SD-WAN Security – A Quick Guide
Introducing the benefits of SD-WAN in terms of increased network security for a business.
With the advent of SD-WAN technology, businesses are now able to capitalise on numerous networking benefits which were otherwise unachievable with standalone connectivity options, such as traditional WAN or MPLS. By providing an overlay architecture to a business’s network, SD-WAN simplifies and centralises network management – making the network more flexible and ultimately more cost-effective with the intelligent management & routing of all a business’s connections, including DIA, MPLS, Broadband and Mobile.
As more businesses deploy SD-WAN into their network architecture and software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) become more commonplace, as highlighted in 2019 with adoption rates soaring to 54%, businesses must be mindful of the raft of new security challenges the technology can pose if not managed effectively.
How SD-WAN Can Improve Security
With recent IDG Research suggesting that the majority of survey participants (61%) noted that ‘optimising the network’ is the top objective for employing SD-WAN, it is easy to understand that SD-WAN to date has been primarily deployed to improve a business’s network and simplify the management of wide area networks, especially across multiple branches or offices.
However, with security being the main WAN challenge amongst survey participants and the leading factor (81%) guiding companies in their SD-WAN selection process, realising the security benefits of SD-WAN within a wider business context is of paramount importance to all businesses.
Therefore, when it comes to security, SD-WAN provides numerous benefits. In its simplest form, SD-WAN eliminates the need for overly complex security systems during site to site data transmission. The technology efficiently encrypts traffic and data from the outset.
Furthermore, SD-WAN improves security by simplifying it from a business perspective. Rather than every branch office having its own set-up & security configuration, SD-WAN will provide centralised management that can ensure every office is following the same security protocols. This not only allows offices to work together more effectively but also makes monitoring security across offices far easier and more efficient.
In turn, by simplifying the security process with SD-WAN, a business can also take advantage of reducing the amount of traffic needing to go through security parameters. Whilst at first this might not seem like it is actually improving security, it is, as using SD-WAN for all site to site data, the business can have the confidence that all internal traffic is already encrypted, effectively eliminating the need for using a VPN or firewall. By managing and routing data this way it actually makes the network more secure.
Public traffic will still, however, require security protocols to ensure the safe delivery of data, but again SD-WAN can help there as well. By providing granular control of all network traffic, SD-WAN will allow the business to implement specific security features for each data source – including limiting traffic and even denying access when identified as coming from certain websites or a suspect source.
But when it comes to ensuring your business network is always as secure as it can be how should you utilise SD-WAN?
Tips To Improving Network Security With SD-WAN
SD-WAN can be utilised to improve network security in many ways. But here’s a more in-depth look at some of the key strategies to employ.
Arguably one of the best security features to use with SD-WAN is its ability to segment traffic. Quite easily, you can segment traffic from different applications based on the characteristics and network policies set by the network administrator.
With the creation of virtual networks within the SD-WAN’s virtualised network overlay, a business can give priority to certain traffic whilst restricting other data, eliminating an attack vector and allowing quality of service to be applied much more granularly.
This can help businesses quickly isolate data transmissions during cyber-attacks which will prevent threats spreading across the business and network. The ability to quickly segment traffic is also aided by the excellent network visibility offered by SD-WAN.
As IPsec based VPN’s are virtually universal in all SD-WAN solutions, the technology can be leveraged for greater security. By using SD-WAN on your network, and in turn an IPsec tunnel or VPN to send data, it will ensure traffic cannot be interfered with between the sender and receiver.
This is achieved in a number of ways, including the use of encryption keys, making sure the Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) protocol has been used and packets have not been tampered with, and authenticating the sender, receiver and packets being sent.
Visibility & Central management
Being able to view all network activity from a single, centralised location also significantly improves visibility and makes monitoring each office’s network status & security much easier as well. Through centralised management, security protocols can be deployed to every office or branch network without a need for a physical IT presence at each, greatly reducing the resource requirements whilst improving efficiency for managing network security.
With added visibility, you can also quickly spot security risks and concerns before they become larger problems. Network administrators can orchestrate the network centrally whilst monitoring traffic for inconsistencies. With this functionality, administrators are able to troubleshoot network problems, ensure applications are performing properly and ensure security policies are running correctly.
Quite simply, SD-WAN makes monitoring and managing network security much easier across an entire business. As network security continues to become a big concern for businesses, SD-WAN is only likely to grow more popular.
A key component of SD-WAN security which ensures consistent monitoring and protection throughout the network, is in-built next-gen firewall (NGFW) security, which is paramount to ensure is included in you SD-WAN solution.
The technology, which can be deployed at both branch offices and headquarters, is a virtualised and significantly improved version of a traditional hardware based firewall. However, the NGFW and virtual network functions (VNFs) that they run can be based both in the cloud and on-premises, providing malware detection, web content filtering, application awareness, attack detection and prevention as well as antivirus protection.
SD-WAN vendors and security
As with any technology, there are many SD-WAN vendors to consider. And it is important to remember that not every vendor will approach network security the same way or with the same degree of importance. So, whilst similar protocols will invariably be utilised, there isn’t a one size fits all model when it comes to deploying SD-WAN and if security is of paramount importance, ensure you select a vendor who understands the specific challenges of your niche and industry, so your implementation of the technology matches your specific security requirements.
In summary, Network security is complicated, but SD-WAN can help make it much easier to manage. A good SD-WAN solution will largely take care of all your cloud-based security concerns while also ensuring site to site security is much easier to manage.
Want to find out more?
Visit our SD-WAN solutions page to discover the Panoptics difference and how your business would benefit from one of our SD-WAN solutions.