Edge computing security (edge security) is security aimed at protecting data that lives or transports through devices out of centralized data centers. Edge security is used to protect users and sensitive data at the farthest reaches or “edge” of a company’s network. With the rapid increase of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, mobile devices, and diverse network points, security concerns have drastically increased. Ensuring the privacy of consumer information and other sensitive data is far more difficult than ever before.
Edge computing is more than just a cool buzzword, it is a concise way of explaining and forming IT infrastructure in an age when cloud computing has become omnipresent. This exponential rise of edge computing, or working outside the network, has created the need for edge security.
Drivers of Edge Security
The primary drivers of edge security and computing are mobile and IoT applications. Mobile and IoT applications are growing exponentially. This is fueling a continuous need for more highly accessible, low-latency, super performant, secure, and easily scalable platforms capable of processing the enormous amount of data being generated and consumed at the edge.
The basic requirements haven't changed much over the past decade or two, but mobile and IoT applications have significantly outgrown the traditional architectural solutions implemented in the past to support them.
What is Edge Computing?
At the core of every network architecture, you will find a data center. This data center will be on the premises, a corporate facility or it will be a collection of public resources located in the cloud.
Edge computing, simply put, is computing that takes place on the outer edge of a network. Branch offices, broader corporate campuses, and retail outlets may be considered as operating at the edge of the network because the cloud or data center is the base of the network. With core station deployments integrating powerful computing capabilities, 5G cellular is also considered edge computing.
According to the Open Glossary of Edge Computing, an open-source effort led by the Linux Foundation’s LF Edge group, the generalization of any computations operating at the edge of the network as edge computing would not be accurate.
“By shortening the distance between devices and the cloud resources that serve them, and also reducing network hops, edge computing mitigates the latency and bandwidth constraints of today’s Internet, ushering in new classes of applications,” the glossary explains.
Understanding Edge Security
Edge security involves several aspects, including:
- Secure perimeter: Securing access to edge computing resources by way of encrypted tunnels, firewalls, and access control
- Securing applications: Edge computing devices run apps that need to be secured beyond the network layer
- Early threat detection: By definition, edge computing is not centralized, this makes it critical for providers to implement proactive threat detection technologies that will identify a potential breach as early as possible
- Patch cycles: Automated patching to keep devices updated and reduce potential surface attacks
- Managing vulnerabilities: The continued maintenance and discovery of known and unknown vulnerabilities
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
Gartner, a global research and advisory firm that provides advice, information, and tools for leaders in Internet Technology, Human Resources, finance, and communications, coined the term Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) in 2019. This term was created to define a category of hardware and services used to enable edge security.
Gartner describes SASE as an emerging force that successfully combines comprehensive WAN capabilities with extensive network security functions that support secure access. When the phrase was coined, in August 2019, Gartner already predicted that by 2024 nearly half of enterprises will adopt SASE strategies.
Edge Security Tips for Businesses
In order for companies to provide edge security they must, at minimum, ensure every piece of data passing through the corporation's endpoints or are stored on the corporation's devices be encrypted. They must also make sure that connectivity uses multi-faceted secure authentication and SSL/TLS or similar enterprise-grade security.
However, it is still possible to compromise edge security. Issues, such as unpatched operating systems, zero-day vulnerabilities, weak log-in credentials, and outdated software applications, can make a breach possible. Combine that with the fact that physical devices at the edge typically use different types of operating systems and software apps, in addition to remote management and monitoring, corporate security teams have no shortage of challenges. And this is what makes edge security so popular and an excellent career choice for IT professionals.
Edge security requires fundamental security features, such as:
- The entire network must be visible to administrators.
- Data must be encrypted at rest and in transit.
- Automated monitoring tools need to be in place.
- Access to alter data and network resources must be restricted.
Edge computing devices include local data centers, micro data centers, or just about any small device with computing power close to the end-user. The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly relying on and spurring the deployment of edge networks. But, significant security risks involving IoT devices make edge security more important than ever before.
Edge Security and IoT
The main use case for edge computing is to improve the quality of service used by IoT devices. Most IoT devices are not equipped with much processing power and even fewer security features. This leaves a large number of entry points at the edge very vulnerable, which is drastically exacerbated by the phenomenal growth of IoT devices. Multinational technology conglomerate, Cisco predicts that there will be nearly 15 billion IoT devices connected to the internet by 2023.
Unfortunately, organizations that create IoT devices do not always secure these devices properly. So, to secure the networks impacted by inadequately secured IoT devices, organizations need to take responsibility. The key fundamentals mentioned above are vital to organizations in order to ensure the safety of their networks. By putting security agents into edge nodes, like micro data centers with sufficient processing power, the traffic transported from compromised IoT devices can be detected as corrupt and denied access to the rest of the network.