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Looking at What’s Driving Edge Computing’s New Security Strategy

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SD-WAN security
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Edge computing is one of the most talked-about emerging technologies, with industry analysts predicting it will reach an inflection point in 2021. IDC predicts that the edge computing market worldwide will grow to $250.6 billion by 2024.

Edge computing offers the promise of accelerated data-driven decision-making for better business outcomes and customer experiences by bringing applications closer to IoT devices and local edge servers. Faster, more accurate information means better insights driving proactive, predictive decisions that continually improve performance. It's this accelerated agility, innovation, and cost-savings that is the underlying dynamic in digital transformation. 

As a result of this shift, the traditional network perimeter is rapidly expanding with multiple new edge computing devices – some with and many without security features. 

Each of these has its own unique set of risks and raises the level of complexity. Cybercriminals are fully aware of these vulnerabilities, as well as the fact that far too many organizations continue to be challenged by basic security hygiene and standard controls. They also know that organizations often sacrifice security to maximize agility and performance between these interconnected edges. This lack of adequate security measures has led threat actors to marshal their resources towards targeting and exploiting new edge environments, especially the home office branch and remote workers.

The emergence of edge computing means a much more hybrid enterprise ecosystem – spanning the LAN, WAN, and cloud edges. It moves the focus attention from router-based, hub and spoke MPLS networks to an increasingly virtualized and disaggregated, software-defined distributed computing ecosystem employing Zero Trust security principles. 

The continuous drive for faster, better information delivering better outcomes and experiences is the foundation of edge-based computing. As such, success cannot be compromised by poor network or security performance. The quest for faster and better outcomes will continue to drive hyperscale operations, accelerated networks, and AI-powered automation. These forces are not going away and will continue to shape technology. What's clear is that hybrid environments will are here to stay, as is the need for end-to-end security across the LAN, WAN, and cloud edges. Here are four key issues to keep watching as edge computing becomes the norm and gradually overtakes the cloud.

The rise of IP-enabled devices

Internet-of-Things devices, aka “IoT devices,” continue to proliferate. In 2019, IDC predicted that there would be 41.6 billion IoT devices or “things” deployed in 2025 – things like edge servers and sensors, ranging from industrial to consumer applications, will form constellations of interconnected entities at the edge. Their ability to very quickly collect and share data allows proactive and predictive decisions for continual process improvements that are at the heart of all digital transformation initiatives. 

It also includes examples like autonomous, self-driving cars, which are moving away from telemetry-based awareness, in which they’re sending information from the car to the cloud and receiving information back from the cloud, to a model in which autonomous vehicles are networked with each other.

The growth of 5G

Edge computing and 5G go hand in hand, as 5G is what will ultimately enable the low latency between where the data is collected, processed, and used to generate greater productivity.  5G is becoming available to an increasingly wider swath of consumers and enterprises, and due to pent-up demand, there is strong momentum in the global 5G market. Given the promise of incredibly fast speeds, huge payloads, and highly reliable services supporting more devices than ever, it's no surprise that service providers are investing heavily in 5G. These high-speed networks will enable augmented reality to dramatically improve user experiences and a wide range of latency-sensitive use cases for contactless commerce and industrial applications. 

What must be kept top of mind with respect to the attack possibilities against 5G is that they include far more than the volumetric DDoS attacks and signaling protocol-specific hacks of the past. It also accelerates the exploitation of web application vulnerabilities, lateral propagation, automated opportunistic attacks, and all manner of malware.

Distributed hybrid environments

Businesses are transitioning to a model of distributed hybrid environments. Some workloads will remain in the cloud, such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management (CRM), and other SaaS solutions. But new applications aren’t going to be in the cloud – increasingly, they’re going to be on the edge. What was once the network perimeter, a narrow point of access at the edge of the network, now spreads across the entire IT infrastructure and beyond the traditional trusted zone. This introduces new security requirements across all of the edges that make up the new network—the WAN, local-area network (LAN), data center, remote workers, and cloud access. Watch how cloud service providers will adapt services to deliver them closer to the edge. Pay attention in particular to developments in SD-WAN and SASE to support new hybrid networks.  

Securing the edge

It's now clear that enterprises have more edges than ever, and it's only going to increase. The rapid adoption of edge computing speaks to the necessity of quickly relaying and receiving information to enable instantaneous communication and interaction. 5G, distributed environments and IP-enabled devices are driving this adoption. The edge holds tremendous potential for myriad new or improved products and services, some of which – like smart factories, homes, cities, and a multitude of consumer applications.

The acceleration of edge-based computing will continue as even faster developments in 5G technology becomes available, along with the power of AI to process and apply vast volumes of newly generated data. To stay abreast of these developments, security teams will need to address the requirement for visibility and control across the LAN, WAN, and cloud edges. 

Consider how these developments will impact your organization as you fine-tune your cybersecurity strategy for the new year.

Jonathan Nguyen-Duy is vice president, global field CISO team at Fortinet.