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Friday, 26 June 2020 15:09

Why pushing web security to the edge is simply common sense

By Jonathan Andresen

GUEST OPINION Few would argue with Thomas Edison who said: “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

If anything, the last point – common sense – has been a virtue of the IT and software industry for decades, while the first two are table stakes.

In today’s hyperconnected world, common sense has provided the rational for transitioning to a digital and more remote-friendly workplace. The business benefits of going digital and remote are obvious – greater productivity, lower capital and operating costs and new more efficient business workflows and use cases. 

Underpinning this new agile and remote workplace are two trends that make it possible – cloud computing and high speed mobile connectivity (4G/5G). Where mobility allows users to access data from anywhere outside the office, cloud services allow for the infinite and flexible data scalability needed to support digital transformation. 

Both trends have a massive upside for business but pose serious challenges for data security and expose the limits of legacy architectures.

Now more than ever, IT teams need to balance protecting confidential and private data while delivering a work environment that is remote, highly collaborative and increasingly cloud and mobile centric. But how to do that when cloud services and mobility are beyond the perimeter of data centre security tools like firewalls and secure web gateways?

Traditionally, secure web gateways (SWGs) were installed in the data centre to proxy traffic (a forward proxy). They filter unwanted software/malware from user-initiated web/internet traffic to enforce corporate and regulatory policy compliance.  Secure web gateways were created as part of a centralised security toolset of SSL inspection, URL filtering and malware protection at a time when the browser was the main conduit for web traffic. This made ‘common sense’ at the time.

Embracing more remote users, BYOD and cloud applications, however, means routing all remote user traffic back to the data centre.  Gateways are expensive and difficult to manage in networks that provide direct access from multiple remote offices, as opposed to routing traffic to a central Internet access point to do SSL inspection.  Inspecting encrypted traffic at the gateway also infringes on user privacy and backhauling traffic causes delays, latency and bottlenecks.

So why continue to centralise web security when users are distributed and data is running on cloud services that bypass the enterprise data boundary? When cloud has become the back-end data centre and mobile is the new front end for users, isn’t it time to consider a new, more modern approach to web security?

The answer is simple. Put web security closer to the edge and closer to the user. Pushing web security to the endpoint gets around legacy architecture and solves the latency issue. If endpoints can carry their own on-device SWG, locally terminating SSL and inspecting all network activity for blocking threats and data leakage, performance, latency and management costs can all be improved.  What’s more, user privacy can be protected.

So organisations embracing cloud services and a more remote workforce should consider how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines common sense: “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”.

And while organisations may not invent the incandescent light bulb or the motion picture camera, they will most likely achieve something worthwhile – securing and protecting their enterprise data.

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