Rebooting your Network and Security Strategy?

Here's where to begin

Enterprises have always leaned on IT to keep up with evolving business needs, incorporating new and innovative technologies as and when they became available. As a result, it is not uncommon for global enterprises today to be working with diverse architectures ranging from physical servers to cloud-based virtual machines to containers and serverless functions.

Increased complexity from having to manage multiple environments is one consequence of such IT solutions, but the other, far more concerning side effect is that fragmented IT infrastructures invariably result in security measures and policies being applied inconsistently, significantly increasing business risk.

Growing calls for a unified network and security strategy

Ensuring security in global IT environments has become a top priority for IT leaders, especially as more organizations move their data and workloads to the cloud. However, given the extent of architectural change that most enterprises would have gone through over time, traditional security strategies may no longer be adequate. This has led to the rise of a unified network, and security strategy. Simply put, a unified strategy converges the network and security layers to enhance the enterprise’s ability to safeguard its network, respond to threats, and adapt its security strategy to align with evolving business needs.

Most enterprises may already have a number of security strategies in play. This includes data loss prevention (DLP) solutions to secure cloud workloads and data and robust identity access management (IAM) to ensure that the right people are accessing the right machines for the right reasons. They may also be using security information and event management (SIEM) platforms that combine user and entity behavior analytics that use AI and machine learning capabilities to interpret abnormal activities as threats and cloud security posture management (CSPM) practices to eliminate security blind spots.

However, without a unified network and security strategy, these individual security measures end up in silos, leading to operational inefficiencies, increased complexity, and decreased visibility, limiting the overall effectiveness of enterprise security.

Why unified security is the need of the hour for enterprises

Maintaining a competitive edge is key for enterprises today and the proliferation of the cloud has enabled them to build intelligent, resilient, and scalable IT infrastructures. Unfortunately for businesses, increased reliance on the cloud has coincided with a rampant increase in cybercrime in recent times [1].

Modern security threats increasingly target enterprises’ core digital infrastructures, which can leave them crippled. Not only are security lapses detrimental to employees, customers, and assets, but they can also cause irreparable damage to an enterprise’s reputation. Continued reliance on siloed security strategies for various environments, tools, processes, and teams can put enterprises at a major disadvantage when it comes to protecting core digital infrastructure.

A unified approach to security allows enterprises to detect, investigate, and respond to threats that impact their digital applications before they become full-fledged security incidents [2]. Converging existing security protocols maximizes the effectiveness of enterprise security and gives organizations the following advantages.

  • Improved visibility across cloud platforms, applications, and data sources.
  • Information exchange between network and security layers allowing them to work smarter, not harder.
  • Greater overall security posture through more consistent and centralized enforcement of security policies.
  • Greater cost savings by consolidating dated security policies and infrastructure and improving resource utilization.

Considerations for unifying your security strategy

Addressing the security needs of multiple environments holistically with a unified network and security strategy requires a rejection of traditional approaches to network security and a fundamental reboot based on the following considerations.

See the big picture

An integrated approach to security covers not only aspects of identity and access management, network security, endpoint security, data security, and incident response, but also risk management, compliance, and governance . Given its sheer scope, unifying enterprise security calls for close collaboration between the network and security teams as well as other departments to better understand interdependencies, increase visibility, and critically evaluate current processes for risks. This needs to be supplemented with flexible underlying architecture that allows organizations to adjust their security strategies quickly and at short notice. From a cost perspective, approaching security more holistically also enables enterprises to better allocate investment and resources.

Ensure nothing slips through the cracks

In this day and age, IT and network management is a shared responsibility that sees enterprises and cloud service providers working closely together. Being clear on these shared responsibilities when it comes to the complex, hybrid environments is key to ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks. The rule of thumb is that CSPs are responsible for the security of the cloud while the enterprise is responsible for security in the cloud. This includes the security of the assets deployed in the cloud such as applications data and workflows.

Leverage frameworks and best practices

Fortunately, enterprises today can lean on several methodologies and frameworks designed for unique business requirements. ISO’s Information Security Management System (ISMS) is well known for its focus on network security, application security, and incident management, while the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) lays out best practices for IT service management with a primary focus on meeting an organization’s business needs. Over the years, better industry-wide collaboration on cybersecurity has resulted in other frameworks including The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) an enterprise architecture methodology used by organizations to improve business efficiency; the Sherwood Applied Business Security Architecture (SABSA), which is used to develop risk-driven enterprise information security architectures; and others [3].

Ask yourself the tough questions

For IT leaders looking to reboot their network and security strategy but don’t know where to begin or how to approach it differently, the following questions can serve as a good jumping-off point.

  • When was the last time you had an organization-wide conversation about security?
  • Do you get your network and security teams together — do they have open communication and collaborate regularly?
  • Do you have a centralized point of control and visibility when it comes to security?
  • Has your enterprise audited its security tools and technologies recently and retired any that may be redundant?
  • What methodologies or frameworks is your enterprise security currently modeled on and is it still effective?
  • How quickly can your enterprise adapt its network and security strategy to respond to changing business needs?

In conclusion, enterprises today need to operate with the assumption that it is more likely that their network security is out of date than not. Luckily, modernizing enterprise security in the current climate no longer means adding more security strategies. Unifying existing solutions and ensuring they share information with each other is a more effective way of staying on the front foot when it comes to enterprise security.

Disconnected, siloed security strategies compromise the enterprise’s ability to scale and adapt to changing times and there is an urgent need for enterprises to assess their current security efforts and reboot network strategies to achieve greater resilience in the face of growing security risks.

As network technologies continue to evolve and increased competition drives prices down, enterprises have greater access to security solutions than ever before. And they don’t always have to break the bank either. The advice to enterprises thinking of rebooting their network security strategies is simple — do your research but, more importantly, take action.