Before they are allowed access to a network, they have to prove their—benevolent—identity. To illustrate, think of a concierge, whom we will call George, at a high-end apartment building where you live. When you first move in, you introduce yourself to George and he gives you a card that serves as the key to your apartment.
You can also swipe the card to gain access to the gym, business area, meeting rooms, and common areas. The next day, you decide to go to the gym after you finish work. You walk in the front door, and you see George. He nods to you, recognizing your face. You nod back, say a brief greeting, and head toward the gym. You swipe your card to gain access to the locker room, change, then swipe it again to get into the workout area itself. This is how a traditional security system works.
When George sees your face, he trusts that you are who you appear to be. However, if you have an identical twin who steals your key card, they can probably walk in, get a nod from George, and access the same things you can. That is the weakness of a trust-based system. If a device is used and validated one day, and the same device is used the following day, a trust-based system allows access.
However, someone who steals the device can abuse this trust. On the other hand, a zero-trust security system always questions anyone or anything trying to gain access. To mirror a true zero-trust system, George will have to force you to prove your identity using biometric data every time you come into the building. Further, the legitimacy of your key card will also have to be verified, perhaps by using a constantly changing token that can only be received by a legitimate key card. In this way, if either the user or the device they are using is fraudulent, the user is denied access to the network.
By implementing a black cloud infrastructure for network security, you are putting a wall between your network and attackers. They cannot see the network. Therefore, they cannot hack into it. When an attacker is able to see into the network, they can search for vulnerabilities.
Even if your various network components are secured, a hacker may still be able to figure out loopholes. For example, some firewalls have a hard time stopping zero-day threats. If an attacker is able to see inside a network, part of which is protected by this kind of firewall, they can devise a zero-day attack that may be able to slip past it. On the other hand, with software-defined perimeter security, the attacker cannot even see inside the network in the first place.
This precludes the possibility of designing attack methods for the different components of the network or its security features. It is similar to a bank vault that is completely encased in a huge cube made of steel. Before a thief can even begin to try to figure out the combination for the vault, they will have to get through the steel walls around it.
Further, because the thief cannot see past the steel walls, they do not know if the vault is secured by an old-fashioned, spinning combination lock, a biometric reader, or other security devices. Is it a huge deadbolt, a single latch, or a combination of the two? Because the thief has no idea what is there, they do not know what tools to bring or the technology they need to get inside.
It is the same with black cloud network security. The network can be protected by firewalls, next-generation firewalls NGFWs , web application security measures, internal multi-factor authentication MFA , anti-malware, data loss prevention systems, email security—the list goes on. In some ways, software-defined perimeter companies offer something similar to a virtual private network VPN. Users are kept on the outside unless they have the appropriate credentials.
However, SDPs are different, primarily in that network connections are not shared between devices that connect. With a VPN, once you are in, you are in. With an SDP, an administrator can choose which resources a user has access to once they are allowed network visibility and entrance.
With an authentication first, access afterwards approach, the user is not allowed to access the network or any of its components. This differs from architectures that allow users to get inside the network but require them to provide credentials to use certain aspects of it. For example, any user can access the network, but only those with the right credentials can use the services provided by the email server. With an authentication first, access afterwards approach, no one is allowed to get into any facet of the network unless they have first been authenticated.
In this way, attackers are denied visibility into the network, its components, internal systems, and applications. Once a user is inside, it is possible to create further access restrictions that can only be bypassed using additional authentication means. Ideally, both layers of access security should incorporate MFA, which requires multiple authentication measures, such as something the user has on their physical person, something the user knows, and the biometric data of the user.
With a VPN, a user needs to prove their credentials prior to gaining access to the network. If they do not have the proper credentials, they are not allowed in. In this way, they have no visibility into the network and cannot try to compromise specific aspects of it. Another danger that comes from overrelying on an authentication first, access afterwards approach is, unlike a VPN, communications happening within the network are not automatically encrypted within the confines of an SDP.
Therefore, if a malicious actor gains access, they can potentially spy on the communications of others within the network. For these reasons, it is important to bolster an SDP solution with additional security layers. The technology that powers an SDP approach is able to create a perimeter, securing it using policies that isolate services, keeping them separated from networks that are not secured.
This is often accomplished using the principle of least privilege. This means that only those who absolutely need to use specific resources to perform their jobs are allowed access to them. With least privileged principles implemented, you are protected from multiple threat vectors.
For example, if someone is allowed to access both the email server and the firewall settings but only needs the email server to perform their job, this will violate the concept of least privilege. If they are to leave their computer running and leave their workstation, someone can slip in and access the firewall settings, changing them to allow a future attack to penetrate the network. Therefore, least privilege is an integral aspect of an SDP.
An SDP is able to authenticate users, as well as devices, before allowing either of the two to gain access to the network. To do this, an SDP architecture depends on two primary components: controllers and hosts. A host that initiates communication first connects with the SDP controller.
This connection is used to figure out which other SDP hosts the initiating host will be allowed to connect to. In SDP architecture, devices that people try to use to access the network or a part of it are referred to as clients. There are different ways the client can try to connect to an area of the network. You can set up an SDP as a gateway that acts as a middleman security feature between the client and the servers the SDP is protecting.
In a gateway architecture, the accepting SDP host receives a request from the client, such as an application on a desktop computer. To set up a software-defined perimeter, you have to first verify the identity of the user. The next step is to verify the security of the device. This needs to be done both before the device is allowed to connect and after the session has finished.
Various data points pertaining to the device can be used to do this, including its location, malware status, registry information, antivirus settings, encryption on its hard drive, firewall status, and more. Predefined policies determine the settings and states that will be accepted or rejected.
If the device conforms to the policies, it is allowed to connect. The final step is to ensure the data is protected. This is where the SDP vendor plays a critical role. They have to take the extra step of setting up secure tunnels of communication between the device and the applications it is accessing.
If data is encrypted for the entire session, the user can enjoy a private, safe connection without compromising sensitive information. FortiToken Cloud provides administrators with a simple, central authentication system. The reason is that traditional approaches to security were never really designed to protect dynamic, borderless, and hyper-connected environments. For example, software-defined wide area networking SD-WAN is beginning to replace traditional MPLS infrastructure because, among other things, it is far less expensive.
So much so that it is now being deployed in places where MPLS was never even possible. While there are certain security advantages to such an approach, what if one end or the other has been compromised? What if ransomware has been installed on a particular endpoint device?
It turns out that encrypted tunnels make an ideal mechanism for hiding the distribution of malware. From another viewpoint, some organizations are starting to adopt software-defined perimeters SDP because they can stop network-based attacks against their applications infrastructure and control access to applications to ensure that they can only be accessed by preauthorized users and devices. This means that SDP is essentially guaranteeing that only pre-authorized users and devices can access the application infrastructure.
Because the client device could still be compromised via an advanced persistent threat APT attack, allowing malicious traffic to thereby reach the application infrastructure. To really address that challenge, organizations need to also implement a second tier of security to their encrypted connections. That is, actually examining the applications and content inside these encrypted connections.
The challenge is that when so much of your traffic is encrypted, this degree of inspection puts a vast amount of pressure on the performance requirements of security. Make no mistake; inspecting SSL requires some pretty heavy lifting when it comes to encryption and decryption.
This means we are looking at billions of new devices potentially impacting our networks — all compounded by the phenomenon of hyperconnectivity. IoT devices are fairly chatty due to the number of data points they are collecting, and they also share all of this collected data with some centralized infrastructure. Other IoT devices use thousands of sessions and were not really tuned with network resource consumption in mind.
Imagine a network managing access for tens of thousands of such devices. This can be a huge problem for any network. When you start multiplying every node by a thousand sessions and then add sustained or concurrent sessions, you are looking at a scenario that is going to overwhelm virtually any access point on the market. Then try to do all that over SSL. Your security posture is only as good as your weakest link.
Meanwhile, the sophistication of threats continues to increase and many are now shared openly or even for sale as a service. Once you consider applying behavioral analytics and deep application inspection to highly encrypted SD-WAN traffic you are talking about exponentially increasing just the raw processing power that is needed.
Let alone ways to see across the variety of network ecosystems in place in order to anticipate and stop a threat, while simultaneously closing that vulnerability anywhere else it may exist. So, what do we do differently?
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A software-defined perimeter (SDP) is a method of concealing infrastructure that is connected to the internet, such as routers and servers, preventing external. This means that SDP is essentially guaranteeing that only pre-authorized users and devices can access the application infrastructure. Fortinet is the only SASE vendor to provide consistent, enterprise-grade protection across every network edge based on the security-driven networking strategy.