Why Secure SD-WAN is a Pillar of Enterprise Cybersecurity

While the networking industry chatter is centered on hot topics like ZTNA and SASE, it's easy to forget to check in on existing solutions like SD-WAN.

Why Secure SD-WAN is a Pillar of Enterprise Cybersecurity
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Whether to address the dramatic spike in remote users during the pandemic or support growing network traffic at branch locations, most modern enterprises have deployed a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) within their environments. While the industry has moved on to topics like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), it’s always a good idea to assess whether your SD-WAN vendor is meeting all your current and future needs.

When initially deploying SD-WAN, many organizations prioritized transforming the networks (making data and applications available efficiently for their employees) and treated security as an afterthought. This has left businesses open to cyberattacks and in danger of costly breaches.

At the same time, SD-WAN use cases continue to evolve, and organizations are leveraging the technology in new ways that make its security of the utmost importance.

CIOs shouldn’t underestimate the importance of SD-WAN security and should make it a priority to assess how their organizations are using the technology and ensuring they are utilizing the best, most secure offering possible.

Three ways SD-WAN has grown in importance

Transforming more than the WAN

Traditionally, companies leveraged SD-WAN over standard wide-area networks (WAN) to optimize traffic and create a seamless user experience for those at branch locations. Having seen the benefits of utilizing software-defined solutions, organizations want to extend this transformation across their entire infrastructure, including local area networks (LAN), wireless local area networks, and wireless wide area networks (WWAN). SD-WAN is critical to integrating these components to simplify the environment’s overall architecture and management.

Operational efficiency within multi-cloud environments

Modern enterprises often use various cloud providers for different infrastructure and application needs. This multi-cloud approach lets them select the best offering for different areas of their business, lock in the best prices, and improve user experience. Despite the benefits, this type of environment is complex to manage and challenging to secure. SD-WAN has emerged as the solution of choice for multi-cloud organizations because it provides an application-aware network infrastructure with uniform policies while simplifying management and reducing costs.

Laying the groundwork for SASE

SASE, which converges networking capabilities like SD-WAN with cloud-delivered security services, is the hot topic of the day. And while a number of organizations aim to deploy SASE to extend secure access and high-performance connectivity to users anywhere, it can be a daunting task to build such a comprehensive solution. Because most organizations are using SD-WAN already, this technology becomes the cornerstone of their SASE approach, which is even more reason to ensure you have the best, most secure SD-WAN solution to build upon.

Three ways to ensure your SD-WAN is secure

Security and networking should be integrated

The biggest issue with SD-WAN is that most vendors bolt security on top of the solution rather than weaving it in from the start. Even more precarious, some organizations use a separate solution or service to secure their SD-WAN, introducing unnecessary complexity and risk into their environment. A fully integrated solution will not only address both networking and security together but will also work seamlessly with other security solutions. Take a critical look at your SD-WAN and ask yourself if it feels like security was given as much thought as its networking capabilities.

Strong traffic inspection with minimal performance impact

Nearly all network traffic is encrypted to protect critical information and assets from bad actors. However, cybercriminals grow increasingly sophisticated and hide malware inside encrypted traffic, which is why network security solutions must inspect encrypted traffic to protect the network. Organizations need SD-WAN solutions that offer deep packet inspection without impacting user experience and network performance.

Scaling without errors

Your SD-WAN solution should make scaling easy rather than a source of stress. Look for a single solution that can dynamically scale both networking and security to any number of sites. It’s also critical to leverage an SD-WAN solution with unified, easy-to-use management across sites and one that can work seamlessly with a distributed control architecture.

Treating SD-WAN security as a cybersecurity pillar

These are just three tips for assessing the security of your SD-WAN solution. While the networking industry chatter is centered on hot topics like ZTNA and SASE, it's easy to forget to check in on existing solutions like SD-WAN. And a lot can change in terms of product capabilities in a short period of time. It's critical to take the security of your SD-WAN deployments seriously and work with a vendor who understands the importance of consistently refining their offering with cutting-edge security capabilities to protect critical business assets.

Nirav Shah is Vice President of Products and Solutions at Fortinet.

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About the Author(s)

Nirav Shah, Vice President of Products and Solutions, Fortinet

Nirav Shah is vice president of products and solutions at Fortinet. He has more than 15 years of experience working in the enterprise networking and security industry. Nirav serves as the products and solutions lead for Fortinet’s Security-Driven Networking portfolio with a focus on SD-WAN, network firewall, SASE, segmentation, and NOC products. Prior positions include senior software developer and senior product manager for enterprise networking and security solutions at Cisco.

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