A Guide to SD-WAN Security

By: Ray Watson

Today nearly every IT decision maker wants to invest in innovation that will facilitate network performance and agility without compromising security.

For many, the answer to these challenges is SD-WAN, which helps simplify the management and operation of enterprise wide-area networks. One of the main challenges that persists in standing up SD-WAN networks, however, is that traditional security solutions are no longer enough. Legacy security solutions simply do not have the performance, flexibility or interconnectivity that SD-WAN connections require.

Striking a balance between security and SD-WAN performance is critical in keeping data not only accessible but also safe.

Here’s a guide to the security benefits, precautions and other “need-to-know” basics of SD-WAN.

The Security of SD-WAN Appliances

At the risk of oversimplification, SD-WAN hardware is essentially a small computer, which means that the devices themselves are not necessarily built to be secure. In many cases, these devices may not have the most up-to-date operating system when they are shipped to the customer location, so checking for appliance security updates is critical. When updating security systems and patches, ensure your appliance is automatically updated by the service provider, or—at the very minimum—ensure there is a process in place to do so.

When it comes to hardware, off-the-shelf box servers and microservices should come only from well-known vendors with tested products, as it is often difficult to trace the lineage of off-brand hardware, which may contain rogue hacking or tracking devices.

SD-WAN’s Bundled Security Features: Benefits and Challenges

Because SD-WAN secures traffic in transit, solutions—which include integrated firewalls and associated unified threat management—have an advantage over solutions that require separate threat management. Properly configured SD-WAN devices can simplify security and defend data from attackers.

These bundled solutions, however, can sometimes trigger challenges, blurring the line between network and security operations. Adding an unmanaged (and possibly unsecured) SD-WAN appliance to a corporate network can make roles and responsibilities confusing.


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