Security-driven networking: why security and networking must converge

Fortinet International Inc

Tuesday, 01 September, 2020



As digital transformation continues apace, organisations must balance the need to support a distributed workforce and deliver exceptional user experiences with the requirement to keep the business secure. Whether organisations are supporting branch offices or remote workers (or a combination), the need for fast, reliable, and high-bandwidth networks continues to increase.

The catch-22 that organisations often find themselves in is that the very network improvements that make it easier for their distributed workforce to collaborate and operate effectively also opens doors for cybercriminals to attack the organisation more efficiently. This creates a real and urgent need for organisations to converge their security and networking efforts to deliver both connectivity and protection.

Traditionally, prioritising security often meant that businesses suffered in terms of connection speeds and the user experience. Security protocols often prevented speedy access to necessary systems, or prohibited remote access altogether. By its nature, strong security hindered business users’ ability to move fast. But, configuring networks for fast performance instead of security opened up vulnerabilities and gaps that could put organisations at significant risk of cyberattack. There was no viable option that offered fast performance and strong protection.

Security is a recognised risk not just to an organisation’s IT systems but to the business as a whole. Elevated to boardroom level, the security discussion is no longer focused on ‘if’ the organisation is attacked but ‘when’. Security budgets are determined based on the organisation’s crown jewels and risk appetite. Security must be inherent in everything an organisation does. This is becoming more complex as organisations work across a growing number of remote locations. Organisations need a solution that delivers secure connectivity alongside reduced costs, enhanced user experience, less exposure to risk, and a deeper understanding of where the business’s assets are.

Most organisations are working with limited resources, whether financially or in terms of the number of highly skilled network and security professionals inside the business. However, this is less of an issue than it used to be. The increasingly automated nature of cyberthreats means that simply throwing more resources at the problem won’t make it go away. Instead, organisations need to choose smart solutions that deliver security and performance while reducing complexity.

Many organisations are turning to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to deliver the user experience and connectivity needed to support digital transformation and the adoption of innovative technologies. This new approach to networking is a software overlay rather than a lift-and-shift upgrade, so it minimises risk while maximising performance.

SD-WAN lets organisations transform in stages, allowing new and old networks to co-exist. This reduces the complexity and effort required to redesign networks, providing a smooth migration path for any deployment models, from flat networks to highly segmented ones.

The missing piece of the SD-WAN puzzle, however, tends to be security. Most SD-WAN solutions don’t have security built in. This makes it difficult to achieve visibility across the entire distributed network, which is essential for strong security. Many organisations combat this challenge by deploying separate security solutions in different parts of the network; however, this can be counterproductive because it can isolate resources and make it impossible to see and deal with systemic threats.

Some organisations mistakenly believe their SD-WAN solution is automatically secure because it includes some basic firewall functionality. Relying on this functionality to secure critical assets is dangerous because it doesn’t include additional security tools like intrusion prevention, web filtering, anti-virus or anti-malware. Adding these solutions separately increases complexity and cost, as well as the burden on the IT team to manage all these disparate solutions.

When security is deployed as an afterthought, it can only react to changes in network connections. By contrast, integrating security into the networking functionality of the SD-WAN itself means that the security policies can adapt as quickly as the network does, addressing threats and preventing risky changes in real time. Moreover, it reduces complexity significantly by deploying a full suite of security tools inside the network instead of as discrete, add-on elements.

Security-driven networking is the ideal future in which security and networking are converged. These traditionally disparate functions need to work in harmony to deliver a network that delivers enhanced performance, exceptional user experiences, and reliable connectivity alongside a strong security posture.

As machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to evolve, these can be added to security-driven networking to deliver the ultimate goal: a self-defending, self-healing network. A secure SD-WAN solution with security built in from the ground up is the ideal starting place for organisations right now. This means IT teams can seamlessly and simultaneously manage networking and security functions using a single pane of glass, reducing complexity and costs, increasing performance and protection, and empowering organisations to continue operating at the speed they require to compete in a challenging marketplace.

Fortinet Secure SD-WAN is the only secure SD-WAN solution with security built in. To learn more about Fortinet Secure SD-WAN, including the benefits of SD-WAN, how to choose the right secure SD-WAN solution for your needs, and more, click here.

Image © Getty Images/gorodenkoff

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