Abandon the walled city: The crucial security call for 2021

The cyber security mesh will be a top strategic trend in 2021, and key to a responsive security and risk management approach which is modular and scalable.
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The unparalleled socio-economic challenges of 2020, initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have spawned a legion of remote workers who have collectively and inadvertently congregated in a “new playground for hackers”, according to the Gartner global research and advisory firm.

Many IT industry insiders confirm 2020 was a year in which hackers took unprecedented advantage of often-defenceless employees who were preyed upon mainly because of their inexperience in dealing with their new work-from-home environments.

Exploiting these workers, those with malevolent intent were increasingly successful in breaching organisations’ stretched defences, gaining access to sensitive data and even infecting businesses with ransomware on an unequalled scale.

In the manufacturing sector, for instance, ransomware poses the most risk, especially for many critical industry subsectors, notes Selena Larson, an analyst at Dragos, the cyber security specialist.

Unfortunately, these miscreants have only just begun their tirade. Expect more of the same in 2021, as remote work continues, with around 50% of employees expected to be mobile. The “playground” will exponentially enlarge.

Forecasters point to the continuing importance of vigilance, even as a COVID-19 vaccine appears imminent. “Security is taking on newfound or heightened importance within many companies, as cyber criminals continue to exploit the global health crisis and associated business disruption,” says Ian Barker, a noted industry watcher and editor.

Give them their due; many organisations have acted swiftly in attempts to protect their remote workers. However, as the cyber criminals’ targets quickly multiplied, it soon became obvious that traditional protection methods, previously effective within the physical confines of the enterprise, were becoming less reliable, less meaningful and, ultimately, less trusted.

Give them their due; many organisations have acted swiftly in attempts to protect their remote workers.

Thus, the conventional security armaments of the traditional “walled city” must urgently be called into question. A new solution to replace these rusty bulwarks is imperative in order to keep pace with the burgeoning work-from-home trend, while meeting the modern demands of businesses whose data, access and corporate resources are no longer constrained by physical boundaries.

As the walled city approach to minimising risk and guarding company data is abandoned, what will be its substitute?

In 2021, organisations can expect new technology trends to make an appearance and rapidly evolve. Already on the horizon is a distributed architectural model which centres on the application of a flexible, scalable “cyber security mesh”.

This mesh is designed to permit an organisation’s security perimeter to be defined around the identity of an individual or an object rather than by material borders.

The cyber security mesh will be a top strategic technology trend in 2021, according to Gartner. It is key to the application of a responsive security and risk management approach which is modular and thus scalable.

One important benefit associated with such a scalable solution is its capacity to be applied where and when it is deemed necessary to link network users to appropriate networked capabilities. Another benefit is the mesh’s important contribution to centralised policy implementation and distributed policy enforcement.

In this light, expect the cyber security mesh to shape the future of enterprise IT operations as we know them.

In altering an organisation’s approach to security, complexity is often increased. This may come in the form of dealing with additional environments, meeting the challenge of implementing dissimilar products, or fulfilling the need for the upskilling of essential staff members.

Complexity can also be advanced by the frequent creation of new users, the addition and accommodation of Internet of things (IOT) devices and increasing data storage needs. In these cases, the control of an organisation’s security envelope can present formidable challenges.

These are precisely the circumstances for which the cloud-delivered, secure access service edge (SASE) technology is primed to address.

SASE is the latest security trend to impact the world of cyber security. It converges networking and network security into a single offering designed to support today’s business transformation, edge computing and worker mobility requirements.

Poised to become an essential element of all future cyber security frameworks, SASE is fully supportive of − and well-matched with − the cyber security mesh concept. As such, it is predicted to be the technology in which some of the biggest corporate investments will be made in 2021.

This expectation is backed by Todd Weber, chief technology officer at a leading US-based security solutions integrator. He says SASE is ideal for the “work-from-anywhere” world as it provides “zero trust” secure access based on the identity and context of a user or device, rather than a location.

Respected editor Patrick Dunn says SASE is the latest security trend to hit the world of cyber security for enterprises and is set to become an essential toolkit for any cyber security framework.

A key feature of the SASE concept is its ability to combine and unite several networking and security capabilities and functions, many of which are traditionally sourced in individual, siloed solutions.

By delivering these solutions in an integrated, cloud-based platform, SASE’s advantage is seen as its support for solutions (such as the cyber security mesh) that address the networking and security challenges of the immediate future which is characterised by the mushrooming, cloud-oriented, distributed mobile workforce.

Within 10 years, many security and risk professionals believe the globe will be covered by a mesh linking many billions of devices and individuals in every corner of the world. With every connection a latent access point to sensitive corporate or personal data, technologies such as SASE will play an important part in consolidating multiple security components into a unified service.

Paul Stuttard

Director, Duxbury Networking.

Paul Stuttard is a director of specialist distributor Duxbury Networking. Currently Cape-based, he has been with the company for 29 years and has extensive experience in the IT industry, particularly within the value-added distribution arena. His focus is on the formulation of future-oriented network optimisation strategies and business development objectives in collaboration with resellers and end-users in Southern Africa.

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