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Just Say Yes – Why CISOs must now embrace SD-WAN

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Digital Transformation has become a business imperative, yet rather than pulling together to enable essential change, the friction between network and securityteams is increasing. The business needs to move away from data centres and traditional Wide Area Networks (WAN) to exploit the cost, flexibility and agility provided by the cloud and Software Defined WANs (SD-WAN).

Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), especially those working in regulated industries, insist the risks associated with public infrastructure are too high. Stalemate.

Until now. Organisations are pressing ahead with Digital Transformation plans and excluding the CISO from the conversation. But at what cost? Who is assessing the implications for regulatory compliance? At what point will the Chief Risk Officer prohibit the use of the SD-WAN for sensitive data, leaving the business running legacy and new infrastructure side by side, fundamentally undermining the entire Digital Transformation project? A new attitude is urgently required, one based on collaboration, understanding and a recognition that a Zero Trust security posture can safeguard even the most sensitive data, while unlocking all the benefits associated with SD-WAN.

As Simon Hill, Head of Legal & Compliance, Certes Networks insists, it is time for CISOs to take a lead role in the Digital Transformation process – or risk being side-lined for good.

Accept Change

CISOs need to face up to the fact that Digital Transformation is happening – with or without them.  Organisations need to embrace the agility, flexibility and cost benefits offered by the cloud, by Software as a Service and, critically, the shift from expensive WAN technology to SD-WAN. For CISOs, while the migration to SD-WAN extends the attack surface, adding unacceptable data vulnerability, saying no is not an option any more. CISOs risk being left out of the Digital Transformation loop – and that is not only adding significant corporate risk but also compromising the expected benefits of this essential technology investment.

Network and IT teams are pressing ahead, insisting the risk is acceptable. How do they know? For any organisation, this is a dangerous compromise: critical risk decisions are being taken by individuals who have no understanding of the full implications. For those organisations operating in regulated industries, these decisions could result in an exposure to $10s millions, even $100s millions of penalties.

Failure to embed security within the initial Digital Transformation strategy is also compromising progress. What happens when the CISO or Chief Risk Officer discovers the business is in the process of migrating from the old WAN to a new SD-WAN environment? Suddenly the brakes are on, and the call is for sensitive data to be encrypted before it hits the network. Adding Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) tunnels will degrade performance – so the business is then stuck using the legacy WAN for data connectivity while still paying for the SD-WAN and failing to gain any of the agility or cost benefits.  More frustration. More friction between teams that should be working together to support business goals.

Drive Change

Security is a fundamental component of Digital Transformation – indeed of corporate operating strategy. Rather than avoiding change, CISOs have a responsibility not only to secure the organisation but proactively advocate change, with security as the key enabler of Digital Transformation.

Digital Transformation does not by default create an inherently insecure environment – but it will require organisations to, somewhat belatedly, embrace a Zero Trust model.  It has been clear for many years that there is no correlation between ownership and trust. Just because a company owns infrastructure and assets does not automatically infer total trust over data security. Similarly, infrastructure outside the business is not inherently untrustworthy. The key is to build trust into a secure overlay to protect data that will allow a business to operate across any infrastructure whether it is owned or public.

A High Assurance SD-WAN overlay, for example, uses crypto-segmentation to protect and ensure the integrity of sensitive data. With this Zero Trust approach, High Assurance SD-WAN means whether the network is public or private, trusted or untrusted, is irrelevant: the data security team simply needs to define the policy and, with ownership of the cryptography keys, can be confident that data is protected at all times wherever it goes.

Working Together

Adopting a Zero Trust security posture changes the outlook for CISOs – and provides a foundation for vital collaboration with the networking and IT teams. With confidence that the data is secure regardless of network location, everyone involved in Digital Transformation can achieve their goals: IT and network teams can embrace the flexibility and agility of the cloud, SaaS and SD-WAN, while the securityteam still has control of the security posture.

This can only be achieved if the business embraces a different mindset. It is essential to think about security by design from the outset – and to break down the barriers between network, IT and security. The introduction of the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) framework provides clear guidelines for the convergence of these teams to drive additional business value but the onus – and opportunity – lies with the CISO to ensure the entire organisation truly understands the Digital Transformation objectives.

This also demands an essential shift away from a regulatory compliance focused security posture – something that is inherently flawed due to the impossibility of creating regulations that keep up with the ever changing security threats – towards a truly business driven approach. Working together to plan the Digital Transformation process may take a little more time up front but it will result in a secure foundation that will remove any constraints to innovation and agility.

Conclusion

It is time for CISOs to change. There is no value in endlessly blocking essential new technology projects; and no upside in being excluded from vital plans as a result. By taking a proactive stance and driving Digital Transformation strategies, CISOs can redefine the role, become a key strategic player within the business and act as an enabler, rather than a constraint, to operational success.

It is time to find a way to say yes to secure Digital Transformation – without compromise.

Shining a spotlight on UK cyber security standards

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Public sector organisations in the UK are in the midst of changing cyber security regulations. In mid-2018, the Government, in collaboration the NCSC, published a minimum set of cyber security standards. These standards are now mandated, along with a focus on continually “raising the bar”. The standards set minimum requirements for organisations to protect sensitive information and key operational services, which – given the way in which these services are increasingly dispersed – is driving significant changes in public sector network architecture and security.  

In addition to setting today’s ‘minimum’ standards, however, the guidance also sets a target date of 2023 by which public sector organisations will be expected to have adopted a ‘gold-standard’ cyber security profile.

Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architect and MD Europe, Certes Networks, outlines the essential considerations that will help organisations select an encryption solution provider that can easily integrate into any network infrastructure as they migrate from Legacy MPLS to SDN or SD-WAN network architectures...

The Principles

For both public and private sector organisations, customer experience is key. From finance and utilities, to local authorities and smart cities, customer touchpoints are increasingly dispersed, remote and application-driven, necessitating a move from Legacy MPLS to SDN or SD-WAN. However, under the Government’s new minimum cyber security standards framework, ensuring sensitive information and key services are protected is a critical consideration. 

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has therefore issued principles for cyber secure enterprise technology to organisations, including guidance on deploying and buying network encryption, with the aim of reducing risks to the UK by securing public and private sector networks. This guidance bears parallels with the US National Institute of Standard and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and therefore applies equally to US and other federal organisations in a similar scenario. 

Similar to the NIST framework, the NCSC guidance shares the same principle that networks should not be trusted. It recommends that to keep sensitive information protected, encryption should be used between devices, the applications on them, and the services being accessed. IPsec is the recommended method for protecting all data travelling between two points on a network to provide an understood level of security, with further guidance outlining a specific ‘gold-standard’ cipher suite profile known as PRIME.

The guidance is based on the network vendor being CAS(T) certified (CESG (Communications Electronics Security Group) Assured Services (Telecommunications)), which involves an independent assessment focused on the key security areas of service availability, insider attack, unauthorised access to the network and physical attack.

However, there are challenges.

Challenge #1 – Public Sector Adherence to CAS(T)

Many public sector organisations are no longer mandating CAS(T) based services and therefore the risk appetite is expected to be lowered, mainly to support the emergence of internet and SD-WAN suppliers network solutions. This is key as the current NCSC recommendation Foundation standards for IPsec will expire in 2023, and users are being encouraged to move quickly off legacy platforms. 

Challenge #2 – Impact to Cloud Service Providers and Bearer Networks

This guidance, such as the protection of information flows on dedicated links between organisations, also applies to cloud service providers, or in the inter-data-centre connections in such providers’ networks.

The underlying bearer network is assumed not to provide any security or resilience. This means that any bearer network (such as the Internet, Wi-Fi 4/5G, or a commercial MPLS network) can be used. The choice of bearer network(s) will have an impact on the availability that an encrypted service can provide.

Challenge #3 – Partner Collaboration

NCSC explicitly states in its guidance that establishing trustworthy encrypted network links is not just about technology. It is also important that the management of these networks links is carried out by appropriate individuals, performing their assigned management activities in a competent and trusted fashion, from a management system that protects the overall integrity of the system. Thus, for encryption solution providers, the partner’s service credentials impact how the end user may use the technology. 

The Solution

IPsec helps protect the confidentiality and integrity of information as it travels across less-trusted networks, by implementing network-based encryption to establish Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). 

Under PRIME principles, devices which implement cryptographic protection of information using IPsec should:

  • Be managed by a competent authority in a manner that does not undermine the protection they provide, from a suitable management platform
  • Be configured to provide effective cryptographic protection
  • Use certificates as a means of identifying and trusting other devices, using a suitable PKI
  • Be independently assured to Foundation Grade, and operated in accordance with published Security Procedures
  • Be initially deployed in a manner that ensures their future trustworthiness
  • Be disposed of securely

Keeping the network design simple is one of the most effective ways to ensure the network provides the expected security and performance. The use of certificates generated in a cryptographically secure manner allows VPN gateways and clients to successfully identify themselves to each other while helping to mitigate brute force attacks.

Conclusion

There are many encryption solutions to help agencies and federal governments who want to move from Legacy MPLS to SDN or SD-WAN.  Layer 4 encryption, for example, can integrate easily into any network and encrypt data in transit without disrupting performance or replacing the current network architecture.

Selecting a provider that can offer a PRIME compliant solution – such as Layer 4 encryption – is key in conforming to both today and tomorrow’s cyber security standards. And with NCSC starting to treat all networks as untrusted networks (especially those agencies using internet), PRIME is becoming the gold standard for which NCSC will measure regulatory compliance.

Therefore, it is important to consider a vendor that can offer a security solution that is not only compliant but is simple and uncomplicated, minimising disruption, resources and costs.

SD-WAN deployments up, but networking and security challenges persist

960 640 Stuart O'Brien
 
New research has highlighted the improved network security, connectivity, flexibility, and cost savings enabled by SD-WAN , but says 98% of IT leaders cite networking challenges with their current WAN setup.

The report from Barracuda Networks includes data from more than 900 respondents in the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.

Respondents come from companies ranging from 1,000 to more than 5,000 employees across multiple sectors, including healthcare, finance, education, manufacturing, public sector, and retail.

Overall, the study indicates that SD-WAN deployments are increasing to address networking challenges resulting from the explosive growth of WAN traffic due to high demand for cloud applications and services. Security remains a top concern for an overwhelming majority of IT leaders as they consider upgrading to an SD-WAN solutions.

Highlights include:

  • Networking challenges are common with current WAN setups.
    • Top three challenges are complexity (48%), cloud performance (47%), and performance between locations (46%).
  • SD-WAN deployments are on the rise.
    • One-third have already deployed SD-WAN in most of their sites, and 49 percent are in the process of doing so or will in the next year.
    • 70 percent of IT leaders said they risk losing a competitive advantage if they don’t update their WAN.
  • Security is a top priority when choosing an SD-WAN solution.
    • 81 percent said advanced threat protection and centralized management were very important or crucial to their SD-WAN purchase.
  • SD-WAN offers improved security and lower costs.
    • Most common benefits of SD-WAN deployments are improved network security (57%), connectivity (56%), and network flexibility and agility (53%). 
    • Nearly half of respondents said they had reduced overall costs thanks to SD-WAN, and 36 percent reduced costs specifically for MPLS services.
Click here to download the full report.