From the growing adoption of distributed cloud to the proven benefits of remote mobile workforces, the attack surface for bad actors is ever-widening. This means the requirements for network security have also evolved with the growing threats of increasingly distributed systems.
Security should not take a backseat to innovation in digital businesses. Of course, innovation and speed will require businesses to build secure systems, which means we can no longer afford to implement security only at the service level. We need to apply adaptable solutions from the architecture level that will change with digital business requirements.
The following article will explore the trends spurring transformation in digital security and techniques businesses can use to make network security more manageable.
Why we need Transformation
While digitization is indeed a key element coaxing transformation forward, it is not the only one. There are a number of technological and cultural shifts fueling the need for more dynamic network security.
Traditionally, companies would store their data in dedicated databases or data warehouses. Network administrators could access these entities from on-premise (or near premise) physical servers. Of course, it's easier to secure your data when you know where it is and who has access.
The benefits of database virtualization for effective cloud migration have been well established. Despite this, data migration can still be an arduous challenge, especially for data that's been amassed over decades.
The scary truth is businesses need not only worry about data security post-migration, but they also need to worry about it during the migration phase. Therefore, companies should hire a data migration specialist to ensure that the entire process goes smoothly and guarantee that it complies with regulations such as HIPAA and PCI-DSS.
Software development firms or companies that supply software services will also need to hire knowledgeable developers who have worked with cloud technology - even if it is just on a temporary basis. These days, hiring an experienced freelance developer should cost you between $45 to $60 an hour if you are looking to update your legacy systems.
Different companies will have unique data migration and infrastructure requirements. Some may fully endorse a private cloud solution, but because the process is often gradual, most businesses will move from on-premises to hybrid cloud to full private or public cloud. Some organizations may feel that a hybrid cloud solution fully supports their needs. We need flexible, infrastructure-led innovation to address these different use cases.
Changing workforce dynamics
For many workers, the rise of remote work has been the silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to one survey, 58% of workers would like to continue working remotely post-pandemic, while 39% desire a hybrid work environment. Furthermore, 58% also stated that they would certainly look for another job if restricted from continuing with remote work post-pandemic.
However, remote work does pose new security questions that demand innovative answers.
Introducing external devices that remotely connect to internal networks presents new breach points for cybercriminals. Furthermore, more and more employees may be doing work on unsecured networks, like coffee shops or their own homes. Protecting sensitive data while working remotely should be on the top of our priority list.
Rapid technological advancement
Despite the approaching death of Moore's law, technological growth and advancement have not slowed. From our cars to our alarm systems, we can remotely monitor and synchronize devices.
But if we're not careful, so can cybercriminals. Not only can they find ways to breach your business's network through official company devices, but they can worm themselves in through employee wearables that connect to the Wi-Fi.
If not addressed correctly, all these pinholes in your company's defenses can be expanded into cannon ball-sized holes. This is why we need to employ network security solutions as dynamic as the technology and software they are meant to protect.
Real solutions in network security transformation
Now that we've addressed the why, we need to look at the how. Here are some pragmatic solutions that can be implemented to start securing your network as soon as possible:
Virtualization & Cloud
Virtualization isn't a new concept, but thanks to the cloud, it is more relevant now than ever. It’s one of the fundamental technologies the cloud relies upon. Virtualization allows you to create multiple simulated, virtual machines that behave like a physical device. Cloud companies provide the environment and services that let us generate, store, and move around virtual machines.
Despite the risks outlined above, migration to a cloud-based infrastructure can actually improve an organization’s security posture. Reason being cloud providers can generally afford to invest in more robust security measures and cloud providers make it easy for users to isolate data resources within virtual machines.
Many small businesses find virtual private servers to be their most feasible foray into cloud-based infrastructure. As web developer Alex Williams from Hosting Data notes, security is much stronger with a Virtual Private Server. "Security is less of a concern and more robust," says Williams. "VPS goes to an intense standard to prevent casualties."
From these statements, it's safe to surmise that the cloud can provide strong security, at least on the infrastructure level. But the new system also brings new challenges. What we need to consider is how businesses access and work with this infrastructure. Users still need network devices to access cloud services, and that's a key vulnerability.
We haven't just virtualized infrastructure but security measures too. For instance, we've moved from network-based firewalls to host-based virtual firewalls. They are as scalable and dynamic as the virtual machines and servers they protect. Since we have cloud-based infrastructure, we can also have cloud-based security.
Zero-trust security model
Zero-Trust describes an ethos, methodology, and implementable system. Under a zero-trust model, businesses should not grant implicit trust to a user, device, or application based solely on a particular attribute (such as their network location or previous logins).
Zero-trust cannot be delivered by simply purchasing and implementing a piece of technology. It requires infrastructural change where businesses must utilize access control tools for validation. For instance, companies can use Just-in-Time (JIT) privilege access management (PAM), where access is only granted to specific actors during a predetermined period of time.
Businesses will also be required to change how they manage their access points. They'll need to utilize new login protocols and practices, including multi-factor authentication and behavior-based oversight. Zero-trust is an intersectional approach that will require a shift in infrastructure and a change in employee culture.
The future of cybersecurity will hinge on automation. Tools such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will guide the trajectory of infrastructure that is naturally conducive to network security. What we need are dynamic and scalable solutions that require as little human supervision as possible.
Cybercriminals have already started using AI and ML to forge more sophisticated cyberattacks. To counterattack this, network security specialists must create a secure environment that can adapt to the latest techniques in cybercrime and counterattack.
This means creating systems that monitor employee and network behavior constantly to identify and address breaches before they can spread throughout the network. Virtualization and zero-trust are important, but automation will be the glue that holds everything together because it allows systems to be monitored 24/7. In this way, automation will help security catch up with the speed of the cloud.
The progression of digital business should never outpace network security developments. Despite how convenient it may seem, we cannot prioritize digital advancement first and leave security as an afterthought. The goal now is to build environments and infrastructure that are secure from the foundation up.
This will involve assuming a shift-left policy for technology and software development where security testing is done earlier in the life cycle. Furthermore, engineering teams will be required to push short incremental code changes as opposed to large feature-heavy ones. Thus, innovation needs to occur on the human level as much as it does on the technological. That's the only way we can truly develop evolving security paradigms for future network infrastructure.