The Network is the Security Device

by | Jun 2, 2015 | Hardware

Used with the permission of
by Marc Solomon, Vice President of Security Marketing

As connectivity continues to expand, security must advance right along with it.

More than thirty years ago, John Gage of Sun Microsystems coined the now famous phrase: “The network is the computer.” Indeed the true power of the computer comes from being connected, and with more devices connected the power grows exponentially. We see this today with cloud computing and increasingly with the Internet of Everything (IoE) which is creating unprecedented opportunities for networked connections among people, processes, data, and things.

Largely because of this exciting evolution, we are now facing a similar inflection point with respect to security. To capture opportunities made possible by ever-expanding connectivity, security must evolve in lock-step. In effect: “The network must become the security device.” Let me explain.

The widespread adoption of the cloud and the IoE brings new business opportunities in the form of greater speed, efficiency, and agility, while also changing the game on where data is stored, moved, and accessed. Further, mobility and the cloud have dramatically increased employee productivity and satisfaction but also replaced the traditional network perimeter with a constantly morphing set of users, locations, applications, access methods, and devices. This creates the dual challenge of defending a dynamic perimeter and creating a near infinite number of points of vulnerability. All of these considerations create greater opportunities for attackers.

So how have we evolved our approach to security as defenders? The truth is, not nearly enough. Caught in a cycle of layering on the latest security tool, it isn’t unusual to find organizations with 40 to 60+ different security solutions that don’t – and can’t – work together or interoperate. Attackers are taking advantage of gaps in visibility and protection that this complexity and fragmentation creates to penetrate the network. Environmentally aware, attackers navigate through the extended network, evading detection and moving laterally until reaching the target. Once they accomplish their mission they remove evidence but maintain a beachhead for future attacks.

To truly address today’s dynamic threat landscape, evolving business models, and considerable complexity, security must be embedded into the heart of the intelligent network infrastructure and across the extended network – from the data center out to the mobile endpoint and even onto the factory floor.

When the network is the security device, our approach to security can be:

  • Pervasive – to persist across all attack vectors
  • Integrated – to share information and capabilities with a rich ecosystem of applications and services
  • Continuous – to allow for ongoing protection across the full attack continuum – before, during, and after an attack
  • Open – to integrate with third parties, including complementary security technologies and threat intelligence feeds

This requires that we build technologies into network infrastructure that increase visibility across all network activity, provide context based on local and global threat intelligence, and allow control using analysis and automation to dynamically protect against detected threats. We must design infrastructure that is open so that new capabilities and intelligence to address complex and evolving threats can be easily incorporated. And we must embed security without impeding business-critical resources and processes.

John Gage’s predictions couldn’t have been more on target. Roll forward three decades and there are parallels we can draw with respect to security. By embedding security everywhere across the extended network, not only does security become more effective against advanced attacks, it also becomes a business enabler. Only then can businesses take full and secure advantage of opportunities presented by new digital business models and the IoE.