How to Get the Right SD-WAN Security?

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) has become commonplace in enterprises as workplaces become more mobile and flexible. While SD-WAN has significant benefits for businesses, it also raises new security threats. Let’s take a look at how to implement robust security for SD-WAN, its main issues, and best practices for hardening SD-WAN security.

Achieving seamless network scalability is essential for every business today. That’s why enterprises are turning to SD-WAN, which offers a secure, adaptable and scalable network architecture. Secure networking technology has a host of benefits that make it attractive to organizations, but at the cost of inescapable issues that need to be resolved at the local level. But no matter how many problems it causes, this rapidly emerging networking technology has left no stone unturned in its quest to become a competitive differentiator between businesses using SD-WAN and those stuck with an outdated network. In a nutshell, SD-WAN is now a need for sustainability.

Although SD-WAN is essential for seamless networking in a hybrid environment, implementing it correctly can help organizations avoid the most obvious security threats. Here are some of the security issues that SD-WAN can face, along with the best strategies to deal with them.

Learn more: SD WAN vs. SASE: Five Tips for Choosing the Right Networking Technology for Your Organization

Enabling a security-centric approach for SD-WAN

If you’re moving to SD-WAN, making sure it’s secure should be the first priority. Let’s start with the pitfalls of this software-defined WAN before looking at ways to mitigate them.

SD-WAN Challenges

Peter Lowe, Principal Security Researcher at DNSFilter, says the core characteristic of SD-WAN is a flexible network architecture that is better distributed among its components, allowing for optimization in different ways. “However, because it’s a new way of architecting networks, it brings new challenges, a new way of thinking and managing resources.” Challenges include:

WAN services are typically used by businesses operating over less secure Internet connections, putting their networks at risk of being hacked. Therefore, when deploying SD-WAN, an additional layer of security must be introduced to protect data even at remote sites. Since SD-WAN solutions do not have built-in security, every traffic must be routed through a full security stack for risk assessment and mitigation before it is allowed to serve its purpose. .

Given the amount of features offered by different manufacturers, finding the right SD-WAN vendor is time-consuming and difficult. The usefulness and complexity of each vendor varies, putting the IT team in a bind.

Many companies are adopting SD-WAN because they want to save money. The cost savings and benefits of SD-WAN, on the other hand, can be difficult to measure against the capital investment required to implement it. Several solution providers help businesses save money by offering SD-WAN as a service with an opex model.

Traditionally, companies had to choose how their corporate wide area network (WAN) would be managed. Previously, they did everything in-house and outsourced infrastructure deployment and maintenance to a vendor who took care of everything or shared the work. Although it offers substantial benefits, SD-WAN poses serious management challenges. Its systems are difficult to maintain and upgrade because they can be built on various infrastructure platforms and involve tools from multiple vendors.

Lowe thinks SD-WAN is not a silver bullet. The basics of network security are still necessary. In addition, cost and risk management can seem complicated at first glance.

Best Practices for Mitigating Security Risks in SD-WAN

Don’t ignore the “WAN”

IT managers want to provide secure and optimized access to their customers while operating in a hybrid work environment. They need to consider security and networking together, notes Gur Shatz, co-founder, president and COO of Cato Networks. “This requires a strategy that caters to more than a few points of presence or data centers that only focus on security convergence while ignoring the WAN.”

If IT is to deliver excellent access control, threat prevention, and enforcement experience to all resources, anytime, anywhere, points of presence must be able to perform resource-intensive security for Internet and WAN traffic and to be connected through an optimized global backbone, he says. .

Learn more: The Past, Present, and Future of SD-WAN

Define requirements as a “one-size-fits-all solution”

Michael Wood, CMO, Versa, describes best practices for secure SD-WAN. He points out that “assessment and implementation” includes defining requirements as a single solution and requiring vendors to respond with their best-integrated model. “It shifts complexity reduction to the product design and not to the IT team. It also inherently establishes a tighter integration between security capabilities and networking functions.

Carefully adjust “monitoring and metrics”

Lowe believes that fine-tuning monitoring and measurement is a key area that needs to be continually addressed. Look carefully at what is being measured. “Taking a holistic view can reveal benefits that might not be clear with traditional thinking.” Detailed planning and “adjusting monitoring and measurement” to measure the right thing are required. “Don’t try to completely replace a traditional architecture all at once, and think about how to manage multiple vendors together – look at contract renewals and varying levels of risk across the board,” he adds. .

Implement “secure” SD-WAN solutions

SD-WAN is a networking solution that routes traffic between its endpoints through many channels in the most efficient way possible. On the other hand, it lacks a built-in security feature as well as access control capabilities.

Wood emphasizes the ability to implement secure SD-WAN services on-premises or through the cloud, or a combination of both. Each branch office and telecommuter will have different requirements and footprints based on size, function and location.

IT professionals can reap several benefits for their business by implementing SD-WAN with comprehensive security, better known as secure SD-WAN. “The first is to include security features such as NGFW, IPS, and UTM that are tightly integrated with networking and SD-WAN technology.” Ideally, this integration is done within a single software image, including a single-pass architecture that does not duplicate services (such as decryption and packet inspection), enforces consistent policies, and is managed through a single pane of glass. Wood further adds, “The design, configuration, and ongoing implementation support can be done by one or more people, who may have a background in security or networking if the management is easy to use”.

Opt for a cloud-agnostic strategy

According to Kelly Ahuja, CEO of Versa Networks, the rapid emergence of the cloud and secure SD-WAN has ushered in an era where on-demand services are accessible and operational simplicity is table stakes. “Dynamic, intelligent multi-path connectivity for the cloud and robust security are needed when corporate branches and offices connect to different clouds.”

“In order to integrate the security functions required in various clouds, the WAN infrastructure must be an enabler for cloud access without using excessive bandwidth.”

Digital transformation projects to connect different clouds, according to Ahuja, must be extended uniformly to all branches. “To ensure consistency of security, policies, and networking across different clouds and SaaS services, 2022 will focus on developing a cloud-agnostic approach that will significantly improve application intent across different clouds. and SaaS services.”

Look for SASE-based solutions

Wood mentions another approach to maintaining security hygiene for SD-WAN. “Look for solutions with SASE (Secure Access Services Edge) capabilities built into the cloud and on-premises.” He adds that if you don’t use these services today, you will use them soon. “Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Secure Web Gateway (SWG), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and other services are among them. He warns that if SASE is not already integrated, adding it later becomes an architectural nightmare and results in unnecessary costs and tricky integration.

Key points to remember

Before we start adopting best practices, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that businesses can reap after overcoming problems by applying the above principles:

  • Full security is achieved.
  • SD-WAN brings the promise that organizations can deploy faster, cheaper, and more secure environments than traditional approaches.
  • It decentralizes costly traditional pain points while allowing for standardized security mechanisms.

Not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. That’s why there’s been significant consolidation in the market, with many of the more than 80 SD-WAN solutions no longer available today, Wood says. Delivering an enterprise-class SD-WAN solution is difficult, and making it simple and easy to consume is just as difficult. What has become even more apparent is that SD-WAN must be deployed in conjunction with comprehensive security features to be useful. “In fact, Secure SD-WAN is what is really needed to deliver a truly secure implementation that has provided networking and security integration to mitigate security threats and proactively address vulnerabilities. The two go hand in hand,” concludes Wood.

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