Don Boxley, CEO and Co-founder, DH2i, highlights the severe risk of relying upon a VPN security system and offers some compelling motives to transition to a cutting-edge Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) solution.
Once hailed as a groundbreaking leap forward in IT security, the virtual private network (VPN) reached its peak in the mid-90s, around 1996. However, as the years have passed, it has become clear that VPN’s position as the newest and most exceptional solution in the rapidly evolving technology landscape has faded. The perpetual advancements in technology have overshadowed VPN, prompting us to reflect on its historical significance and acknowledge the need for more innovative and advanced security solutions.
The shift away from VPN began to take shape amid an ongoing progression towards more sophisticated security measures. However, it was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that brought the shortcomings of VPN technologies into sharp focus. With the rapid transition to remote work environments across the globe, cybercriminals capitalised on the inherent vulnerabilities of VPNs.
What makes organisations utilising VPN technology such an enticing target for hackers? What insights have prompted companies taking steps to phase out this technology that may not have occurred to you yet? It is crucial to consider the significant changes that have transpired in the world since the inception of VPN. Network security requirements have evolved significantly, becoming far more intricate than they were in the past. The current landscape is dominated by hybrid and multi-cloud configurations, alongside the pervasive presence of the Internet-of-Things. VPN technology finds itself woefully ill-equipped for these heterogeneous environments, as it was neither intended nor designed to safeguard companies operating within them. Consequently, organisations that persist in relying on VPN expose themselves to considerable risk due to the inherent vulnerabilities in VPN’s network security framework.
If you’re still relying on a VPN as your security system, ponder these four compelling motives to transition to a cutting-edge Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) solution:
- Every VPN connection poses a critical vulnerability: The absence of robust network access regulation for its users. Each and every connection serves as an invitation to access a significant portion of a company’s network. Consequently, this creates an expansive lateral attack surface, offering potential adversaries virtually limitless opportunities to exploit a single entry point.
- The financial burden and vulnerability of physical infrastructure: VPN solutions not only impose significant costs on IT environments but also introduce inherent points of failure. This stems from the reliance on hardware VPNs, which necessitate the establishment of VPN tunnels and depend on physical processors for their operation. As an organisation requires more VPN tunnels, the need for an expanded hardware footprint and configuration of the physical infrastructure arises, initiating a complex and costly endeavor. Moreover, the maintenance of physical appliances to enhance their reliability adds to the recurring expenses faced by organisations.
- VPN security vulnerabilities are a cause for concern: The strength of passwords plays a pivotal role in determining the security of VPN connections and this realisation can leave one feeling uneasy. Despite advancements in password security best practices, including updates and extended character limits, enforcing these policies is not always feasible for IT teams. Additionally, human tendencies often lead users to prioritise convenience over stringent security measures. In the context of VPN, if your credentials are compromised due to a weak password, malicious actors can swiftly gain access to your entire network, posing a significant threat to your organisation’s security.
- External and internal risks: When it comes to the current cybersecurity landscape, it is natural to focus on external threats as the primary concern for companies. However, with VPN technology, the scope of concern extends beyond external dangers to encompass internal risks as well. It has become increasingly common for malicious actors to surreptitiously breach network perimeters, lie in wait for extended periods and subsequently launch attacks from within.
In light of these glaring vulnerabilities inherent in VPN, organisations need to explore alternative approaches to network security. One such solution is Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP), a cutting-edge ‘Zero Trust’ technology that offers the most effective means of safeguarding data against the ever-escalating cyberthreats. SDP solutions not only mitigate the expenses and security weaknesses associated with physical VPN appliances, but also enhance functionality in various ways, including:
- Application-level access: In contrast to VPN, SDP solutions adopt a more meticulous approach to access control, ensuring that it is carefully authorised. They achieve this by granting users access exclusively to specific applications. Unlike VPN, which tends to provide broader permissions, granting a substantial ‘slice’ of the network, the ability to enforce application-level access stands as a significant advantage of SDP. This approach effectively eliminates lateral attack vectors while containing potential breach damage solely to authorised applications. By implementing SDP, organisations can strengthen their security posture and mitigate the risks associated with indiscriminate network access.
- Tailored for cloud environments: In the contemporary landscape, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud deployments have become the standard, necessitating a solution specifically engineered for heterogeneous environments. SDP technology is purposefully designed to seamlessly integrate with diverse cloud infrastructures, making it well-suited for the cloud-centric era. As a result, organisations can confidently establish secure connections across disparate infrastructure components, harnessing the power of SDP to navigate the intricacies of cloud-based ecosystems with utmost safety and reliability.
- Zero Trust assurance: In the realm of SDP, the guiding principle is to maintain a stance of Zero Trust, placing trust in neither entities nor elements, while diligently verifying and authorising every aspect and individual. This rigorous and highly secure approach is the key differentiator that sets SDP apart from VPN. By adopting a Zero Trust model, SDP guarantees continuous verification and authorisation of all users, regardless of whether they are internal or external to the network. At every touchpoint within the network, strict scrutiny ensures that access is granted only to authorised individuals, fortifying security measures and thwarting potential breaches. The Zero Trust assurance embedded in SDP empowers organisations to establish a robust security foundation and overcome the limitations inherent in traditional VPN solutions.
Embracing SDP: Safeguarding your network perimeter in the face of evolving threats
It is evident that the time has come to embrace the VPN to SDP paradigm shift, if not already done so. As cybercriminals continue to exploit and breach VPNs with alarming success, organisations must prioritise a more intelligent and robust approach to fortifying their network perimeters. With VPN technology dating back over a quarter of a century, the urgency to upgrade to SDP has never been more compelling. By making this strategic transition, your organisation can proactively protect critical data in the dynamic and cloud-centric landscape that defines our modern world. SDP offers cutting-edge capabilities and advanced security measures necessary to effectively secure your network infrastructure and stay one step ahead of emerging threats. Choose the path that safeguards your organisation’s future – embrace SDP and forge a secure tomorrow.Click below to share this article