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Remote Access Security and bettering User Experience leveraging a Software Defined Perimeter (SDP)

What is SDP?

Oh no, not another SDx!!!

Software-defined perimeters (SDPs) is not new and was introduced in 2014 by the Cloud Security Alliance. As of 2018 the number of vendors providing SDP solutions is rising. In 2020 this number has climbed to over 30 and growing.

In 2019 Gartner started covering the SDP space. Gartner opted to create the Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) category, an alternative label for SDP.

How COVID change the remote access landscape.

During the events of 2020 remote access and work from home became a main topic (and not by the water cooler). Starting in early 2020 organizations across the globe quickly scaled employee remote access, sending employees home and scrambling to provide them with the tools to work effectively outside the office. IT staff was under pressure with issues ranging from video conferencing to filesharing. IT departments discovered that scaling legacy VPNs was not an easy task, limited by access to hardware, load balancing, network throttling and major performance issues, these problems prevented remote workers from being productive and secure. Several months into the lockdown revealed remote access solutions was the number one investment area being considered by IT leaders due to the pandemic.

Nearing 2021 IT leaders across every industry are closely reviewing their remote access strategies. Software-defined perimeters (SDP) is now at the forefront of the IT team’s decision making.

What is a software-defined perimeter (SDP)?

Traditionally, remote workers have relied on a VPN to provide a safe, encrypted connection to usually corporate resources. As the number of users grow, access to resources have moved and legacy VPNs have become a hinderance. Even with multifactor authentication (MFA), legacy VPN solutions lack the ability to recognize context for remote users possibly leaving organizations vulnerable.

Software-defined perimeter (SDP) is a technology designed to create dedicated connections between users and the resources. SDP implies zero trust.

What is zero trust? Zero Trust is a security concept that requires all users, even those inside an enterprise network, to be authenticated, authorized and continuously validating security configuration and posture, before being granted or keeping access to applications and data

This idea by default, denies users access until they can prove they are a valid user for that resource. Zero trust also embraces the concept of ‘least privilege’, meaning users only get access to the application(s) they requested and preventing any kind of lateral movement. Connections are to the resource and not the whole network.

SDP solutions go far beyond credential checking. SDP products vary in their architecture, but usually leverage a controller. This controller acts as a context awareness of the user and makes decisions based on policies. The data gathered is usually based on application being accessed, the location of the device, the network it is connected to and more. This data is usually used in real time to build information based on request and determining whether the user can access the resource based on the context of the moment. If any information collected changes, access can be revoked ensuring users get what they need while reducing the attack surface.

The compelling driver for SDP is to provide innovative ways of secure remote access in an increasingly cloud-based and remote workspace.

Why SDP?

Principles of SDP are a modern to approach remote access in 2020 and beyond. COVID-19 is a driving force for the technology

· Protect resources and applications for SaaS, on-prem or private cloud

· Treat access to all resources equally, regardless of location

· Securely manage the transition to cloud

· Dedicated connections between users and resources mean that lateral movement between applications is nearly impossible

· Protect users with SDP, users are unable to access high-risk content

· Traffic is only secured when its needed

· Visibility, SDP controllers provide visibility into user context and resources accessed

· Increased user experience

Choosing an SDP solution

Usually a blend of different options usually includes both a legacy VPN and an SDP solution. Business’s requirements today need the ability to scale to meet the increasingly zero-trust-oriented needs of tomorrow.

Using disparate solutions for SDP and VPN may be problematic as due to policy duplication and technology overlaps. To avoid unnecessary duplication and complication, IT and security leaders should look to vendors that can provide a single, cohesive platform for both solutions.

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