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Challenges at the Edge: Security

Edge computing is growing exponentially, and is part of a cybersecurity landscape with new risks that organizations must be aware of and prepared for.

Edge computing is the processing of data as close as possible to the end-user. Organizations are transitioning to the edge to reduce bandwidth — the amount of information flowing in and out of the primary network — to increase speed, efficiencies associated with collecting, processing, and analyzing data, improve overall performance, and reduce operational expenses. The rollout of 5G increased the amount of data needing to be processed and has fueled advances in intelligent automation required for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT). In this blog post, we will discuss the security risks, the challenges, and the solutions businesses must address and implement before moving to the edge.

Security Risks at the Edge

The security risks inherent in edge computing are very different from those encountered in a traditional data center or even the cloud. With edge computing, data is decentralized and distributed across numerous machines and devices. The more connected devices you add to your network, the more potential vulnerabilities.

The total installed base of IoT devices worldwide is estimated to reach 30.9 billion units by 2025. What does this mean for organizations when it comes to security? Businesses must be ready to implement security measures and processes to secure data. The traditional methods used to secure devices — firewalls and anti-malware software are not sufficient.

Privacy and security are vital in securing your IoT devices. Regular device updates, procedures, and device monitoring are key. Your first line of defense against cybercriminals is the user — your employees. Providing regular training is highly recommended.

According to a report by Kaspersky, a world-renowned cybersecurity solution provider, IoT cyberattacks more than doubled year-on-year during the first half of 2021 totaling 1.51 billion breaches. To put this into perspective, in 2020 there were 639 million breaches. The findings associated the increase to a variance of reasons, first and foremost, the shift to remote work. This slammed open the door for cybercriminals to strike when defenses were down. As more organizations are making the shift to edge computing security measures must be created and implemented.

Bringing Security to the Edge

Edge computing is reshaping the way we understand and practice cybersecurity. Many organizations have learned some hard lessons when it comes to cybercrime. A prevention-based strategy is the best defense.

Best Practices 

Device Discovery 

If you don’t know something exists, you can’t secure it. The first step in securing an edge computing environment is device discovery — locate and document every device on your network.

Organizations need a comprehensive, up-to-date database of every device in their environment, the information each device is gathering and sharing, and the specific risks and vulnerabilities they pose to the environment. Device discovery must distinguish between on-network and off-network assets and wired and wireless assets. It is crucial to invest in near-real-time monitoring capabilities, ensuring continuous monitoring of all devices and network traffic.

Device Profile Creation

Document and monitor all the devices on your network and create a detailed profile for every device.

Profiles should include the purpose of the device; the device’s normal behavior; what ports the device uses; the types of traffic the device sends and receives; and typical traffic destinations. Creating device profiles doesn’t require spending time reading multiple manufacturer manuals or paying vendors for support. There are tools available that monitor device behavior and automatically create device profiles based on the information.

Create and Enforce Device Policies 

Once you have a comprehensive list of all the devices on your network and you have successfully created profiles for them, it’s time to establish, and implement device policies.

Device policies include what ports each device is allowed to use, what happens when a device performs an action outside of their profile (such as sending information to an atypical destination), and who does and does not have permission to log in to these devices. You must determine what happens when devices violate policies. What security protocols are activated? When are trouble tickets created? Is the device booted off the network? Is it put into a temporary quarantine zone? This can be done with network access control (NAC) software.

Change All Default Passwords 

Many IoT devices have built-in default passwords from the manufacturer. Before using your device, change the default password with your own organization’s criteria for password creation to ensure security.

Edge computing is growing exponentially. According to Markets and Markets, the edge computing market size is estimated to grow from $36.5 billion in 2021 to $87.3 billion by 2026. Organizations must expand their security capabilities to safeguard their data on all edge devices.

As the need for edge computing in IoT environments continues to grow, so will the need to connect to local, interconnected data centers. Netrality’s colocation facilities — located near end users — provide the ultra-low latency and processing speed enterprises need to not only adopt edge computing, but to monitor all activity on edge devices and ensure their evolving infrastructures are always secure.

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