Today’s distributed networks are increasingly diverse, often spanning multiple environments, each with their own unique requirements and standards. Securing each of those network ecosystems is challenging, especially when the end goal is consistent policy enforcement, centralised visibility, and unified orchestration and response. Organisations not only need to secure and manage both hardware-defined and software-defined perimeters, but also maintain security as those network edges continually adapt, expand, and adjust to meet shifting business requirements.

And more, these edges don’t just need to be secured individually, but in an integrated, holistic approach. Users and applications don’t just access isolated cloud resources, traditional data centres, or branch office resources. Many applications and workflows now span several environments in a single transaction, and security needs to be consistently applied end to end – on the LAN, WAN and cloud edges. In addition, dynamic connections between different environments are needed to facilitate business requirements. Ad hoc connections between the data center and a cloud, or dynamic connections between branch offices need to be reliable and secure. Any and all edges need to be able to see and securely connect to any other edge or collection of edges at any time, from any place, using any device.

The expanding attack surface and highly distributed networks has accelerated Zero Trust network access principles. Going forward, organisations will need to identify, authenticate, validate, as well as log and monitor all requests for network access. Zero Trust is foundational to ensuring that access is only given to right users on a need-to-know basis. A significant challenge of any security strategy is the ability to consistently apply it at speed and scale.

When it comes to scale, this requires consistency in policy and enforcement across the entire network, regardless of which user or application is making the request, what devices are being used, what resources are being accessed, how many connected network perimeters need to be crossed, or where any of these elements are located.

In terms of speed, these connections also need to be very fast. 5G with high speeds and reliability is rolling out globally, and network—especially security solutions—are struggling to keep up. But what most leaders don’t realise is that this is just the opening salvo. New, higher performance, higher frequency 5G (mmWave)—and the technologies needed to make it practical—is just around the corner. And according to some reports, 6G, with its terabytes per second performance, will be here by the end of the decade.

Addressing this new business reality will require the adoption of four essential strategies:

#1: Integration everywhere: Security needs to be integrated together into a single, holistic system. Gartner refers to it as a cybersecurity mesh that enables people to securely access any digital asset, no matter where the asset is, or where the person is located. This will require a radical rethinking of security, with the idea that protection is tied to an individual or asset, regardless of where they are or what they are doing, rather than a traditional perimeter that defines an “inside” and “outside” of the network. Instead, security has to be integrated wherever the compute is located. Gartner predicts that by 2025, more than half of digital access control requests will need to be supported by a cybersecurity mesh.

#2: Security and network convergence: Not only do security systems need to be integrated together, but all components of the network should function as a single, integrated system. The idea behind security-driven networking is that what happens at the network level (moving data from one place to the other as fast as possible) needs to be seamlessly coupled with what happens at the security level (inspection, encryption, policy enforcement, etc.). When those get out of sync, such as when dynamic changes to a connection happen faster than a security device can adjust its protocols, data get left unprotected. To achieve this, security can no longer be deployed

#3: Hyperperformance: Business rely on application and network performance. Customers need to be able to interact with the organisation’s brand—its applications and resources—as fast as their devices will allow. And employees are no different. All digital users insist on being constantly wowed by their online experience, and those that don’t will look elsewhere. Gartner refers to this as “total experience” (TX), which is the convergence of the customer experience, employee experience, and user experience with the multi-experience environment. TX depends on a high-performance, highly integrated network. This will become increasingly essential as interactions become more mobile, virtual, and distributed, such that Gartner predicts that organisations providing TX will outperform their competitors across key satisfaction metrics over the next three years.

The biggest barrier to enabling this level of integration in most networks is the performance limitations of the security in place. Cloud-based security needs to be highly optimised and designed to scale up and out to meet demands. Physical security must include specialised hardware designed to accelerate the performance of processor-intensive activities such as inspecting encrypted traffic. And these solutions must all be able work together as a seamless, orchestrated system to ensure maximum performance to, across, and between every connected environment and application.

#4: AI and hyperautomation: It is important to note that not just users and businesses will operate across multiple network environments at 5G+ speeds. So will cybercriminals. The speed at which a network can be breached, a payload can be delivered, or targeted data can be exfiltrated is going to accelerate, and most legacy solutions are unprepared to identify and respond to events fast enough. This is especially true when different segments of the network are protected by isolated “best of breed” security solutions that do not see or share information with different security devices deployed on other network platforms.

To keep up, security systems must include AI and ML-based solutions that can gather and analyse vast amounts of data to pinpoint a threat as close to—or even before—the moment of impact. And it must be coupled with hyperautomation to ensure that the maximum level of response by all relevant resources is marshalled in defense of the extended network

Conclusion

As organisations look to protect their users leveraging applications and connecting to resources across various environments, they must realise the importance of the convergence of security, network, and computing rather than traditional operational siloes. Hyperperformance, hyperconvergence, and hyperautomation are quickly becoming the new standards for competing in the rapidly evolving digital economy, and security solutions need to be part of that process. Those organisations that do not make these adjustments—both in their technology and their business culture—will not survive.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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