These days, security teams no longer hold sole responsibility for an organization’s cybersecurity efforts toward network and data protection. Cybersecurity now has visibility all the way up to the board level and is a paramount requirement for all digital transformation strategies. But beyond that, strong security can serve as a business enabler by giving confidence to an organization and its customers that information is being kept safe.
Businesses today realize that traditional perimeter-based security tools are no longer adequate to protect them from a constantly evolving threat landscape. Especially with the work from anywhere environment caused by COVID-19, there is now too large of an attack surface and too many attack vectors to secure with walls around everything. Rather than attempting to build security around the network, these days the network itself must provide security. Traffic entering the network must be secured from start to finish and security and the network must operate fully integrated as one.
The evolving attack landscape
The world’s fragile state during the Covid crisis opened the door for an aggressive wave of cyberattacks. Ten years ago, being on-prem focused security personnel were able to identify network attacks very quickly, since most took place in the top-level layers of a system, often through a malware attack. These days however, vulnerabilities are exploited over long periods of time, with more massive destruction in mind.
This past year has shown us that even the largest, well-known businesses are susceptible to significant breaches, such as the Google and FireEye attacks. These businesses were considered to have some of the best security systems running to protect their data, yet they were still successfully hacked. Organizations can no longer assume that their business systems will remain safe.
Cyber thieves are also infiltrating through underlying networks, passing from router to router and accessing information located far below a system’s top level. The evolution of these attacks means that organizations may not be aware of a breach for long periods of time, increasing the amount of harm that can be performed.
Organizations should update their security strategies to address worst-case scenarios and assume that at some point they will be victims of attack. This means understanding that any single employee may serve as a hacker’s entry to access company systems. Anyone can be fooled by increasingly sophisticated attacks and click on a phishing email, resulting in an opening for malicious events.
Focus on analytics and visibility
To address these sophisticated attacks, analytics and visibility are instrumental in strengthening a organization’s security posture. Analytics and visibility deliver invaluable insights into a company’s ongoing security status and can help identify critical vulnerabilities previously unseen. While leaders traditionally have focused on their organizations’ connectivity and security, these days analytics and visibility are getting their fair share of attention.
The type of information this approach provides can prove vital for the rising number of businesses suffering an attack. The first challenge for a company which has identified a breach attempt and shut down its systems is to determine how far cyber thieves have infiltrated before being detected, and what exactly they accessed. This is particularly true in cases of ransomware, where an organization can determine the criminal’s activity on its systems. Hackers may claim they accessed and encrypted five terabytes of data, but a company may be able to see they collected only a handful of files before being shut out. Only with complete visibility will organizations have the information they need to counter a criminal’s claim.
Approaches to strengthen the architecture
Businesses can strengthen their network architecture against attacks through several approaches. For example, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) technologies should be a high priority for organizations to limit access to privileged accounts and data left easily accessible, particularly in today’s work-from-anywhere environment. Requiring authentication before granting access is an important way an organization can protect its network and keep data secure.
Many organizations need to reassess their infrastructure foundations before additional security approaches can be considered. Integration is critical for strengthening an organization’s network architecture since most have disparate systems that should ultimately be integrated. Integration will not only simplify the systems and their management, but it will also provide greater accessibility and flexibility. Achieving strong integration will enable businesses to have greater visibility into their systems, making it easier to identity and defend against incoming cyberattacks.
Steps toward a secure future
Approaches such as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) can go a long way toward strengthening an organization’s network architecture. SASE is the integration of security and networking solutions, such as firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) and ZTNA, into a unified service that can be delivered entirely through the cloud. Cloud delivery offers organizations greater flexibility, making it easy to apply security services and consistent policies where they are needed. Secure and seamless transition from the cloud is critical since so many applications are cloud based, including collaborative communications.
Cybersecurity needs to become more of an integrated consideration for every new project. For example, in today’s work-from-anywhere environment, every business area needs imbedded security, even those remote employees working at the kitchen table. Simply educating home workers and employees about security risks is not enough to protect companies from malicious attacks.
In today’s world where any organization can seem to be a target for cyberattack, a strongly secured network architecture and end-to-end visibility are the building blocks to a resilient security posture. Enabling a single point of control using approaches such as SASE will help ensure organizations can create a more streamlined and secure network architecture, whether from the office or remote locations. To protect private data and networks, all organizations should work toward a common goal – implementing a business approach that combines the three crucial elements of network architecture, security, and visibility.
Michael Wood is Chief Marketing Officer at Versa Networks.