The Importance of Security for Edge Computing

By Graham Walker

The world as we know it is quickly becoming hyperconnected and inundated with data. You may not always realize it, but the devices you use - tablets and smartphones, voice controllers, and smart locks - continually share data with applications programmed to do just about anything you can imagine.

Data creation and replication are accelerating rapidly – forecasters expect it to nearly triple between 2020 and 2025. Thanks to IoT and its endless number of connected endpoint machines, data creation, and replication are happening more often than ever at the edge of computing networks.

As its name implies, edge computing utilizes specialized computing devices at the access layer of a network to process data in real-time. Because of the exponential growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing has become critical for many industries and applications.

Edge Computing and Its Benefits—A Quick Overview

Edge computing takes data from nearby endpoint devices, analyses that data using machine learning, and takes action according to that analysis. It’s an alternative to sending data to cloud-hosted or on-premises servers for processing and typically runs in IoT gateways or the endpoints themselves. By taking compute from a data center and moving it next to endpoint devices, edge computing provides benefits like better speed, security, and privacy protections, lower operational costs, and greater scalability.

With great power comes great responsibility, though; this adage is true for edge computing. But edge computing introduces new attack surfaces and can widen a network’s vulnerability to threats.

Edge Computing-Related Cybersecurity Threats

On the one hand, edge computing can improve security. It keeps data close to the edge of a connected ecosystem and away from centralized servers. And while hackers can compromise edge devices and steal their data, edge devices usually only store limited and often incomplete data sets.

On the other hand, enterprises tend to combine data on their centralized servers with other data points, creating larger collections of data that, for threat actors, are ripe for the picking.

Consider this scenario: a healthcare facility uses sensors to gather patient vital signs and edge devices to analyze those signs. Everything sounds secure on paper—the edge devices only store vital sign readings while the vital signs themselves stay with the sensors. But what happens if those sensors send their data back to a facility’s servers?

A worst-case scenario would have centralized servers mixing patient vital sign readings with personally identifiable information, ultimately endangering patient privacy.

There’s no denying that the more we introduce connected smart devices into our lives, the more opportunities we provide threat actors to hack into and compromise these devices. However, businesses can prepare their data centers to stand up to the security challenges of a hyper-connected world.

The Self-Defending Network for Security at the Edge

Enterprises with corporate resources outside the bounds of centralized data centers should look to edge security to protect applications and users at the edge of their network.

Edge security safeguards apps and users on a network’s edge and uses built-in security stacks to mitigate threats and vulnerabilities at all points of access. Using edge security, a company can safely direct traffic to its nearest points of access rather than backhaul it to a WAN network to stay safe from internet connectivity-related perils.

Since edge devices can assume practically any form (IoT sensors, security cameras, and bring-your-own-devices are just a few examples), edge device security must protect endpoints everywhere. Early forms of edge security often used VPN connections to secure the edge, but these were cumbersome for users and difficult to install and maintain for IT staff.

Instead, companies should consider a “single-pane-of-glass” approach to edge device security, with which they can manage and monitor each edge device under their purview. This approach uses continuous and automated user authentication and access control policies that ensure only authorized users can access the company data they request.

Self-defending networks provide an automated threat response that immediately isolates potential threats, reducing the risk of human error during an attack. In addition, suspect devices are automatically isolated from the network to await remediation, allowing other devices to operate as normal. Combined with Vista Manager, our single-pane-of-glass network dashboard, our self-defending network solution offers complete visibility of the threat status of the network and fine-grained control of all endpoint devices.

The self-defending network enables companies to simplify their edge security and reduce management overhead. It integrates with your current firewall to defend wired and wireless networks and does not require agents or third-party software programs to be installed on endpoints or users’ devices.

Talk to an expert to learn more about the self-defending network.