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The role of edge computing security in enterprise networks

By ensuring IoT security, IT teams can secure enterprise networks as well. Edge computing can provide one path toward this security, as long as IT properly evaluates and plans for it.

Edge computing is vital not just to the burgeoning world of real-time responsive IoT, but to enterprise network security, as these IoT systems multiply and spread.

Edge computing creates a distributed infrastructure with centralized management and lights-out -- or remote -- operations built on private cloud infrastructure. Edge computing infrastructure can provide storage and compute to enable application responses with ultra-low latency or data aggregation points, which can help optimize use of central storage.

The spread of IoT applications drives enterprise interest in the edge. These applications include real-time control of high-speed manufacturing, which can require both a sub-millisecond response time and a need for massive data analysis.

Edge computing can provide more than just real-time responsiveness and economical storage for transient data, though. With edge computing security, IT can provide a place to help secure IoT and, therefore, secure the enterprise.

The security challenges IoT faces

IoT security is a multilayered problem. Any given IoT system requires attention to the physical devices, as well as a device's operating firmware and software. IT teams should also pay attention to the multiple logical -- or physical -- networks devices use to communicate, and the multiple layers of management and analytics in which the devices are often enmeshed.

Among organizations, IT teams sometimes know about and sanction IoT initiatives, so they can include network and system security as part of the evaluation, planning and deployment processes every time. Other IT teams don't know about the initiatives, however. These shadow IoT projects roll out from facilities or elsewhere with little to no IT involvement. Shadow IoT systems often include little attention to security, forcing IT teams to provide protections -- which could have been part of the design from the beginning -- from outside the system itself.

Nemertes Research found that less than half of organizations have an IoT security staff person, while more successful organizations are 20% more likely to have one. Moreover, any complex enterprise environment can sprout IoT systems that overlap and sometimes integrate with each other. This occurs most often at the data and control level, but also occasionally at the physical level. Given this potential overlap, IT must also work to isolate systems that don't need to talk to each other, and work to secure the intersections and interactions of systems that do.

What edge computing security can do for networks and IoT

With edge computing security, IT can provide a place to help secure IoT and, therefore, secure the enterprise.

The infrastructure of edge computing security provides a platform for security tools that can protect IoT. It can host secure access gateways that connect device networks to the larger enterprise network. This infrastructure can also host behavioral threat analytics systems focused on the devices, gateways and supporting systems -- e.g., virtual machines for management -- associated with an IoT deployment.

By keeping behavioral analysis close to the device layer, edge computing security for IoT can reduce latency not only for IoT applications, but for security responses to events, such as device compromises. When 5,000 room thermostats become spambots in a matter of seconds, for example, a similarly fast and decisive security response is ideal to block all network traffic from the devices. Edge infrastructure can also stage security logging -- or track security information -- for IoT deployments, as well as log analytics and audits.

Edge computing is vital not just to delivering IoT, but also to securing enterprise networks as these systems proliferate. IT teams need to consider the possibility of placing security systems on edge platforms as they plan IoT deployments and decide whether or not to plunge into edge computing.

This was last published in June 2019

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