More devices, Zero Trust: keeping your edge infrastructure safe in 2022 and beyond

More devices, Zero Trust: keeping your edge infrastructure safe in 2022 and beyond

By Ernest Sampera, a co-founder at vXchnge

As of October 2021, the number of cyberattacks involving data breaches had already surpassed the total of all attacks in 2020. It’s not all necessarily related to edge computing, but it underscores the importance of security as a growing number of workloads shift to leverage an edge architecture. Edge computing can create amazing business opportunities, but its security is a shared responsibility between buyers and sellers.

Nothing Is Safe

Any cybersecurity framework worth its salt is likely to include some variation of Zero Trust network access. Zero Trust is the concept that any connection allowed within the network will be granted only minimal access to accomplish their purpose once inside. While this approach is not a new concept, the edge magnifies its importance: since edge devices may sit on the periphery of a network and not necessarily within the friendly confines of your data center or cloud, allowing minimal access to those inside your network is an important first step to establishing your edge’s cybersecurity.

More Devices, More Problems

IDC predicts that by 2025 there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide. As we become more dependent on network connectivity for productivity and entertainment, this creates the unique challenge of ensuring any device used to connect to a network is safe. The pandemic also added a new wrinkle when many organizations transitioned to working at home. This directed various household members to bring devices home that were set up by various organizations with varying levels of security: a student’s tablet from school was set up by the school’s IT department, a home computer is at the mercy of whatever the owner installed, and organization-issued device(s) operate under yet another set of standards and policies.

The bad news is that those varying standards and devices create attack vectors for ill-intended parties, but the good news is that in an edge architecture you can isolate a compromised device and remove it from the network.

Zero-Trust For Vetting Vendors

The Linux Foundation’s State of the Edge report estimates that by 2028, 11.9% of the global Infrastructure Edge footprint will be associated with Enterprise IT use cases. This increases the likelihood of organizations making some edge-related purchases in the next few years and the need to verify that each new use case meets the organization’s security criteria.

As mentioned above, Zero Trust access policies are a must for any security policy worth its salt. But organizations should also consider applying the same mentality when vetting vendors.  

In 2022, IT buyers should be more pragmatic about security regarding the equipment they buy or facilities they use. One way to do that is to determine what security features or capabilities a potential purchase should have and ask the vendor questions to ensure it meets your criteria. For instance, don’t only ask your server vendor about CPUs and processing speeds; also ask them about chassis intrusion features (notifications of when the chassis of the computer has been opened) and data encryption capabilities.

Physical Security

One commonly cited use case for edge computing is IoT and connecting remote monitoring devices to a centralized repository, such as a wind farm needing to send vital information about its systems’ health back to a power company or its owners. The irony of this common use case is that it’s also another attack vector companies need to be prepared against.

Since these facilities are usually in remote locations, any bad actor that may want to tamper with the systems at such a physical location may have time to do their bidding and get away. Companies must always take the time and consideration to properly secure the physical edge as well as its programmatic parts. 

Get Ready for Politics

What if a company’s edge network also happens to be near a geopolitical edge (i.e.: a state, provincial, or international border)? Verify that the organization is well versed in what can and cannot occur across the other side. Between GDPR, data residency laws across local and regional levels, and specifics based on industry verticals, keep in mind that data may have to travel across those lines before reaching its intended destination. Knowing those specifics, or relying on a trusted advisor to do so, can spare headaches or hefty fines.

Frost & Sullivan predicts 90% of industrial enterprises will employ edge computing by the end of this year. It’s easy to see why: the edge gives services and applications the ability to be more efficient by keeping data on the periphery of the network, analyzing and processing it closer to the source. This creates benefits such as faster speeds and lower latency, but those benefits may be worthless unless organizations consider the key precautions above to secure edge infrastructure.

About the author

Ernest Sampera is a co-founder at vXchnge, an award-winning, carrier-neutral colocation services provider with edge data centers across the United States.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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