Edge security is a type of enterprise security for corporate resources that are no longer located within the protective boundaries of a centralized data center. It’s used to protect users and apps at the farthest reaches, or “edge,” of a company’s network, where sensitive data is highly vulnerable to security threats.
Edge computing refers to how corporate resources are delivered. Rather than relying on a centralized data center to store, process and distribute apps and data, edge computing is done near the source of data itself. While a data center could be located hundreds or thousands of miles from end users, edge computing brings these processes close to the actual devices where information is being accessed. Data is processed by local servers or even the devices themselves, which allows companies to deliver applications to customers and employees much faster.
More specifically, edge computing allows enterprises to provide optimal access to cloud and SaaS applications—no matter where the endpoints are located.
By handling processing at the edge and transmitting only the relevant data, edge computing eliminates latency in use cases where nearly instantaneous transfer of information is essential. It provides a distributed, open IT architecture that enables real-time computing for global, mobile workforces—and that powers increasingly important Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Smart applications and IoT devices can respond to data instantaneously, and businesses can deliver the promise of fast, reliable access to apps and data.
While edge computing offers numerous benefits to businesses, it also increases the risk for cybersecurity threats to enter the corporate network. Deploying hundreds of edge computing devices creates hundreds of potential entry points for DDoS attacks and other security breaches—an especially big concern since many endpoints feature built-in internet connectivity. It means IT no longer has centralized control or even full visibility. And as the attack surface expands, protecting data that resides in or moves through edge devices is a significant security challenge for CISOs and CTOs.
Edge security solves this problem by providing a built-in security stack to protect against zero-day threats, malware and other vulnerabilities at the point of access. Rather than backhauling internet traffic over a WAN network to guard against the perils of internet connectivity, companies can securely steer traffic to the nearest point of access.
Effective edge security consists of several critical components:
Edge computing devices can take virtually any form, from micro-data centers at remote locations to sensors, security cameras, cash registers and routers that demand fast local processing as part of the vast web of IoT devices. And these endpoints are everywhere. The rapid shift to work-from-home models in response to the global pandemic introduced millions of distributed remote offices as well as BYOD devices, from laptops to smartphones to tablets, for IT departments to manage.
Often, the design of these edge devices prioritizes functionality and connectivity over security. Many lack a user interface (UI), which introduces additional challenges for IT visibility. And because they are often small and physically exposed, a device located at the edge of the network is also at risk of being stolen.
Some strategies designed to secure the edge, such as vulnerable VPN connections, can instead increase exposure to zero-day threats. In contrast, effective edge device security empowers IT with a single pane of glass to easily manage and monitor all devices. Ongoing user authentication is automated, with access control policies in place to make sure users are who they say they are before access to company data is granted.
While edge device security is important, cloud edge security is critical. Though cloud continues to be the preferred location for aggregating and analyzing data, the sheer volume of data being produced by devices connected to the internet requires vastly more processing. Edge computing by design moves processing and storage resources closer to the source of data to manage the load, but the movement of data from the edge to the cloud—and especially from the cloud back to the edge—makes it highly vulnerable to attacks.
As organizations move cloud capabilities across the WAN to users at the edge, industries such as healthcare and finance have a higher burden to protect sensitive data that comes with strict compliance requirements. Cloud edge security prioritizes important security fundamentals such as encryption, both for data stored locally and for data in transit between the network core and edge computing devices.
The shift to the network edge means users require direct internet access to cloud and SaaS applications. But while this connectivity improves access for users, it also increases the risk of malicious activity moving from the internet into the corporate network.
With network edge security, the internet becomes a trusted method for connecting to enterprise resources. This important component provides the security features companies need to secure access without compromising performance. Examples of network edge security solutions include web filtering, anti-malware, intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and next-generation firewalls that permit or deny traffic based on IP addresses—functionalities that are often built into the organization’s software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN).
To address the need for a cybersecurity model that reflects these new security requirements, Gartner in 2019 proposed a new concept called Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE, which converges SD-WAN capabilities with network security functionality as a cloud-delivered service.
The SASE framework includes capabilities such as cloud access security broker (CASB), firewall as a service (FWaaS) and zero-trust security solutions—all available in a single cloud-delivered service model that simplifies IT.
SASE architecture also enables companies to bring networking and security back to the cloud where the applications and data are located, and to ensure secure access regardless of device location. It provides a set of best practices to secure apps and data in an era where work happens everywhere, and users are the new network perimeter.
Citrix brings edge security features into a single, unified security stack that includes: