer five main solutions, though not all will include everything on this list:
- Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)
SD-WAN is a software-based approach to managing a Wide Area Network (WAN) that is especially designed to work with the cloud. It utilizes a centralized control function to direct traffic across the WAN to SaaS and IaaS providers. This approach results in a secure connection to the internet for those outside of the physical data center. Twined with SSE security measures which we’ll talk about further down, SD-WAN is what helps end-users actually connect to their apps and data.
Traditional WANs are based entirely on hardware network devices, making it difficult to work with the cloud and edge devices. SD-WAN oversees everything including management, making everything more visible for admins. It provides faster, more secure application performance, more streamlined management for admins, and enhanced cloud capabilities. It’s highly adaptable, allowing for any new branch offices to be adopted seamlessly, meaning secure connections for this branch can be configured without too much hassle.
A secure web gateway is a barrier that prevents unauthorized traffic from accessing a network. SWGs are installed as software on the edge of a network. This gateway only permits users to access secure, pre-approved websites. Every other website is blocked. This measure prevents malware and viruses from accessing company servers and data, as well as preventing risk caused by human error, such as through details being leaked via phishing websites. Some gateway software can also prevent information and data being leaked if it detects an action that leads away from these approved sites.
It’s often deployed as a standalone tool but has been adopted into the SASE framework to create a holistic, cloud-based approach to security. As part of the SASE architecture, SWGs can help companies enforce their security policies to make accessing the internet safe and help protect unauthorized data from being transferred.
Read our guide to the top secure web gateway solutions here.
- Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA)
A protocol that essentially requires end-users to log in manually every time they wish to access applications. The applications will be completely hidden, and access is heavily restricted. The ZTNA policy, after verifying the users requesting access, will allow access. ZTNA offers a more secure alternative to granting access based on IP addresses. It can also deploy specific access control policies based on location or device, preventing any risky devices from connecting to the server. The overall intention is to completely remove applications from public view, reducing an area of risk.
ZTNA can utilize identity-based authentication, often in the format of 2-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication, to add extra layers of defense at the point of sign-in. Even with access permissions granted, admins can still monitor user behavior for anything they deem malicious or unusual. In addition to implementing secure authentication methods to make sure the end user is who they say they are, ZTNA capabilities allow admins to only grant the user access to data and applications that they need for their work, and not anyone else’s. It also enforces security policies on any third-party applications that are part of the network, to protect any data that may be stored there.
Read our guide to the top zero trust security solutions here.
- Cloud-Access Security Broker (CASB)
CASB safeguards the connection between users and their devices to cloud applications. It’s essentially a security checkpoint situated between cloud-based users and cloud-based service providers. Data, information, and systems will be secured by the company’s predetermined security policies, malware prevention, and strong encryption methods. CASB allows for security policies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single-sign on methods to be applied.
CASBs also have a secondary function by helping organizations detect where their data is being stored in applications across the network, when it is being transported, and when (and where) it is being accessed.
CASBs come in either of two formats: traditional or integrated. Out of the two, an integrated approach is preferable. Traditional CASBs struggle to integrate new cloud applications quickly and effectively due to having static, manual application libraries. Traditional CASBs also only offer basic cloud security and most modern communication apps are often not covered by their API protection.
Integrated, on the other hand, merges any gaps between cloud and enterprise security. Modern CASBs integrate with existing security platforms, allowing for it to detect and respond to risks across the network. Integrated adopts new applications quickly and implements API-based security protocols that scan for sensitive data, policy violations, and any potential malware or ransomware threats.
Read our guide to the top CASB solutions here.
- Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS)
Strong SASE solutions will also include cloud-friendly firewall measures that enable firewalls to be deployed on the cloud infrastructure to protect any data and apps on it. FWaaS can be applied at all entry points, monitoring all traffic as it comes and goes. It is consistent with its application, dictated by an array of predetermined policies. For admins, it provides full network visibility and complete control.
SASE vs Security Service Edge
Security service edge (SSE) is often just considered a subset of security protocols that fall under SASE. SASE is essentially made up of two blocks: SSE and WAN. While SSE unifies the security measures, WAN unifies the network services. It’s a comprehensive platform that is deployed as a single platform, rather than a mash of services deployed independently of each other, which is a driver in its efficiency and effectiveness.
SSE is a consolidation of the CASB, SWG, FWaaS, and ZTNA protocols mentioned above. SSE works to provide three main features: secure access to applications and servers (CASB), and secure remote access to private applications (ZTNA), and secure access to the internet (SWG). Its value lies in how it combines these security measures into one. SSE delivers strong security, while strong SD-WAN capabilities allows for greater ease of use and navigation. SSE can be deployed as a single solution that merges well with any existing WAN services that may be in place.
With a phenomenal rise in edge computing and the use of edge computing devices being used for business, having a secure, cloud-friendly solution that delivers comprehensive security as well as being fast and user friendly is vital in keeping your data secure. In 2018, IoT devices in use was at 23.1 billion. This figure is expected to rise to 75.4 billion by 2025. With so many of these devices being connected to a network – and often on the edge of it – it poses significant security risks. Having the right security edge solutions configured mitigates these risks.
Implementing a SASE framework that delivers adaptable, secure, yet intuitive and straightforward software for end users and admins alike is the best approach when safeguarding data and information beyond a data center.