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Looking to the future: Considering the IT trends expected

Looking to the future: Considering the IT trends expected

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Stefan Schachinger, Product Manager, Network Security – IoT/OT/ICS at Barracuda, discusses some of the technology trends he expects to develop over the coming year.

Recent news about beginning vaccinations gives us hope for a return to our normal lives. But many things have changed in the meantime and many of the changes are going to stay. For the IT security industry that means secure connectivity between people, things and sites is going to become increasingly important. Connectivity always comes with an attack surface.

In past years, companies have spent loads of money on security which cannot cover remote locations. In an office environment, it is state-of-the-art to inspect email and web traffic, have endpoint security and patches up to date, lock half of the Internet and to use the company-owned equipment for business purposes only. At home, many things are different. In the worst case, privately owned and unmanaged devices are being used. But even if employees are equipped with laptops, there is no gateway security at home. No web filtering, IPS, Advanced Threat Protection and all the other next-gen security features that keep malicious content out of the network. Security has to get much closer to the Edge device.

That is why I believe we will see the following trends become more important in the future.

The cloud as a data centre

Most companies work in hybrid environments. Very few, mostly startups, work with cloud services only. A mix of local resources together with cloud offerings from different vendors has become normal. Up until now, the central hub was the data centre. The data centre is in the middle of the architecture, the cloud services, remote workforce, subsidiaries and so on are connected back to the data centre. But unfortunately, the data centre does not scale. Scalability in a data centre means more hardware, negotiations for budget, maintenance fees for several years, and all of that in economically uncertain times.

Many have come to realise that the public cloud is just more flexible. So why not focus on the cloud and make it the central hub? The data centre becomes a subsidiary, people, things and sites connect to the public cloud. For global players, the cloud can even replace their backbone network and become the common ground that connects everything together. It goes without saying that security must also be set up outside the data centre.

Security everywhere

While some paranoid colleagues operate more VLANs at home than midsized companies do, in most home networks the ISP modem is still the only network device. Network security does not exist there, security is limited to the endpoint. Fortunately, most companies moved away from BYOD for good reasons. Nevertheless, security should not be tied to the location. People always work with the same kind of information, no matter if at home, in the office, in a coffee shop, or at the airport.

Using Zero Trust network access solutions, we finally began to tie security to the person and the Edge device instead of a centralised location in a data centre. The control pane moves to the cloud where it is always accessible. This makes it possible to restrict access to the application level instead of opening the entire network. At the same time, specifications on the status of the device, for example, requirements for endpoint security, are enforced. This is the first step in ensuring a common security level, whether at home or in the office.

Even more security

Even if all employees are equipped with company laptops and access to company resources is secure and everything else is taken care of, the device is still connected to a potentially insecure network. From a company’s point of view, the home network cannot be trusted. Even if nobody would consider the own home network as a risk, taking a closer look reveals room for improvements. The gateway usually is an ISP modem without any kind of security. The other devices in the network are potentially insecure. For example, the kids’ and their friends’ mobiles, PCs, and consoles may have out-of-date and vulnerable software or be infected with malware. Is this a network that a company device with sensitive information should be connected to? Actually, the company device needs the Internet connection only, connections to the other devices on the network are neither necessary nor desired. Concepts from the Industrial IoT (IIoT) environment can be easily transferred to the home office and create a safe island within an untrustworthy network, which then only serves as a transit network for Internet access.

Ransomware, phishing and other annoyances

Phishing attacks benefitted greatly from developments of last year. As mentioned, security measures at home are often less effective and you need access to the crown jewels for a lucrative ransomware attack. Encrypted family photos are by far less profitable than corporate blueprints. COVID-19 is an excellent hook for phishing emails; such a moving topic quickly leads to a rash click.

Neither phishing nor ransomware will go away soon. You can only protect yourself through extensive and consecutive security measures. The cloud is taking centre stage as well, classic data centre solutions and traditional client-2-site VPN connections will noticeably lose importance. With the increase in phishing, security awareness is also becoming more important, although awareness alone will never be good enough without technical measures.

So, let us look ahead and prepare for the coming months, which will hopefully feel almost like the past but will bring many improvements.

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