What is security service edge (SSE)?

Security service edge (SSE) is a combination of network security services delivered from a cloud platform. A secure service edge deployment often consists of three main services: a secure web gateway (SWG), a cloud access security broker (CASB), and secure remote access via zero trust network access (ZTNA).

Because of this convergence of different services, SSE is often considered part of a secure access service edge (SASE) framework.

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How is security service edge different from secure access service edge (SASE)?

SASE is the combined application of security controls on two different edges: the WAN edge and the SSE. The SSE side unifies security services such as SWG, CASB, and ZTNA. The WAN edge side focuses on securing networking services such as software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), WAN optimization, and other networking controls. Thus, network and security services are delivered through a unified framework.

Although SSE can be considered a subset of SASE, the strategies can be applied separately. One of their major differences is that SSE focuses more on security than on network connectivity and infrastructure. On the one hand, while SSE includes some aspects of network access, it is oriented more to end users. On the other hand, SASE focuses more on ensuring connectivity and delivery to distributed locations through the cloud.

Why is security service edge important?

Hybrid work environments have grown in popularity over the past few years. The pandemic and the changing demands of a modern workforce have encouraged a shift where workers are empowered to balance in-office work with remote work. This has created unique security challenges that IT teams must overcome.

With workers accessing highly sensitive customer and operational information from unsecured networks or unsecured personal devices, the attack surface for malicious actors increases significantly. This is why IT teams must place critical security controls close to important applications and users. This can be accomplished using security service edge (SSE).

As companies increasingly move workloads and data to the cloud, the amount of sensitive data distributed across unmanaged devices increases. SSE can solve challenges created by remote and hybrid work and digital transformation.

Most common benefits of security service edge

SSE features can be applied in a wide range of use cases. SSE ensures a secure connection with applications and simplifies monitoring of apps and device performance. Other benefits of SSE include:

  • Increased visibility of user and application behavior: By implementing ZTNA, an SSE framework delivers visibility and control over user behavior at the application level. ZTNA provides continuous verification and inspection, data protection at rest and in motion, and enforcement of least-privileged access.
  • Improved security across the organization: An SSE protects apps and users via a combination of tools such as CASBs and SWGs.
  • Consolidation of security costs: By combining a series of tools and technologies under a single platform, SSE helps control security costs.
  • Empowerment of hybrid work models: User connections in hybrid work models are protected regardless of the environment. It also helps with cloud migration.
  • Feature-rich but simple-to-understand user interface: SSE minimizes latency by eliminating the need for VPNs and going back to the data center for cloud access.

An SSE has several advantages over traditional network security solutions:

  • It reduces risks: With SSE, you can deliver security from a cloud platform regardless of location. All security services are inside a single package, which eliminates the gaps you can often find when using multiple tools. Thus, it reduces security risks.
  • Allows implementation of zero trust security: SSE solutions enforce least-privileged access based on the factors of zero trust policy: user role and behavior, device, application, and content. Access is granted based on identity and risk status at the moment of access. This prevents lateral movement because each connection is assessed individually against set policies. It protects applications from being discovered, reducing the attack surface. 
  • Enhances user experience: Because SSE is distributed across data centers, it reduces latency and improves performance. This, combined with having a single platform of security tools, enhances the user experience, providing fast access to apps and data.
  • Combines multiple security services: In an SSE platform, all key security services are unified, which results in reduced costs and complexity. The SWG, CASB, firewall, and other services are integrated into a single platform.

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Understanding Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) Architectures

What every security service edge solution has in common

There are four components of an SSE solution:

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

This tool acts as an intermediary between users and services on a given network. A CASB helps extend security policies across environments and gives visibility over security and compliance issues. Key features of a CASB include data loss prevention, encryption at the file level, two-factor authentication, and access control. A CASB enhances application security by continuously scanning apps for policy violations or malicious software, enabling secure access while protecting the data in hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

ZTNA is a group of technologies and tools that provide secure remote access to applications and services. In a zero-trust approach, anyone trying to access a network is verified before and during the session. Therefore, a ZTNA uses pre-defined access control policies to govern access to services. Key features of a ZTNA include contextual access, continuous authorization, and per-session authentication. One of the main benefits of implementing a ZTNA is that it replaces a VPN as a protective barrier, enabling VPN-less access to critical resources.

ZTNA applies the “trust no one” approach via several layers of security. It offers:

  • Cross-environment security policies that protect the data wherever it is located.
  • Granular access that enforces the principle of least privilege and gives a user access only to the data and resources they need for the job.
  • Central visibility and control monitors and tracks the data usage so you can know who is accessing your resources and data—and what they are doing with it.
  • Identity-based authentication grants access and permissions according to identity and user behavior authentication controls. It monitors user activity constantly for signs of malicious activity.

Secure Web Gateway (SWG)

An SWG is a tool focused on protecting users from web-based threats. The SWG sits between the user and the internet. When a user wants to connect to a website, they go through the secure web gateway, which filters out malicious content and sites.

SWG provides secure internet access without the need for a business VPN. With an SWG, organizations can block access to unacceptable content and protect against unauthorized transfers of data.

Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)

Unlike regular firewalls, FWaaS is a cloud-based service. This allows companies to simplify IT infrastructure while enhancing security with next-generation firewall capabilities, intrusion prevention, and advanced threat protection.

As part of an SSE, an FWaaS aggregates traffic from diverse sources, enforcing security policies across all locations and users—much like an on-premises firewall but with the advantages of a cloud-delivered solution, such as scalability.

Firewall as a service sits between the organization’s network and the internet. When traffic tries to enter the network, the FWaaS inspects the packet, including the data inside, to detect threats.

Citrix solutions for security service edge

Citrix simplifies protecting networks and applications by offering an array of solutions. Citrix’s Zero Trust  Network Access ensures the workforce can access resources and data securely from anywhere, enhancing productivity. Additionally, Citrix ZTNA prevents lateral movement by providing authentication at the application layer.

As part of the network protection solution, Citrix Secure Private Access delivers zero trust access to any managed or unmanaged device. By using adaptive access to all entities in the cloud or on-premises, you can prevent attacks while enhancing the user experience. The access controls adapt according to the user’s role and behavior at the moment. Citrix Secure Private Access also protects access to applications regardless of how they are deployed. By enforcing security policies based on risk factors, you get a continuous assessment of the security posture.

If you’d like to learn how Citrix’s Secure Private Access solution can help you deliver superior security in modern hybrid work environments, contact us. We’ll be happy to put you in touch with the right experts.