Business & Technology

The Security Risks Presented by Complex Networks

By Nirav Shah | May 01, 2018

Regardless of the industry, vertical, or market segment they compete in, your customers’ network architectures are becoming more distributed and complex. Where networks were once largely built around isolated data centers, they now connect with the cloud, applications, and various IoT devices. This trend promises to continue moving forward, with the number of connected devices in use expected to grow to 125 billion by 2030.

These distributed networks give your customers more options for how they interact with their users, run their businesses, as well as enhance their capabilities to store and analyze data at faster speeds.

However, these changes can also open up gaps in security. Security teams must now monitor and manage events across their broad and often unconnected ecosystems in order to detect threats in a timely manner, as well as to ensure that insufficient protection in one area of the network does not result in a broader compromise. Specifically, monitoring security across branches, campuses, the data center, and the cloud has become a key challenge for network security teams. This challenges is compounded by their having deployed solutions from multiple vendors, each with different management consoles and little integration, which adds complexity and reduces security protection, detection, and response.

To address these challenges, your customers must reconsider their approach to security to minimize the chances of security gaps and resulting data breaches as they their expand networks. What they require is broad, unified coverage across their specialized network security projects from a few, or even one vendor to enable deep integration between devices deployed at these various locations, often in completely different form factors, as well as unified automation to increase efficiency and speed to response.

The Security Risks Presented by Complex Networks

While distributed networks built around different ecosystems, such as physical or cloud environments, present many opportunities, there are numerous ways in which they also create risks for your customers. Complex networks have more entryways and points of interaction than ever for cybercriminals to target, making it more likely they will be able to find a vulnerability to exploit, that inconsistent security measures can slip, and that threats can spread rapidly once the perimeter has been compromised. There are three core security challenges presented by complex networks.

Need for Manpower

Today’s complex network infrastructures require more time and manpower than ever to manage and ensure security. New endpoints, applications, and multi-cloud environments mean that security teams have to monitor each solution separately to ensure they have consistent visibility into data use and movement across the network, as well as to detect and prevent any security incidents. Employing a team that can track all of these instances across such a complex and elastic network has become increasingly difficult due to the current cybersecurity skills gap. As a result, security events, necessary updates, and general network activity are more likely to go unnoticed or be misidentified. For example, 82 percent of organizations currently have difficulty even identifying all of the connected devices in their network, let alone detecting advanced threats.

Disparate Solutions

Your customers know security is necessary. Therefore, as they add network capabilities they are also often adding the specific security features needed to protect those individual areas. However, adding multiple, disparate, and often isolated solutions to the network actually increases complexity, which in turns decreases security efficacy. A 2016 Forrester survey commissioned by Fortinet found that 70 percent of respondents were maintaining 51 or more firewalls, which translates into a significant number of policies to manage. Additionally, these networks usually comprise both modern and legacy technology, all with different degrees of built-in security and control. The resulting complex architecture affects how security solutions are distributed across the network, how threats and vulnerabilities are identified, and even how patches are administered.


Cybercriminals are becoming more advanced by using sophisticated tools such as Autosploit that leverage automation and AI to make their attacks more effective. These attacks also increasingly targeting attack new vectors, such as IoT devices and cloud environments, which are part of complex networks where new vulnerabilities exist and the greater number of entryways and access points are more difficult to secure. To combat this threat, customers with distributed networks need to minimize complexity where possible, especially in regard to security. By centralizing their efforts, your customers can enhance visibility to prevent and detect threats across the network.

Removing Complexity from Security with FortiOS 6.0

As disparate security solutions add complexity to network security, which, in turn, exacerbates the effects of the cybersecurity skills gap, your customers need to find ways to limit complexity and overcome resource limitations even as their networks continue to grow. To do this, your customers must focus on:

Ensuring they combine visibility with automation to provide control across the network

Maintaining high-speed and throughput performance, including traditionally CPU-intensive activities such as SSL inspection needed for campus data center locations

New Initiatives such as secure SD-WAN to meet specialized branch requirements

Simplified and efficient operations that span multiple networked ecosystems for unified visibility, management, and orchestration

These areas of focus ensure that security teams have deep visibility into data use and movement across the network, from IoT to the cloud, to stop threats in real time without impacting network performance. To increase operational efficiency, your customers must also integrate their security systems into a single, holistic security framework. This unified approach allows them to collect, correlate, and communicate threat intelligence automatically in order to block malicious traffic and minimize the level of management required by IT teams.

FortiOS 6.0 is the foundation for the next generation of network security, enabling your customers to take an architectural approach to security – providing visibility, performance, and efficiency. The FortiOS 6.0 operating system brings each layer of network security deployed across distributed environments together into a single, intuitive fabric that security teams can easily manage and automate.

The broad reach of the Fortinet Security Fabric means that devices, branch offices, data centers, hybrid architectures, and more, are each reinforced with the security features they require, with the added ability for each solution or networked ecosystem to inform the others. For example, enhancements in the SD-WAN space enable advanced networking that increases WAN efficiency without hindering security efforts.

Many firewalls have fallen behind in enhancing their capabilities to meet today’s changing enterprise needs driven by a more mobile workforce and distributed, digital branches.  However, Fortinet’s FortiGate Next-Generation Firewall, integrated into the Security Fabric, provides centralized management for SD-WANs that reduces costs, simplifies configuration, and enhances protections with integrated security. This allows customers to adopt this new dynamic and adaptive networking technology without having to add yet another security solution to their stack that would unnecessarily increase complexity.  Learn more about how your customers can ensure their NGFW is meeting their enterprise needs here.

Today’s automated attacks require an automated response. Those organizations that continue to rely on the manual management of security data and solutions will not be able to respond to sophisticated threats in time to mitigate them. The automation offered by FortiOS 6.0 gives customers the efficiency they need to respond to the rapid, sophisticated threats being executed by today’s cybercriminals. Based on a common threat intelligence framework, the Fabric is able to conduct an automated and coordinated response that reduces the time between detection and remediation.

Final Thoughts

Your customers’ corporate networks are constantly becoming more complex and distributed. As more solutions are deployed, and more management is needed, disorganized security measures are created. To ensure that increasingly complex infrastructures do not lead to a breach, your customers must review their security processes to ensure they provide sufficient visibility, performance, and efficiency. The broad, integrated, and automated approach of FortiOS 6.0 does just that, allowing networks to grow while remaining secure.

Learn more about the advantages of FortiOS 6.0 on the Fortinet Partner Portal.

Read this solution guide to learn how the Fortinet Security Fabric takes the complexity out of security with integration and automation across all your cloud environments.

Check out our latest Quarterly Threat Landscape Report for more details about recent threats. Sign up for our weekly FortiGuard intel briefs or register for the new FortiGuard Threat Intelligence Service.