Digital Transformation And The Future Of The Network
By Hansang Bae, CTO, RiverbedTechnology
Dec 18, 2017 -- It seems like almost every IT business article today talks about how digital transformation enables businesses to innovate faster, become more agile and gain competitive advantages in their markets. While this is true, other truths about digital transformation include the unknowns about its impact and its incredible disruption capabilities. Technology is moving at an accelerated pace to achieve business benefits, causing the lines between IT and the business to blur as well as those between customer and user, data and applications and even where the network perimeter is -- if it even exists anymore.
Over the next two to five years, there is potential for new realities to radically change the networking landscape. We can embrace it so long as we’re prepared. Here are just a few predictions:
Digital transformation, largely driven by the demands of the user experience, will redefine networking and security.
The push for businesses to be more responsive and customer-centric requires more performance and agility from their network and systems, allowing for greater innovation internally and a more memorable user experience. However, the challenge lies with ensuring the security of these business assets. Often, changes needed to make the network more performant have meant sacrificing security to deliver, whereas incremental network modifications are made to boost performance, and, if there are any issues, a full-stack inspection (time-consuming and resource intensive) is performed.
This will have to change for digital transformation to be successful. Networks will need to become more resilient and dynamic to support the speed of business and elevate the customer experience. For security, this means entirely new philosophies about the safeguards and defenses necessary to ensure the security of network infrastructure and the data within it. Layered defenses consisting of firewalls and DMZs simply won’t cut it with the explosion of devices and users accessing the network and the threats they pose. Exploration of new approaches like behavioral analytics, anomaly detection and endpoint threat detection will facilitate effective digital transformation initiatives and provide an optimal user experience.
The internet of things and hyper-connectivity will fundamentally disrupt traditional networking and security safeguards.
Due to our increasingly hyper-connected world, simply leveraging firewalls to protect against external enemies and threats will be insufficient. A security infrastructure requiring data to traverse it to do its job will no longer be enough. The terms “dirty side” and “clean side,” currently used to describe network interfaces, will have no meaning. Tomorrow, threats will come from seemingly unlikely and trusted sources. Someone who is once or twice removed from your infrastructure (second or third business partners) being hacked makes you just as vulnerable.
There used to be limited ways one could gain entry to a system. Now, with the explosion of user devices, sensors, cameras and access points, you almost have an “internet of threats.” Accordingly, traditional defenses such as firewalls fall short. The delineated view of your network being secure via a firewall separating trusted and untrusted traffic will be antiquated, and instead, security will be better ensured by viewing the network more holistically and having technology safeguards in place that monitor the behavior of users and handle anomaly detection.
Crowdsourcing will be used more aggressively by IaaS providers to secure networks from threats.
The crowdsourcing model works regarding security because history has shown that the more eyeballs you have on a problem, the faster vulnerabilities will be found. WEP is Exhibit A of this model, which was the initial encryption standard released as part of the first wireless networking standard. It was riddled with vulnerabilities because it was developed in a closed environment with no input from a broader base of people with an interest in identifying and shoring up weaknesses. As a result, standards are now open for broader analysis. Bounty programs at Microsoft, Oracle and others also prove this out. Why? Because they ask for help from many people, numbering in the hundreds and more, who are motivated to find bugs or vulnerabilities in their products, making them more secure.
Alternatively, if you develop in a silo, your defense against vulnerabilities is only as good as the five to 20 people who work on particular protocols, and the one thing the teams miss will lead to vulnerabilities. If hundreds or more people work on these problems, then chances of finding and securing vulnerabilities increases dramatically.
Therefore, as counterintuitive as it may seem, the more open you are, the more protected you can be. As more companies adopt these bug or vulnerability bounty programs, crowdsourcing security will prove to be one of the most efficient, economical and effective strategies for achieving security of the network.
Securing networks will be propelled by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies at the security layer will be extremely dependable sentinels. Unlike today’s network security systems -- largely human administered and maintained -- ML and AI will be constantly vigilant against threats and vulnerabilities and will allow us to use the “P” (prevention) in IPS with confidence.
The current thinking is that if you have an updated database, secure firewall, patched OpenSSL, etc., you’re secure. But this presents a false sense of confidence that can be fatal to network security. ML and AI technology don’t suffer from overconfidence and preconceived notions of security. They will simply do the job of identifying anomalies and mitigating threats but far faster and better than today’s largely human, latency-bound security posture model.
There is potential for massive disruption that will change the way IT secures networks, what being "secure" will mean and how businesses will be able to achieve it. The opportunities that businesses will see in the coming years are nothing short of profound -- in fact, it may be easier to predict security challenges in the near future than to predict opportunities. So, by adopting a new mindset in securing the network, businesses will greatly benefit from the changes to come.