SD-WAN Deployment: Branch Network Access Control

SD-WAN Deployment: Branch Network Access Control

As pandemic delays continue and remote workforces remain remote, lessons learned about zero trusts should be emphasized.

Security lessons from the Great Work-at-Home Experiment

The reality is that as states reopen and sometimes re-close, remote work will play an increasingly critical role in business through 2021 and beyond for some companies. Cybercriminals will therefore increase their activity, as demonstrated by the increase in viruses and the 600 new phishing attacks per day during the peak of the epidemic.

Initially, we noticed various COVID-19-related phishing attacks (including those that suggested they may originate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Following that, these attacks focused on upgrade packages and unemployment insurance, before moving on to vaccines and the securities market.

Currently, attackers target a variety of topics – from “staycations” to boat rentals and food deliveries. Additionally, they are not only using email for these efforts – online ads and mobile applications are also utilized.

It does not matter whether companies have developed more flexible policies for remote working to better meet the needs of their employees, for the time being, they should ensure that their techniques for telecommuting can support and protect remote network connectivity long-term.

The Clarity from Crisis

As a result of the pandemic, CISOs at first faced the world-shaking challenge of maintaining business continuity with 100% of the workforce shifting to telecommuting in only a few days. Many of the effective methods we have seen for this require a careful analysis of existing capacities so that instead of rushing to add new technologies, they use the capabilities of the solutions already in place.

When you consider those business goals when you assess what you have, you wind up asking the right questions about what data, processes, and applications are critical to maintaining the business.

A swift response to the incident led to a few “Aha!” moments and subsequently centralized security practices across the branches (i.e. real and virtual infrastructure). Many companies did not think about some of the bottlenecks and weak spots in their infrastructure.

Even though most people are aware that phishing messages are a threat, many may not have anticipated that corporate laptops would be at risk if someone in the same family clicked on a link while playing online games.

After these issues became apparent, a few organizations made changes and augmentations to their network environments in a way and rate that made it difficult to understand the downstream effects.

What Makes a Good SD-Branch Solution

The following are the attributes to consider when evaluating SD-Branch solutions:

The ability to handle IoT: It is difficult to protect LAN edges without knowing what they are connected to. To implement policies at the LAN and WAN edges, it is essential to have visibility into the users and gadgets using branch services.

Similarly, network access control (NAC) needs to be integrated into an SD-Branch solution. It needs to be able to be managed from the same integrated platform as the other core components to facilitate deployment and troubleshooting.

Managing the transition

Even though it appeared daunting at first, from a technical standpoint, implementing a robust and secure telecommuter program wasn’t nearly as troublesome as many companies anticipated. But if we want to accomplish everything viably and under a tight deadline, we’ll need to have the right policies and embrace change.

While some companies have implemented normal VPN strategies, others have developed robust and versatile cloud, SD-WAN, and network access control (NAC) solutions. Scaling solutions were easier when organizations already had the right infrastructure in place. In some cases, companies have managed to overcome the telecommuter challenge and execute or grow their telecommuter strategies with careful planning and technology associations.

In the future, remote work may become more of a part of corporate systems. After experiencing the pandemic, organizations have realized that the reasons to continue, and possibly expand, their remote work strategies immediately outweighed the reasons against it becoming a standard part of their business strategy in the future.

Next steps based on lessons learned

Working remotely is, to a certain extent, staying put. As a Gartner study showed in late March, 74% of CFOs and finance leaders anticipate relocating no fewer than 5% of their already on-site workforce into permanent remote positions post-COVID 19. In addition, about 25% of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site workers to remote positions permanently.

This will lead to zero-trust network access becoming increasingly important. Currently, organizations are putting a lot of emphasis on this idea since, for example, many VPN tunnels need to understand and confirm the identity of the users; and, second, they now have many people connected to the corporate network from all types of devices.

Companies will be looking at their security vendors and OEM partners as a way to implement zero trusts in a way that is both reasonable and increases the company’s overall security posture. The concept that companies will take different zero-trust procedures for different parts of their business, such as cloud computing, remote access, and data centers, is not irrational.

A critical element to understanding and utilizing the network is the ability to see and understand everything there is. After a couple of months of remote work, companies can take a step back and assess whether each safety effort was set up in a way that made their remote work solutions successful in the long run. Because of this, many of them are supporting their zero-trust capabilities so they can determine who and what is on their network in the future as workers continue to work remotely.

A further consequence is that network and security functions will need to be more tightly integrated. The network infrastructure must support and enables other aspects of the business. Dynamic changes and new technology integrations should be considered, as well as integrated – and automated – security functions to decrease complexity and increase productivity. We must reach out from the branch to the edge, and from the data center to the cloud, with a durable policy and unified visibility and management everywhere.

Seeing the cloud as an augmentation of the data center, it becomes imperative for network and security policies to seamlessly extend into these environments and maintain the same level of ease of deployment (and security maturity) as their more traditional physical counterparts.

A Long-Term Perspective

With the pandemic unfolding, it is becoming increasingly apparent that remote work is not just a short-term solution. The business community has been adapting more rapidly over the last couple of months, while cybercriminals are increasing their attack cycles by pursuing trends that enhance their attack cycles.

Visibility of the network and zero-trust capabilities become essential for enabling ongoing, secure remote work. As a result, the pandemic has brought back the need for agility in network infrastructureas well as business continuity. I hope we take these lessons into account as we move forward.

As pandemic delays continue and remote workforces remain remote, lessons learned about zero trusts should be emphasized.

Security lessons from the Great Work-at-Home Experiment

The reality is that as states reopen and sometimes re-close, remote work will play an increasingly critical role in business through 2021 and beyond for some companies. Cybercriminals will therefore increase their activity, as demonstrated by the increase in viruses and the 600 new phishing attacks per day during the peak of the epidemic.

Initially, we noticed various COVID-19-related phishing attacks (including those that suggested they may originate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Following that, these attacks focused on upgrade packages and unemployment insurance, before moving on to vaccines and the securities market.

Currently, attackers target a variety of topics – from “staycations” to boat rentals and food deliveries. Additionally, they are not only using email for these efforts – online ads and mobile applications are also utilized.

It does not matter whether companies have developed more flexible policies for remote working to better meet the needs of their employees, for the time being, they should ensure that their techniques for telecommuting can support and protect remote network connectivity long-term.

The Clarity from Crisis

As a result of the pandemic, CISOs at first faced the world-shaking challenge of maintaining business continuity with 100% of the workforce shifting to telecommuting in only a few days. Many of the effective methods we have seen for this require a careful analysis of existing capacities so that instead of rushing to add new technologies, they use the capabilities of the solutions already in place.

When you consider those business goals when you assess what you have, you wind up asking the right questions about what data, processes, and applications are critical to maintaining the business.

A swift response to the incident led to a few “Aha!” moments and subsequently centralized security practices across the branches (i.e. real and virtual infrastructure). Many companies did not think about some of the bottlenecks and weak spots in their infrastructure.

Even though most people are aware that phishing messages are a threat, many may not have anticipated that corporate laptops would be at risk if someone in the same family clicked on a link while playing online games.

After these issues became apparent, a few organizations made changes and augmentations to their network environments in a way and rate that made it difficult to understand the downstream effects.

What Makes a Good SD-Branch Solution

The following are the attributes to consider when evaluating SD-Branch solutions:

The ability to handle IoT: It is difficult to protect LAN edges without knowing what they are connected to. To implement policies at the LAN and WAN edges, it is essential to have visibility into the users and gadgets using branch services.

Similarly, network access control (NAC) needs to be integrated into an SD-Branch solution. It needs to be able to be managed from the same integrated platform as the other core components to facilitate deployment and troubleshooting.

Managing the transition

Even though it appeared daunting at first, from a technical standpoint, implementing a robust and secure telecommuter program wasn’t nearly as troublesome as many companies anticipated. But if we want to accomplish everything viably and under a tight deadline, we’ll need to have the right policies and embrace change.

While some companies have implemented normal VPN strategies, others have developed robust and versatile cloud, SD-WAN, and network access control (NAC) solutions. Scaling solutions were easier when organizations already had the right infrastructure in place. In some cases, companies have managed to overcome the telecommuter challenge and execute or grow their telecommuter strategies with careful planning and technology associations.

In the future, remote work may become more of a part of corporate systems. After experiencing the pandemic, organizations have realized that the reasons to continue, and possibly expand, their remote work strategies immediately outweighed the reasons against it becoming a standard part of their business strategy in the future.

Next steps based on lessons learned

Working remotely is, to a certain extent, staying put. As a Gartner study showed in late March, 74% of CFOs and finance leaders anticipate relocating no fewer than 5% of their already on-site workforce into permanent remote positions post-COVID 19. In addition, about 25% of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site workers to remote positions permanently.

This will lead to zero-trust network access becoming increasingly important. Currently, organizations are putting a lot of emphasis on this idea since, for example, many VPN tunnels need to understand and confirm the identity of the users; and, second, they now have many people connected to the corporate network from all types of devices.

Companies will be looking at their security vendors and OEM partners as a way to implement zero trusts in a way that is both reasonable and increases the company’s overall security posture. The concept that companies will take different zero-trust procedures for different parts of their business, such as cloud computing, remote access, and data centers, is not irrational.

A critical element to understanding and utilizing the network is the ability to see and understand everything there is. After a couple of months of remote work, companies can take a step back and assess whether each safety effort was set up in a way that made their remote work solutions successful in the long run. Because of this, many of them are supporting their zero-trust capabilities so they can determine who and what is on their network in the future as workers continue to work remotely.

A further consequence is that network and security functions will need to be more tightly integrated. The network infrastructure must support and enables other aspects of the business. Dynamic changes and new technology integrations should be considered, as well as integrated – and automated – security functions to decrease complexity and increase productivity. We must reach out from the branch to the edge, and from the data center to the cloud, with a durable policy and unified visibility and management everywhere.

Seeing the cloud as an augmentation of the data center, it becomes imperative for network and security policies to seamlessly extend into these environments and maintain the same level of ease of deployment (and security maturity) as their more traditional physical counterparts.

A Long-Term Perspective

With the pandemic unfolding, it is becoming increasingly apparent that remote work is not just a short-term solution. The business community has been adapting more rapidly over the last couple of months, while cybercriminals are increasing their attack cycles by pursuing trends that enhance their attack cycles.

Visibility of the network and zero-trust capabilities become essential for enabling ongoing, secure remote work. As a result, the pandemic has brought back the need for agility in network infrastructureas well as business continuity. I hope we take these lessons into account as we move forward.

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