3 steps to taming data security challenges with edge computing

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Edge computing is creating benefits across a variety of industries. For many companies, this means supplementing their cloud environments with faster processing, access and analysis of critical data closer to where that data originates.

However, the benefit of decision making at the edge comes with the consequence of new network security vulnerabilities. New touchpoints that were previously isolated and increased connectivity are creating new threats, including loss of data integrity and network vulnerabilities allowing for potential ransomware attacks.

All of this is further complicated by the security needs of different stakeholders. Operational technology (OT) staff view security in terms of safety and reliability of operations, while information technology (IT) staff define security in terms associated with data protection and locking down network vulnerabilities. Data security at the edge needs to be approached with all of these concerns in mind.

To address security at the edge, organizations need to follow a specific process to make sure they’re covering all of their bases. By following the three steps below, companies that are utilizing edge technologies can successfully implement the best security strategies for the edge to protect their bottom line as well as their data.

Step One: Conduct a Security Audit

This step may seem self-explanatory – but you’d be surprised learn how many companies forego this integral part of the process. Before anything else, companies need to conduct a comprehensive security audit that looks their existing environments. It’s in this process that a security auditor is able to identify any and all potential threats at the edge – both physical and digital.

With a proper security audit, a company should be able to inventory all of their assets and identify points of weakness. From here, you can start the conversation between OT and IT teams with the goal of establishing an all-inclusive remediation plan.

Step Two: Know Your Stakeholders

In today’s IT landscape, we’re seeing a convergence of OT and IT professionals more so than ever before. This is especially true for edge computing, as the technology inherently requires the services of both OT and IT. To effectively establish a security remediation plan, companies need to get the buy in of both OT and IT teams. It’s here that collaboration is key – both teams need to understand differences in goals as well as skill sets.

Once a remediation plan is in place, OT and IT teams need to confirm that each group understands what their role is in protecting the company’s operations and assets. This is the crucial step in avoiding any detrimental mix-ups in the future. Together, OT and IT can work cohesively to ensure their organization is not vulnerable to risk.

Step Three: Consider Security Aware Solutions

Traditionally, legacy OT products haven’t been very secure. The reason for this is that a lack of connectivity in manufacturing didn’t require higher security levels. Now, with the shift to connectivity, security is a high priority in these environments.

At the edge, implementing security requires a different strategy than with IT products. Edge security strategies can’t be complex, costly and difficult to manage because OT professionals’ priorities are focused on keeping production lines up and running.

Companies need to enable security aware solutions at the edge that will inherently perform securely, while seamlessly fitting into existing environments. These solutions better suit the needs of OT professionals managing the front lines at the edge, while also working minimize the risk for IT security issues.

The edge is potentially a very exciting place. There are so many benefits of edge computing that can be utilized across a variety of industries in many different ways. The edge is so new, that many believe we haven’t fully grasped all of the ways we can utilize the technology.

But with every unknown comes a security concern. If an organization is using edge computing now – or thinking about implementing it in the future – it’s important that they follow a process to effectivity identify their points of weakness to establish a security remediation strategy among both OT and IT teams.

This process is crucial to avoiding potentially catastrophic events that can severely impact production and bottom lines, in addition to exposing critical data.

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