In 2020, you’ll need SD-WAN technology and increased security measures

A recent enterprise networking report from Gartner deemed that SD-WAN is rapidly moving toward becoming a “mainstream technology”. And for good reason - it’s quite effective if implemented successfully, overseeing many of the inherent issues that arise when managing software and applications in disparate workstreams. That’s why it was included in Gartner’s 2019 “Hype Cycle” enterprise report. But in order to ensure maximum effectiveness, Network Operations (NetOps) teams must have full visibility into the network, and never overlook the unintended security risks that come with SD-WAN adoption. 

The role of the NetOps team has changed drastically within the last few years, due to a number of reasons. Technology itself has rapidly progressed over the past decade or so, with organizations heralding internal digital transformations that include cloud migration and integrating new and expanded applications. Mixed with the nature of businesses becoming much more global, managing the flow of traffic across departments and data centers becomes increasingly difficult.

That’s where SD-WAN comes in. SD-WAN is an extremely helpful tool that enables NetOps teams to seamlessly deliver applications and traffic across long distances, while mitigating against the challenges that arise in the process. However, the technology can also lend to more challenges, as it complicates monitoring which can increase risk exposure when left unaddressed. Put simply, for NetOps teams to experience the full benefits of SD-WAN deployment, it’s critical that they maintain end-to-end visibility of networks, with a streamlined focus on identifying security exposure and the subsequent risks.

Prioritising security

Deployment of SD-WAN technology can’t be rushed without properly preparing for the prospective consequences, such as the increased potential of an attack. In short, as siloed sites and locations become easier to address publicly online, so increases the opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit the growing attack surface. In the past, when traffic was more consolidated - i.e. routed back to one core site - it was much easier for corporate security offices to protect it centrally. This is no longer the case today. The expanded attack surface offers increased exposure of corporate information and assets to external and internal stakeholders alike. 

Moreover, uniformly deploying different SD-WAN vendors can lead to siloed management and security levels, as they don’t naturally integrate in these sectors (therefore creating more work to do so). With a larger volume of users across disparate infrastructures comes an increase in the difficulty of real-time monitoring for threats, which traditional security solutions weren’t designed to accommodate. As a result, NetOps teams must look to new technologies that provide full visibility across the entire network and perimeter. That’s why organizations relying solely on a firewall for security should look for solutions that protect both the perimeter and the internal network of remote sites. 

SD-WAN has a number of benefits but one small gap in an otherwise well-built network can be make or break. Ensure that the team is well equipped - both knowledge-wise and financially - prior to deployment to ensure optimal performance and security of networks. 

Here’s the fix

To combat the unintended security vulnerability of integrating this technology, companies should supplement existing perimeter protections with high-end intrusion software, choosing an option that is economically and operationally sound in managing multiple disparate locations. 

This responsibility falls on the NetOps teams to take control of and be responsible for their organization’s security, rather than relying solely on vendors and third parties for protection. While vendors may offer very baseline security protections, they aren’t able to address the full gamut of potential issues, and add-ons such as intrusion prevention, web filtering, IPSec inspection and sandboxing, SSL and malware analysis are critical to a secure network. After all, SD-WAN performance visibility only addresses the WAN, but has no threat detection visibility inside the core, DC or cloud of a network to see events like lateral movement, internal attacks, BYOD threats, IoT threats, etc. that get beyond perimeter protection that SD-WAN can offer either natively or with 3rd party firewalls. 

This, of course, means that organizations should devote time and resources to ensure the NetOps team has a comprehensive and well thought out plan prior to integration. This not only requires a full assessment of the technology, but also strategic thinking around security risks, operational capabilities and deployment processes. 

As Gartner noted, SD-WAN continues to hold relevance in enterprise technology as it can offer increased reliability and efficiency and cut costs. However, companies must take the necessary precautions to ensure they’re not exposing themselves to critical security risks to fully reap the expansive benefits of the technology. 

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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