3 Key Pointers for Getting Started with Security Service Edge (SSE)

3 Key Pointers for Getting Started with Security Service Edge (SSE)

A number of new cybersecurity technologies and concepts have been introduced in the past few years. It is understandable that many organizations are still trying to get acquainted with them, and only a few have started incorporating them into their systems. They are new, and CIOs and CISOs are not that confident in using something unfamiliar.

However, the growing adoption of cloud computing makes it clear that there is a need for a new way to protect IT infrastructure and assets. Unfamiliarity is no longer a reasonable excuse to refuse to adopt more innovative cybersecurity solutions. Rapidly changing security requirements call for more suitable strategies or methods.

Security Service Edge

One of the most notable new cybersecurity approaches is Security Service Edge (SSE). First introduced by Gartner in 2021, it encapsulates the idea of bringing together key security capabilities under one cloud-based solution. SSE enhances the efficiency of cybersecurity management, especially in light of the surge in remote and hybrid work arrangements as well as the increased use of SaaS services.

SSE is regarded as a necessary security solution for modern organizations because of the rise of cloud computing and telecommuting. Business data and employees are no longer in physical offices or workplaces. This entails the dissolution of perimeters, which means that conventional perimeter-based protections no longer work.

Traditionally, cyber defenses are set up around the IT assets that need to be protected. With the prevalent use of SaaS applications, it is difficult to define the perimeters by which an organization operates. This creates complexities in security management. There is the option to route all the organization’s traffic through one secure channel, but this can cause network performance and operational efficiency issues.

Security Service Edge consolidates security services under a single integrated cloud-based solution to make it easy to deploy, configure, track, and manage security solutions. It has four main components: Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Secure Web Gateway (SWG), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB).

These components work together to ensure appropriate defenses against threats that come with mostly cloud-based activities and the inevitably broadening attack surfaces of modern organizations. But how do companies get started in using all of these? Consider the following pointers.

Migrate to SSE gradually but quickly

Embracing Security Server Edge is not going to be a quick and easy process. As mentioned, there are at least four components involved (ZTNA, SWG, CASB, and FWaaS). These cannot be implemented carelessly. It is crucial to systematically move devices, apps, data, and users into SSE. Migrating in one fell swoop can result in major problems, as it is inevitable to encounter issues during and after migration.

The proper way to do it is to migrate in phases. Pick a group of contiguous or related devices, apps, and users first to undertake a small pilot, then observe as issues emerge. After identifying and correcting the issues, proceed with a bigger migration while taking into account the lessons learned from the pilot. Unfortunately, there is no perfect template for doing a migration, as organizations have significant differences in their devices, apps, users, and policies. The only viable way to considerably reduce the possibility of a disastrous migration is to do it phase by phase.

Here’s a frustrating reality, though: The full benefits of SSE can only be enjoyed after full migration. In other words, the organization’s infrastructure can be exposed to risks and threats while the migration is still in process. As such, it is important to complete migration as quickly but prudently as possible. The migration has to be gradual to avoid a major problem, but it should also waste no time and be completed the soonest.

Observe first before enforcing security policies

Characteristically stricter and more meticulous, Security Service Edge is most likely going to be more limiting compared to the traditional security system it is supplanting. The different components of SSE are designed to frequently conduct device or app evaluations or scrutinize app and user behavior to detect possible anomalies. This may appear advantageous, but it can eventually create inconveniences,

Working with SSE can mean operational disruptions in the first few days or weeks. The entire organization would need to acclimatize first, lest the enforcement of strict security policies causes the organization to grind to a halt or go into disarray.

SSE solutions usually come with a “monitoring-only” mode, which defers security policy enforcement and allows organizations to evaluate the situation first before implementing full-on enforcement. The SSE platform will show what it would have blocked and the reason for it. This allows organizations to tweak their existing policies in line with what SSE considers secure. Sometimes, there are instances when the SSE policy needs to be suspended temporarily, as it could be getting in the way of what is otherwise a safe and normal operation.

Determine additional security controls 

SSE is definitely not a perfect security solution. It has its significant advantages over traditional cybersecurity, but it cannot be expected to deliver absolute protection out of the box. There will be a few security gaps in the Security Service Edge system that need to be plugged in.

These security gaps are unlikely to be major deficiencies, though. They are just supplemental controls intended for scenarios that are unique to an organization. The new setup may not have a reliable enough data loss prevention system, for example. It is not going to be difficult to obtain these additional network security services.

However, if the required additional security controls are more than a few, it would be advisable to decide on a full SASE implementation. A single comprehensive Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) platform with all the critical components can be better than having SSE with components from different sources. This may entail a higher overall cost, but the extent of protection and convenience can be worth it. It is generally more cost-effective to assemble different security controls in SSE, but some organizations may find a unified SASE platform more advantageous and not that significantly costlier.

In summary

Security Service Edge offers a new and arguably more effective way to secure modern IT infrastructure and assets with its piecemeal but unified and cloud-based nature. It can be likened to a scaled-down and security-focused version of SASE, but it provides the advantage of flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Many organizations will likely still find it novel, but now is a good time to consider it. It is not as complex and difficult to implement as how some tend to perceive it.