In late 2021, Gartner introduced a new cybersecurity term that encapsulates the coming together of crucial security capabilities under one cloud-based solution. It provides the advantage of enhanced security efficiency and better management. It is also said to be better at meeting the changing security requirements of organizations that are increasingly integrating work-from-home and hybrid work as part of their regular operations.
This new cybersecurity term is considered a spinoff or, in other words, a fork from Secure Access Server Edge (SASE), brought about by the evolution of the cybersecurity market. It is characterized as a solution that focuses on the security of access to cloud services, private applications, and the World Wide Web itself.
Security Service Edge Overview
This new cybersecurity technology is called Security Service Edge (SSE). Built for the cloud, it ensures the protection of access to the internet, cloud services, and applications that are intended to be for limited or private access only. To provide this kind of protection, SSE is designed to enable access control, data security, and threat defense. It also facilitates security monitoring and the assurance of acceptable web service use. Additionally, it supports API-based integration.
In its Hype Cycle for Cloud Security 2021, Gartner lists SSE as one of the four must-have technologies to secure cloud computing. Gartner predicts that Security Service Edge will start having a high impact on the cybersecurity industry in three to five years. It is one of the new technologies expected to enable compliant, controlled, and cost-efficient strategies for cloud security.
SSE has four primary components, which enable the convergence of network security tools or functions under a unified cloud-based platform. These are as follows:
- Zero-trust network access (ZTNA) – Supplanting virtual private networks, ZTNA ensures secure remote access to an organization’s IT resources. It allows the implementation of specific or granular in-app security for those who are requesting access to a company’s apps, whether they are on the cloud or hosted on servers within the organization’s premises.
- Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) – Different from conventional firewalls, FWaaS also acts as a form of perimeter defense, but it secures data centers, remote servers, or branch office resources through cloud-based network security. As such, it affords scalable and flexible defense. It also integrates with SD-WAN to implement consistent protection across remote sites and branch offices.
- Secure Web Gateway (SWG) – This component is responsible for the monitoring and regulation of web traffic based on the security policies of an organization. It has data protection and threat prevention functions and can block access to sites known for spreading malware or pages used for phishing and other related attacks.
- Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) – This SSE component is intended to manage access to SaaS applications. It comes with authentication, authorization, encryption, and threat tracking and prevention functions. It is also used in enforcing the security policies of an organization.
Why is SSE ideal for remote/hybrid work?
In its Hype Cycles video explanation, Gartner indicates the benefit of SSE to organizations that adopt work-from-home arrangements. “SSE technologies allow organizations to support workers anywhere and anytime, using a cloud-centric approach for enforcing security policy. It offers immediate opportunities to reduce complexity and improve user experience by consolidating multiple disparate security capabilities into a single product,” the tech research and consulting firm explains.
What are these complexities and user experience challenges? One of the most notable ones is the dissolution of perimeters. As organizations turn to SaaS applications and embrace remote work and hybrid work setups, it becomes inevitable for perimeters to blur or completely disappear. Organizations have difficulties identifying the specific assets they need to protect and deploying the appropriate defenses. With SSE, organizations can deploy security tools in proximity to where users and data reside. These security tools are coordinated and delivered through a global network of cloud points of presence.
Another security challenge with remote/hybrid work that SSE helps to overcome is the growing complexity of managing multiple standalone security solutions that become necessary to address specific needs. Organizations may use additional tools to encrypt and decrypt the data exchanged with remote workers, for instance. What SSE does is consolidate all security controls and enable efficient management through an intuitive, unified interface.
Additionally, the growing number of remote workers and the reliance on multiple SaaS applications is a major concern. These are often associated with inefficient network routing, poor latency levels, and user experiences that leave much to be desired. Most setups follow the practice of conventionally backhauling traffic to a central server, where all the organization’s traffic undergoes security inspection. SSE changes this inefficient system by bringing security close to the users and data to enable a more efficient way of routing traffic.
Ultimately, security teams that handle the changing security needs of having remote/hybrid work arrangements get to benefit from the operational efficiency that results in using Security Service Edge. Everything becomes simpler and faster for them as security functions are consolidated into one integrated cloud-based solution. This makes it much easier to keep track, configure, and manage the security controls deployed in an organization. The tasks of creating data backups, ascertaining high availability, and maintaining desired redundancy are relegated to the cloud security service provider.
Why not SASE?
There is no definitive answer whether SSE will eventually overtake SASE as the preferred solution in the changing cyber threat landscape. However, as Gartner shows in one forecast, around 8 in 10 organizations are likely to prefer security services that align with the SSE model. There is a trend towards consolidated platforms instead of using standalone solutions.
SASE is also designed to consolidate security functions under one cloud-based solution. However, it also requires the consolidation of networking functionality, which entails the integration of SD-WAN, Quality of Service, routing, and other functions into the same security solution. The problem is that not every organization can afford the corresponding need to upgrade their security and network technologies simultaneously.
In other words, SSE is more efficient, as it allows cloud-based cybersecurity consolidation without the need for networking consolidation that is only required for SASE. It is a more specific solution that aligns with what is critically required with the shift towards greater SaaS use and more remote/hybrid working environments.
The new must?
Again, it is too early to say that SSE will be the key security solution for organizations that are facing security challenges made more complex by the prevalence of telecommuting and hybrid work setups. However, quantitative indicators tend to show that most organizations are gravitating towards Security Service Edge not only because it specifically addresses emerging needs and preferences but also because it is considerably less expensive.