How to Secure Your Edges Without Inhibiting Productivity

By Jonathan Nguyen-Duy | May 05, 2022

Most organizations used traditional hub-and-spoke network model for connecting branch offices with data centers. Unfortunately, this type of network architecture is quickly becoming obsolete with the emergence of the hybrid, work-from-anywhere (WFA) workforce and much more distributed computing. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation and drove employees to work remotely, away from a traditional workplace, and many are now functioning like "branches of one" and hybrid work models.   

This development means network edges have dramatically expanded. The shift from traditional enterprise perimeters to remote work and cloud adoption means users now need consistent networking and security performance from any location, on any device, using any access methodology. At many organizations, user productivity is suffering because traditional network architectures simply cannot fully support remote workers need to access cloud-based network resources. The practical need for consistent, high networking, security and computing performance across LAN, WAN, data center and cloud edges is a big reason why networking and security must converge to meet the needs of today’s workforce.

Security at the Network Edge

Focusing on security at the network edge is now paramount and for security to work effectively, it cannot just be “bolted on.” It must be at the forefront of a network’s design. Security needs to be converged with the network and together provide seamless connectivity, along with visibility and control to ensure users have fast and safe access to applications – where ever they’re located.

If security solutions are not well-integrated, then the underlying network, gaps will be present and grow as the attack surface expands and evolves. These holes in coverage will quickly become opportunities that can be exploited by cyberattacks like ransomware. These gaps are where misconfigured devices dwell, vulnerabilities go unpatched and anomalous behavior goes uninvestigated.

A Security-Driven Network Strategy

Organizations require a strategy where security and networking function as a unified framework to provide dependable connections anywhere on the network. This security-driven network strategy calls for automated protection that covers the entire attack surface and to enable policies to follow users and applications. The success of this strategy is based on having security applied consistently everywhere, no matter if WAN transport is broadband, satellite, LTE/4G/5G, or MPLS.

Organizations need to understand that the work-from-anywhere model has advantages along with major security risks. It is imperative for CISOs and IT leaders to employ a security-driven networking strategy so that their users can work safely and productively wherever they are located. Zero Trust is a key component in the strategy because it automatically secures remote access and verifies who and what is on the network – applying least priviledge-based network access. It also secures application access no matter where users are located by continuously verifying users and devices. Simply stated, Zero Trust ensures that only legitimate users, can only access what’s needed for them to perform their jobs.  

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) takes network access security to the next level of protection by apply access control and monitoring at an application level for each session - providing persistent protection.  It extends the principles of Zero Trust to verify users and devices before every application session. ZTNA confirms that they meet the organization’s policy to access that application for all sessions. Thereby adding continuous contextual risk assessment as well. 

Users appreciate ZTNA because it is consistent, seamless, and doesn’t slow them down. When they launch an application and their identity is verified, an encrypted tunnel is automatically created to offer the users secure access to applications and data. Enterprises also appreciate ZTNA because it supports both on-premises and in the cloud access.

Network Complexity Leads to Increased Vulnerability and Decreased Productivity

In addition to the WFA challenges, network complexity is another issue CISOs must contend with because it can degrade user experiences. Over the past few years, the gigantic growth of network edges, cloud platforms, and tools have correspondingly added operational complexity, lessened visibility, and widened cracks in defenses. When IT security personnel can’t simplify processes, understand what's occurring, or patch the gaps, network users are inevitably and negatively affected. Of course, this results in increased vulnerability and decreased productivity across the enterprise.

Another negative aspect of network complexity is that it exacerbates the time and effort needed to resolve problems that can cause network outages and reduce flexibility. When networks are too complicated for monitoring tools to function properly, then there is a paucity of data or insights for accurately evaluating the performance of vital business applications.

Consolidating Solutions and Vendors

By consolidating the number of network and security solutions and vendors, companies can get more visibility into and control of their networks. Then by applying automated and centralized management tools like Fortinet offers, organizations can reduce the amount of manual configuration, downtime, and number of security breaches. Consolidating from dozens of point products to a handful of platforms for prevention, detection and response also offers opportunities to reduce total cost of ownership. 

With the latest digital experience monitoring tools, IT teams can observe applications—from end user across the network through to the infrastructure that the app is hosted on. Our solutions can also offer data for incident management and help IT teams address poor performance problems.  The need for better user experiences and business outcomes is at the heart of the platform consolidation trend that is manifested in a cybersecurity mesh architecture.

Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture

A cybersecurity mesh architecture can help organizations reduce complexity and improve security. The goal of a mesh architecture is to place security everywhere it’s needed—with consistent policies and automation, along with deep visibility across their full deployments. Organizations that use modern security-driven networking technologies with simplified operations get a positive ROI via improved employee productivity—even if it is a branch of one or more complex. It can protect the converged physical network through security-driven networking and the virtual extension of the network into the public cloud with adaptive cloud security.