View from India: SASE could be a secure digital enabler

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Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is designed as a single-pass security approach to benefit end users. As the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a scaling-up of digital adoption, diverse verticals are lapping up SASE for its intrinsic features.

Digital solutions need to be backed by good performance and security. “Digital adoption extends to digital connectivity among devices, applications and nearly everything. This has made end users skeptical about issues related to data breach and cyber security,” said Jaspal Sawhney, global chief information security officer, Tata Communications Ltd.

Clearly, network performance and security need to be addressed. This is where SASE (pronounced 'sassy') comes into play. SASE converges network and security-as-a-service into a cloud-delivered service model. Consequently, end users enjoy the low latency of the cloud as well as network security without complication. “Network companies are acquiring security products to offer end-to-end security solutions. The end points on the edge are secure. With this, there’s a flexible network fabric,” observed Sunil David, regional director, AT&T Global Network Services India Pvt Ltd. 

Network security, which requires high bandwidth interface, is built with compulsory protection followed by compliance protection. Auditing tools are required to take this forward. AI-ML (artificial intelligence-machine learning) modules can be leveraged for monitoring the network and user behaviour, besides detecting and predicting zone and geolocation.

Network security is critical and it revolves around control: protection control; detection control; compliance control; authentication control. The cloud union, 5G and IoT devices connect through the bandwidth. Decisions will have to happen at the edge.

Network security is core to cloud and cloud is a growth driver for SASE. The fact that companies are migrating to a hybrid cloud environment - and with that comes the promise of security - has made SASE inevitable to industry folks. “We are shifting from a software-centric approach to a multi-cloud environment. The convergence of network and security engages all stakeholders in the ecosystem,” said David. 

SASE solutions need to be built into the framework of the system for a number of reasons. Its data solution helps protect data at the service edge. The zero trust network solution prevents access to unauthorised resources and protects applications. “By 2023, 20 per cent of the enterprises will undergo a directional shift as they would have adopted SASE. By 2024, this will scale up to 40 per cent. SASE will be a digital enabler,” noted Sawhney.

Besides SASE, another upcoming trend is that enterprise parameter is now a service for the cloud. This is a new development. Companies are at the cusp of this transformation. Management will happen through automated layers and it will be the in-thing for digital enterprises in this decade. To put things in perspective, 'Cloud First' has already happened, but the enterprise parameter as a service for the cloud is slowly coming into being.

Diverse tech applications are being harnessed to address the cyber-security requirements of digital enterprises. A case in point is blockchain technology, which goes beyond cryptocurrency to fulfill requirements of accountability and traceability and paperless operations. Professionals have realised that blockchain software can be harnessed for securing multiple layers of devices and solutions; protect and make them tamper-proof without giving scope for loopholes.

The Internet of Things (IoT) devices are the weakest link in the chain in terms of security matters. IoT devices can be secured by integrating blockchain into the system. Security by design which focuses on the prevention of a cyber-security breach is a good option for preventing IoT devices from being hacked.

Innovative security solutions such as Unified Threat Management (UTM) are on the rise. UTM is a new development in firewalling. Going ahead, firewall will be offered as a service for which a secure web gateway is required. “When data is hacked from companies, sometimes they may not even know about it. At times, it may be too late to do anything about it. Companies are now working out measures of optimising UTM for their operations,” highlighted Pavan Desai, CEO, MitKat Advisory Services.  

UTM is holistic, so it’s necessary to adopt micro-service architecture so that UTM holistically combines all aspects of cyber-security and assembles/synchronises it as a package. This can happen by re-orienting the ecosystem. “When we look at cyber-security for personal and official devices, connectivity happens through the personal network in a work from home (WFH) scenario. It amounts to us having less control over matters of security,” reasoned Deepak Maheshwari, public policy consultant, ICRIER (Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations). In case there’s a data breach, assistance doesn’t come in the form of a help desk. For this reason, UTM can be understood as a single solution. Being automated, there is less management load on end users.

However UTM does have its pitfalls, especially in the case of BYOD ('bring your own device'). BYOD provides ample scope for CYOD: 'create your own disaster'. In this situation, UTM becomes a single point of failure due to lack of updates and poor configuration. Cyber-criminals use sophisticated means to hack into a system so it’s essential to build a strong defence mechanism. UTM calls for collaborations between cyber-security experts and service providers. The government and industry, as well as industry and academia, need to come together to build awareness about cyber security.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, enterprises have had an increased need for protecting infrastructure. “With Covid, there are increased risks of cyber security and challenges continue to evolve. Visibility is required for an integrated view of the threat. There has to be a shift from a reactive to proactive approach towards cyber security. Compliance challenges like regulatory issues need to be resolved,” said S. Sridhar, vice president cloud and security services, Tata Communications.

Speakers shared these insights at 'DX Secure: Create a Cyber Security Strategy for your company in the Current Scenario' a virtual conference organised by CII-Tata Communications Centre for Digital Transformation.

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