Fully centralized IT networks may be a thing of the past, but many enterprises are still clinging to their old ways. It’s not always easy for larger companies with complex IT architectures (such as banks, heavy manufacturing companies, and government organizations) to keep pace with a more distributed model. Today’s modern architectures are pushing more data processing to the edge, and many rely on multiple cloud implementations and datacenters to make their businesses run smoothly.
When it comes to cybersecurity, these types of companies must also change their thinking to what’s known as the “cybersecurity mesh.” As defined by Gartner, the cybersecurity mesh is a distributed architectural approach to scalable, flexible, and reliable cyber control. The mesh changes the focus from protecting a traditional IT perimeter (analogous to a “walled city”) to a more modular approach that centralizes policy orchestration but distributes enforcement of cyber security policy.
IT departments in this scenario can create smaller, individual perimeters that protect distributed access points, allowing network managers to offer different levels of access to different constituents and assets — and making it harder for cybercriminals and hackers to exploit an entire network.
Zero Trust Strategy
The cybersecurity mesh is a key component of a zero-trust network philosophy, whereby any device is by default not trusted to access the broader network. Perimeter-focused security often fails because as much as 34 percent of data leaks and breaches originate on the inside of the network itself. A distributed cybersecurity mesh that utilizes zero trust adapts to emerging threats and changing access needs. Threats can be detected in real-time and assets such as data and devices can be protected better than simple VPN passwords. The mesh ensures that all data, systems, and equipment are treated equally and securely — it doesn’t matter where they are located in (or out) of the network. Any connection to access data is by default considered “unreliable” until it is verified by the security protocol.
Protecting Applications and IT Services
When it comes to rolling out large-scale applications in an enterprise environment, the concept of a service mesh is also catching on. Companies are increasingly deploying microservices (an architectural style that structures apps as a collection of services that are loosely coupled and independently delivered, rather than as one monolithic service). Protecting applications like these in a cybersecurity mesh adds efficiency and transparency to the process, and it can be combined with a zero-trust strategy to harden the security posture.
Some examples of attacks that can be mitigated include:
- Service Impersonation: Where a hacker accesses a private application network, acts as an authorized service, and makes requests for confidential data.
- Unauthorized Access: Where a service request (even a legitimate one) tries to access sensitive data that it is not authorized for.
- Packet Sniffing: The process of intercepting legitimate requests and using them to gain access to data.
- Data Exfiltration: Where someone maliciously sends sensitive data out of the protected environment.
Impact of the Cybersecurity Mesh on IT Development
Older cybersecurity models used to build password-protected perimeters to allow devices to gain access to a network, managing access levels internally. For IT development, the cybersecurity mesh approach means a total reconfiguration of the process, integrating different measures during the development process of the network itself. In other words, IT security does not get applied as an afterthought, but is rather created early on in the process when the network’s architectural design is built. Development teams will be heavily involved in moving security further “to the left” to ensure a more flexible deployment over time.
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Mesh Training Can Make a Difference
Security frameworks are only as good as the IT people who implement them. That’s why it’s important that your cybersecurity experts are well-versed in mesh and other security options, and that a culture of continuous improvement is built into your strategy. One strategy is to take a DataSecOps approach, where IT and data scientists collaborate from the very beginning on building security measures into the infrastructure. Doing so ensures applications transparently interface within the security mesh to improve integration of all relevant systems and devices.
Other mesh-focus training concepts include:
- Building data security that is based on downstream utility so that data can be accessed without exposing it unnecessarily.
- Creating a cybersecurity mesh that scales as volume of applications and data grow.
- Educating IT workers on the importance of continually monitoring and measuring application performance.
Finally, it is vital that cybersecurity professionals receive the broadest training to understand evolving threats and know how to take effective action. Becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a great way to learn the tactics that hackers and cybercriminals utilize, but doing so in a protected and legal learning environment.