Building an effective data security strategy at the edge

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Across many industries, companies are deploying edge computing technologies as a new way to process data and analytics.

For those unfamiliar, edge computing is a new technology that essentially pushes computing applications, data and services to the “edge” of the network. As edge computing becomes increasingly popular, IT experts are now tasked with the challenge of protecting the edge.

In today’s IT climate, the increase in both frequency and complexity of cyberattacks has made security a top priority. Traditionally, data breaches have been the biggest concern for companies looking to deploy cyber security programs. However, with edge computing, threats can impact more than just data loss.

For some companies, the real risk lies in decreased system performances that can damage supply chains – which ultimately impacts the company’s bottom line. Given the potential consequences, companies that have deployed edge solutions need to implement proper security and operations strategies to protect both their data and their business.

Preparing for security

The first step to securing the edge lies in software. As the foundation of edge computing deployments, software is a top security risk if applications are obsolete or outdated. Organizations need to ensure that their operating systems are up-to-date before they consider implementing complex security strategies and applications.

To avoid making this reoccurring mistake, organizations also need to have practices in place to ensure they are continuously updating their operating systems after security programs have been launched.

Many organizations also make the mistake of assuming that threats can be mitigated exclusively by external sources. While this notion may have been true a few years ago, today’s cyber security risks are forcing companies to take a more hands-on approach.

Building a security strategy

All industries are viewing the deployment of operational technology (OT) security software as the most established best practice for securing the edge. Currently, OT security software is software-defined, which presents us with a new opportunity for deployment at the edge. In fact, edge computing is a great way to bring technologies together to deploy security systems in an easier and more efficient way.

Edge computing makes security programs more effective with the ability to allocate protection resources close to the critical data point, which minimizes the time required for programs to register and process security risks. In some cases, especially with companies that utilize IoT devices at a fast pace or large scale, IT staff may not have the capabilities or the resources to immediately secure each endpoint device at the time of a breach.

Deploying OT security software at the edge provides companies with a level of umbrella protection so that they can establish an adequate line of defense. Traditionally hard to manage, OT security systems now bring top-notch security to endpoint devices with the help of edge computing.

Managing threats

Traditional physical attacks may seem relatively harmless when compared to the massive malware attacks and hacking attempts we’ve seen today – but companies with an edge computing strategy need to be thinking about both physical and digital protection.

Before deployment, organizations need to secure their edge computing solutions in both cyber and physical security aspects. It’s also important to consider that internal threats like human error can have devastating impacts on operations. While this may seem like an added step to a security plan, most edge computing solutions are designed to maximize their physical security.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming that an endpoint device is physically secure if it’s locked in a cabinet, but this isn’t always the case. In the event that a hacker gets access to the physical system, organizations need to have measures in place to ensure that hackers do not gain access to important connectivity points on the physical device.

This is where security measures like identity control and access management come into play, adding in another layer of physical security. While this may seem unnecessary, some of the largest industrial security breaches could have been prevented by simply locking a cabinet or USB port.

It’s well known software is the key to edge computing and its surrounding security strategies, but the nature of endpoint devices at the edge of the network require an additional level of physical security. When deploying the edge, companies need to consider all points of access, both cyber and physical, when developing security strategies for the edge.

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