Maintaining a secure infrastructure for a growing number of access points and a high volume of users has become a huge challenge for enterprises looking to protect disparate data assets.

With the trend for mobile working, enterprises frequently have employees accessing the network on the move or from remote locations. Such busy, high-traffic networks make it easier for cybercriminals to get in and hide. More than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred every day since 2016, according to the US Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). All the indications are this trend shows no sign of abating. 

Traditional WANs were not designed to deal with the security demands generated by the distributed and cloud based applications we have today. This is one reason why more and more organisations are looking to migrate their WAN to an SD-WAN, which offers more agility, better user experience, and importantly, can be more secure. IDC believes that the enhanced security is one of the key drivers propelling the 70% CAGR in SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenues. (IDC Worldwide SD-WAN forecast: 2017-2021).

Improving network security

Much has been made of the benefits SD-WAN brings in reducing costs and improving the user experience. In my opinion, the security benefits are not discussed enough; SD-WAN can do much to increase your network security, while meeting business demands.

The beauty of SD-WAN is that it unifies secure connectivity. A secure SD-WAN reinforces security policies, heightening visibility and enabling IT teams to better control and monitor who is accessing the network and applications. This can be extended to branch locations to strengthen overall WAN security. It is also a boon where businesses need to get sites up and running quickly as no set up, IT gurus or IT site visit is needed. Instead systems can be authenticated using pre-configured activation keys. 

Here, one must not underestimate the ability to apply a security policy consistently throughout the network. SD-WAN includes capabilities for internet access technologies such as DIA (Direct Internet Access) and business broadband access types, for example. This means that organizations can end up with numerous entry and exit points to the internet that need to be protected not only by a firewall policy, but also from an application and denial of service perspective. 

At the same time, SD-WAN provides end-to-end encryption across any network, including the internet, ensuring both your own and your clients’ sensitive data is protected in transit. All devices and endpoints are authenticated via software-defined security and a unique scalable-key exchange process. This ensures two-way communications between headquarters, branches and data centres is aligned with the company’s security policy. 

Encryption goes a long way in protecting the integrity of the network. With SD-WAN, not only are all devices and components being fully authenticated in the network, but the underlying traffic transported across that network is also encrypted. Having this heightened visibility of traffic being delivered from within the network and being in a position to report on it should be central to your security policy. 

An important factor is that SD-WAN overlay also extends back to the cloud, providing a 360 degree view of applications, steering them through firewalls, for example. This enables the organization to attach security policies to specific applications depending on their level of importance and usage. 

By segmenting the WAN, IT teams can use software-defined technology to restrict access to key resources, such as payroll, for example. This segmentation also serves to ring fence attacks and stop them infiltrating other parts of the business.

Software-defined technology can not only segment data, but also communicate it to points on the network without adding protocols. This makes the design of the network simpler and easier. This agility and flexibility is achieved by allowing expansion of the service to alternative paths on the network as required to sector sensitive data and set up governance and compliance policies. 

Most SD-WANs segmentation can also be invaluable in addressing governance and compliance policies.

Better visibility

Finally, it is almost impossible for IT teams to protect any landscape they can’t see – and this has been an issue with traditional WANs. But SD-WAN’s enhanced visibility enabled by analytics and monitoring tools, provides a much better picture of the traffic that is moving around the network and identification of any abnormal processes using applications, for example. 

Networks are now more critical to business than ever. To succeed, enterprises must build a digital ready network to do business in a 24/7 global economy. Digitization and virtualization will move higher up the demand chain. SD-WAN satisfies these needs by providing a robust optimized, intelligent, agile and – above all – secure networking solution. Security is woven into the very fabric of SD-WAN and is one that needs to be displayed more visibly on its tag!