SSE is a multi-layered, network-agnostic approach to protecting organizations from today’s increasingly complex attacks
Following a year on the cybersecurity front that, according to PwC, “was marked by a confluence of attack types and motives in the swirling eddy of sabotage, espionage, and hacktivism,” nearly half the CEOs surveyed by the consulting organization indicated their companies are planning to invest more in cybersecurity or data privacy.
Much of those investment dollars are likely being spent on an emerging generation of sophisticated cybersecurity architectures that counter the growing threats presented by data loss, malware, ransomware and the like. Security Service Edge, or SSE, is one such solution. According to Gartner, by 2025, 80% of enterprises will adopt a strategy to unify web, cloud services and private application access from a single vendor’s SSE platform.
SSE converges multiple cybersecurity capabilities within a single, cloud-native software stack that defends enterprises and their networks against anomalies, threats and sensitive data loss as a result of phishing, malware, ransomware, data theft, and other forms of unwanted access to locations, applications and resources. It’s designed to protect all enterprise edges – sites, users and applications, including the Internet of Things-connected points that are proliferating across many networks — even as the contours of those edges shift.
An SSE security stack could include:
Secure web gateway (SWG), which defends users against phishing attacks and malicious websites;
Firewall as a service (FWaaS), which provides end-to-end traffic segmentation, restricting access to locations, applications and resource;
Zero trust network access (ZTNA), which ensures secure remote access to applications on-premises and in the cloud for every user, device and location;
Cloud access security broker (CASB), which controls access to cloud applications, extending enterprise security policies to the cloud and enabling regulatory compliance;
Next-generation anti-malware (NGAM), which protects connected sites, cloud resources and users against known and unknown malware;
Managed detection & response (MDR), which offers ongoing network monitoring and alerting on compromised endpoints;
Data loss prevention (DLP), which keeps sensitive data and information from leaving the organization, while complying with industry regulations; and,
An intrusion prevention system (IPS), which monitors network traffic and blocks malicious content.
In terms of the type of SSE solution to look for, according to Gartner, “Single-vendor solutions provide significant operational efficiency and security effectiveness compared with best-of-breed solutions, including tighter integration, fewer consoles to use, and fewer locations where data must be decrypted, inspected and re-encrypted.”
Another benefit of single-vendor SSE solutions is that they often are managed by an expert third party, an important consideration for organizations that are challenged to find and hold onto IT/cybersecurity talent, or that prefer to outsource responsibility for managing cybersecurity so their IT teams and resources can focus on other priorities. As a managed service, SSE relieves organizations of the burden of integrating, configuring, implementing, monitoring and managing multiple layers of security themselves. Meanwhile, organizations that have an appetite for a more hands-on approach, with specialized cyber security experts on staff, could opt for an SSE provider that enables them to co-manage security policies via a user portal.
SSE is proving its value to a wide range of organizations, including those in sectors like healthcare, financial services, retail and SLED (state and local public agencies and education) that lately have been especially vulnerable to cyberattack. Instead of relying on a patchwork of security appliances and approaches, which often leave gaps that sophisticated cyberattackers can readily exploit, it:
Establishes a global fabric of enterprise-level security connecting all network edges into a unified security platform, enabling consistent policy enforcement.
Readily scales with business demands and the network, an important consideration here in the era of hybrid work.
Provides line-rate inspection of all traffic, scaled vertically and horizontally, even when traffic is encrypted.
Fits into any existing network topology. This means an organization can deploy SSE rapidly, often within days, without disrupting network operations, and without extra hardware to be shipped and installed, or excessive operational overhead. SSE functions independent of the connecting device, so third-party SD-WAN (software-defined wide-area network) devices, firewalls, and any IPsec-capable device can connect to SSE.
For organizations that rely on a cobbled-together framework of on-premise security measures, SSE represents a potentially huge step forward in their ability to prevent the increasingly sophisticated kinds of cyberattacks that are all too frequent nowadays. It also provides a potential pathway to an even more comprehensive security solution called SASE (secure access service edge) that combines network connectivity (via SD-WAN) and security in one managed package.
Whether SSE or SASE, either represents an important protective step forward for organizations that can no longer risk sticking with the security status quo.