Legacy network solutions are not properly outfitted for security issues of the current IT landscape. For enterprises with multiple branch offices, security concerns are magnified since new branches mean additional devices and networks to configure. The IT sprawl makes the system more complex, which also increases the likelihood of a breach. In these instances, having only firewalls and endpoint security might not be enough to guard the network.

With cloud-based applications and data stores, it has become critical for companies to keep data accessible but safe while connecting to it over public internet infrastructure. The level of control and visibility that modern applications require are seldom met by traditional networks, making it a challenge to detect and mitigate threats before they disrupt the flow of business. Nearly every IT decision-maker wants to invest in innovation that will facilitate network performance without compromising security. For many, the answer is SD-WAN. Here’s a quick guide to the security benefits and precautions for SD-WAN.

SD-WAN security in a nutshell

Software-defined WAN enables transport independence via network flexibility, leveraging multiple connections such as MPLS, internet broadband, or 4G/LTE. With a cloud-driven SD-WAN, data and applications are transported across data centers, branch offices, and the public cloud seamlessly.

SD-WAN security comes in many forms, including:

  • Link encryption via IPSec to keep content and customer data safe.
  • Network segmentation to prevent unauthorized access of enterprise networks.
  • Security policies for automatic real-time threat detection.
  • Integration with multiple third-party security services.
  • Security policies that prevent and pre-empt attack.

Challenges in securing SD-WAN

Securing SD-WAN hardware:

SD-WAN hardware is essentially a small computer, which means that the devices themselves are not necessarily built to be secure. In many cases, these devices may not have the most up-to-date operating system when it is shipped to the customer location.

Division of security responsibility

Division of security responsibility

Because SD-WAN secures traffic in transit, deploying solutions that include integrated firewalls and associated unified threat management have an advantage over solutions that require separate threat management. However, these bundled solutions can sometimes blur the line between network and security operations. The worst-case scenario: The network team assumes the security team knows about the SD-WAN deployment and will take care of additional security needs. But this does not happen, and critical security tasks are disregarded.

Three Security tips for SD-WAN implementation

Develop a comprehensive and unified security strategy

Security concerns for the main office apply to all the other branches of an enterprise. Therefore, it’s logical to implement a full suite of security tools for every part of the network. Resources like Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) can be used to protect traffic from layer-2 to layer-7. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) can be integrated into the network infrastructure to flag attacks by identifying known cyberthreat signatures. Make sure you use all existing features provided by your vendor – including antivirus and anti-malware, web security, application awareness, and data encryption that maintains high performance and network visibility.

Integrate with existing technology

SD-WAN is perfectly capable of having natively embedded security solutions that lessen the required device footprint in branch offices. The network could be designed so that SD-WAN features are delivered through NGFW to make security management more convenient. Rather than mapping the security tools to the SD-WAN solution, optimize the SD-WAN device to run and manage security policies.

Consolidate policies

Every security solution should integrate seamlessly to other security strategies implemented in other parts of your distributed network. Threat intelligence and response policies must be universal to enhance the level of security f the whole infrastructure.

Mistakes to avoid with SD-WAN security

Implementing SD-WAN security without a tailored policy depending on your network requirements is a futile attempt at keeping the architecture safe. What it needs is a carefully planned strategy that prevents attacks and misuse. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

1. Assuming SD-WAN security is a one-size-fits-all

1.	Assuming SD-WAN security is a one-size-fits-all

SD-WAN is relatively new to market, which means that not every model works for all types of organizations. Companies will need varying degrees of security, making it necessary to choose SD-WAN solutions that fit your company’s risk profile.

For instance, a multinational corporation will not get enough protection when availing only of the primary security offerings because there are so many devices to be factored in when designing the network. Often, network security and threat management need to be reinforced with other tools like web filtering, SSL inspection, anti-malware, and more to keep network security at all times.

2. Scrimping on security

Costs should not be the primary factor when deciding which SD-WAN solution would fit the company. Choosing the cheapest option in the market may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s also not ideal for making the decision hastily based on budget alone.

Economizing on network security can increase the risk for inconsistent performance and availability, particularly since some low-budget solutions have limited capabilities. SSL-encrypted traffic moving outside data centers and into public networks can become avenues for malicious attacks.

A company with weak SD-WAN architecture that fails to proxy, decrypt, and implement policies due to lack of capacity is vulnerable to cyber threats. Even single unauthorized access can expose the entire distributed network to data breaches or attacks.

3. Assuming SD-WAN can work as a standalone security solution

SD-WAN cannot be the only solution to network security issues, at least for now. Since the technology is still maturing, there are still elements that might be missing or lacking when it comes to security. It is not advisable to disregard other WAN security best practices when implementing them.

SD-WAN routers, unlike legacy branch routers, need to be updated regularly and patched to keep performance and reliability consistent across the distributed network.

SD-WAN security best practices

  • Hardware: Off-the-shelf box servers and microservices should come only from well-known vendors with tested products.
  • Patches and Security Updates: Make sure your appliance is automatically updated by the service provider, or, at the very minimum, there is a process in place to do so.
  • Make sure security teams are included in the SD-WAN implementation processes, and wider network policies are applied to SD-WAN as well.
  • Ongoing Security analytics visibility and management process are in place.

There’s no room for complacency in the digital economy because threats and breaches are waiting to happen even with the tiniest gaps in security strategy. Having a well-implemented SD-WAN security design can help companies provide safe and remote network access to both employees and customers

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