As enterprise networks evolve, deploying zero trust security is essential to protect them against cyber threats.
In the distributed enterprise, zero trust must be deployed at the network level, making it essential to understand SD-WAN and how it and SASE can help with zero trust implementation.
The Internet is the New “Network Perimeter”
Corporate IT environments have changed dramatically in recent years. Only a few years ago, IT resources were primarily located on-site, and most or all of a company’s employees worked from the office.
In the last few years, the adoption of cloud computing has accelerated, and nearly all companies use at least some cloud-based resources and plan to expand their cloud footprints in the future.
Additionally, the pandemic inspired a sudden switch to remote work that is likely to persist past the end of the pandemic.
As a result, the traditional network perimeter, which was the foundation for many corporate security strategies, has expanded and dissolved.
Today, corporate network perimeters encompass the entire Internet as internal traffic flows to cloud environments and remote workers’ machines.
Network-Level Security is Essential for Zero Trust
The expanding footprint of the corporate network and the growing sophistication of cyber threat actors have inspired many companies to pursue a zero trust security strategy.
Zero trust mandates that perimeter-based security strategies, which assume that all users and devices inside the network perimeter are authorized and trusted, be replaced by case-by-case validation of access requests.
Instead of trusting any insider, all devices and users are treated as a potential threat until determined otherwise.
However, while zero trust security is essential to effectively securing the new corporate network, it can be not easy to implement in practice.
An effective zero trust strategy is implemented and enforced at the network level for a few different reasons:
#1. Consistent Visibility and Enforcement
The modern corporate network spans various environments, including on-premise data centres, cloud-based infrastructure, and remote sites.
Enforcing zero trust consistently across all of these different environments requires implementing monitoring and security controls at a level shared by all devices.
#2. Lack of Infrastructure Access
In an on-premise data centre, an enterprise has full control over its underlying infrastructure and the ability to deploy appliance-based security solutions.
With increased cloud adoption, this is less often the case. The network is the one level where security teams have consistent access and the visibility that they require.
#3. Visibility into Inter-Device Communications
The primary objective of a zero-trust security strategy is to restrict requests for corporate resources based upon business needs.
To do so, companies need visibility into these access requests and inter-device communications, which occur at the network level.
#4. Ability to Impose Device Quarantines
Zero trust is a tool for corporate security, and the ability to isolate devices that pose a threat to the company is a core part of this.
Endpoint-level security controls may be bypassed or overcome on a compromised endpoint, making network-level controls the only way to ensure that zero trust policies are properly enforced.
#5. Centralized Monitoring and Management
Zero trust tools are only effective if they are properly configured and regularly monitored like any security solution. This is much easier to accomplish with a single, consolidated network-level solution than an array of standalone endpoint tools.
Legacy Solutions Don’t Meet the Needs of the Modern Enterprise
Network security is nothing new to many companies, so the need to implement zero trust at the network level might seem like an issue that can be solved with existing technology.
However, legacy security solutions have several shortcomings that cause them to fall short of business needs, such as:
Legacy security solutions were designed for a perimeter-focused security strategy used to protect assets located within the enterprise network.
Adapting these solutions to meet the needs of the modern distributed enterprise is often impossible without sacrificing network performance.
#2. Hardware-Based Segmentation
In on-premise networks, implementing network routing and segmentation using physical links was a workable approach.
However, as corporate networks expand and zero trust mandates more granular and adaptable network segmentation, an appliance and hardware-based approach is unsustainable and unscalable.
#3. Lack of Built-In Access Controls
Secure remote access is vital for a zero trust security strategy, especially for the growing remote workforce.
However, legacy remote access solutions, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), lack built-in access controls.
VPNs provide unrestricted access to corporate resources, making them ill-suited to implementing a zero trust security strategy.
Achieving Zero Trust with SD-WAN and SASE
Enforcing zero trust at the network level requires solutions that provide consistent visibility and security across the entire corporate WAN. While legacy solutions can’t accomplish this, SD-WAN and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) can.
SD-WAN implements a corporate WAN via a network of interconnected points of presence (PoPs). Traffic over the WAN is optimally and securely routed between these PoPs, helping to ensure high network performance.
Additionally, since all network traffic flows through an SD-WAN appliance, the enterprise has consistent visibility across its entire network.
SASE integrates SD-WAN with a full network security stack and moves it to the cloud. This provides the enforcement arm of zero trust across the entire corporate WAN.
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