As workers move outside the security perimeter, SASE is helping security do the same
The global disruption of 2020 has driven a seismic shift in endpoint security
As the world’s businesses last year responded to the COVID-19 threat by sending their workers home en masse, the seismic shift in working patterns helped escalate two early-stage related cybersecurity concepts to the forefront of cybersecurity strategy.
A year later, secure access service edge (SASE) and zero-trust network architecture (ZTNA) approaches to network security have become well-entrenched in the toolboxes of security planners everywhere.
Gartner, who coined the term SASE, is recommending that security and risk management leaders lean on the change of 2020 to pivot their organisations away from legacy perimeter-based security offerings to a SASE model, which is fundamentally designed to allow policy-based, security from Internet-connected locations to any internal or external company resources.
SASE is one of a number of what Gartner calls ‘algorithmic trust’ models, in which the black-and-white access policies of yesteryear – you either have the correct username and password or you don’t – are replaced with more flexible, multi-factored, responsive and pervasive authentication models.
In the previous model, users could gain access to all resources across the network once they logged into a system – but so could cybercriminals, if they were able to buy, steal, or guess the password of an authorised user.
SASE models, by contrast, are based on ongoing analysis of data and user security – combining a multi-factored authentication with cloud-based secure web gateways, firewall capabilities, VPN and WAN replacement connectivity to detect and control user and application access at every level of the organisation.
Who do you trust?
SASE dovetails with ZTNA architectures, built on the idea that users and applications must continually reassert their right to access network resources.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that users must retype their password dozens of times throughout their session – but, rather, that time and policy-limited credentials will travel along with the user as they transit myriad systems.
ZTNA architectures typically look at the user as a conglomeration of factors – passwords, device type, device ID, their location, for example, or the time of day they’re logging on, or information from the HR system that they’re actually on vacation and probably aren’t the one logging on to access a core development system etc.
By examining these factors and analysing them for variance from a baseline, algorithmic trust models score every interaction and network access request – enforcing what Gartner calls an “identity- and context-based, logical access boundary around an application or set of applications”.
Anomalies can be quickly flagged and suspected security breaches instantly shut down.
SASE and ZTNA have been evolving for years, but the rapid movement of employees outside of conventional network security perimeters has given them a shot in the arm.
Adoption of SASE solutions will grow at a 116% compound annual growth rate through 2024, according to analyst firm Dell’Oro Group, with small to medium enterprises (SMEs) driving the growth as they look for ways to better cope with the decentralisation of workers over the past year.
Yet while the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote workers the primary focus of SASE efforts to date, protecting people will ultimately be just a small part of the new environment’s value proposition.
A growing number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices, for example, will also need to be managed and authenticated to ensure they do not inadvertently become conduits for cybercriminals to sneak into target networks.
The increasing availability of software-as-a-service (SaaS) based SASE and ZTNA services will simplify their deployment, assuaging the fears of security engineers who have been loathe to disturb the accumulation of years of security investment and development.
By providing a much more responsive type of security perimeter than the previous perimeter – which cybercriminals have been able to compromise with impunity – expectations are that SASE will raise the tide of cyber resilience, giving all companies a fresh start in the fight to keep their data and users safe and secure.
A growing range of service choices, along with broad industry support for SASE and ZTNA, mean these capabilities are likely to become the de rigeur standards for endpoint security, sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, growing momentum, and a broad commonality of purpose, suggest that you should be actively investigating SASE and ZTNA solutions now. As cybercriminals migrate towards easier pickings, those companies that don’t invest in these technologies now may find themselves at the mercy of ever more resourceful cybercriminals later.
ContentKeeper helps secure enterprises, educational institutions, and government agencies worldwide. Our Multi-layered Cloud Security Platform delivers a powerful combination of innovative security technologies, enabling organizations to protect their digital assets and users from cyber threats, including ransomware, as they continually shift to new technologies and platforms. At ContentKeeper, our mission is to create the world's best cloud security solutions through constant innovation and providing the building blocks organizations need to move towards a SASE and ZTNA future. The company is headquartered in Canberra, Australia and maintains U.S based operations in Anaheim Hills, California. For more information, visit www.contentkeeper.com.
About the Author: David Braue is an award-winning technology writer with 26 years' experience covering business and consumer technology issues. Current focus areas include information security, analytics, innovation, global tech policy, enterprise digital transformation, and COVID-19 inspired remote working.