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10 Critical Network Security Needs in 2017

How to Keep Up With Best Practices for Protecting Critical Information

As always, 2017 promises to be a year of security challenges among network administrators and security specialists. The ever-expanding presence of workforce mobility, the Internet of Things, and more makes keeping up with the latest security best practices as important as ever.

Here are 10 important network security needs in 2017:

Change your default passwords. Network manufacturers usually ship devices with default passwords. If you still haven’t changed the default password, your network is vulnerable to hackers.

Begin using multi-factor authentication. With multi-factor authentication, even attackers armed with stolen usernames and passwords wouldn’t have enough information to log in. Layered network security practices such as multi-factor authentication mitigate the risk of data breaches.

Implement business continuity plans that include a solid backup strategy. More than $300M in ransomware payments were made last year, and properly tested backups can be your best defense.

Deploy Parallel Networks to protect sensitive data. Instead of complex configurations, organizations can easily ensure excellent security of high-risk information through air-gapped “Parallel Networks.” This physical separation prevents would-be attackers from pivoting from one compromised device to servers and networks that hold sensitive data.

Schedule penetration testing on a regular basis. Use pen testing to determine whether and how a malicious user can gain unauthorized access to assets that affect the fundamental security of your system, files, logs, and/or cardholder data. Pen testing also can confirm that the applicable controls required in PCI DSS — such as scope, vulnerability management, methodology, and segmentation — are in place.

Adopt zero-trust networking principles. Through SDN and network virtualization, Cradlepoint NetCloud Enginemakes zero-trust WAN possible by microsegmenting the network at the site, departmental, or even user and device levels. This practice quarantines attack attempts once they’re inside the network’s perimeter.

Implement intrusion prevention and detection systems (IPS/IDS). Threat management is important for any IT team, and especially for those handling sensitive information and Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. IPS/IDS defends against evasion attacks, protects key data, and improves network availability.

Simplify your Mobile Device Management. Traditional Mobile Device Management (MDM) software relies on complex, clunky VPN architectures. Deploying a virtual overlay network that seamlessly works within your legacy infrastructure streamlines and simplifies MDM. With no need for head-end hardware, IT teams can give employees access to essential files and applications while also quarantining their mobile devices from the rest of the network.

Extend Active Directory servers to the cloud. Active Directory (AD) is the foundation of enterprise security, ensuring fast and reliable authentication, password compliance, DNS, and more. Today you can use the cloud to extend AD domain services to remote users everywhere, fostering a persistent, LAN-like experience that stays on without user interaction.

Utilize port scanning to understand what you are exposing to potential attackers and lock down unused ports. Open ports essentially are open on-ramps to your network.

SDN and SD-WAN Solution Examples for M2M-IoT Applications

How and Why Enterprises Should Use SDN & SD-WAN to Connect the Growing Internet of Things

With the seemingly never-ending influx of M2M and Internet of Things devices in the network environment, determining how to best connect and secure those “things” as they rapidly scale up is one of the most pressing challenges for any network admin. Businesses and organizations across the globe need to collect information as varied as daily sales numbers, customer analytics, water levels, temperatures, vehicle locations, security video and audio feeds, power and fuel consumption, voltages, air quality, and more.

Connecting these kinds of devices with traditional IPSec VPNs — dependent on hardware and complex, laborious configurations — is insufficient for an enterprise’s agility and deployment requirements. Moreover, VPN protocols used over IPSec/IKEv2 are not entirely consistent when handling connection failures, roaming, or reconnect. Devices used in mobile environments where connections can be interrupted suffer because of having to re-establish the tunnel.

By enabling a software-defined overlay network, all of these issues are resolved — the connection is persistent and failures are reconnected by the cloud automatically, no advanced configuration is necessary, and encryption and PKI are deployed as a service.  Let’s take a closer look at one solution: secure, global M2M-IoT connectivity through software-defined Virtual Cloud Networks.

Traditional M2M-IoT Network Architecture

To fully understand the benefits of virtual cloud networks, we need to discuss what legacy architecture often looks like. Consider a typical M2M-IoT network: A company with thousands of distributed kiosks, IP cameras, and Point-of-Sale (POS) stations uses a cloud datacenter to process the big data generated by all of these devices. At the same time, these IoT devices use and send information to applications (such as a management and configuration applications) stored at an in-house data center.

The network may utilize multiple WAN interfaces — perhaps the enterprise headquarters is on an MPLS network, while the IoT devices utilize a combination of LTE connectivity and third-party networks. The company’s IT team largely works from headquarters. The enterprise’s M2M/IoT — or “things” — network likely is managed separately from everything else, with the IoT devices residing behind APN gateways.

This type of legacy architecture presents several challenges, including:

Cumbersome APN Management

APNs are expensive and difficult to manage in multi-carrier environments. As an enterprise network continues to expand, so does this management challenge.

Security Concerns on Third-Party Networks

Each IoT device is a potential network on-ramp for hackers. Security policies must be carefully and meticulously applied via expensive APN gateways at the Network’s Edge. Traffic headed to the cloud datacenter must first be backhauled to headquarters over the VPN for security and management.

In-Band Management

In-band management for remote network monitoring and maintenance is complex and laborious. It’s especially challenging with IoT devices, which usually are limited in their memory, OS, and processor. Alternatively, remote devices may have a very slow in-band link because they’re so remote.

Solution: Virtual Cloud Networks for Software-Defined M2M-IoT Architecture

Software-defined networking can simplify your M2M-IoT network infrastructure, allowing a more efficient traffic flow between the IoT devices, in-house data center, and cloud data center, while still maintaining security. In this use case, the enterprise could easily set up a cloud-based IoT network with Cradlepoint routers and NetCloud Engine, Cradlepoint’s cloud-based Network-as-a-Service that provides a private virtual overlay fabric across the public Internet.

In the diagram above, an enterprise is utilizing the Cradlepoint NetCloud platform in a number of ways. First, a virtual cloud network (VCN) replaces a traditional VPN. The VCN functions over the public Internet but operates in a private address space that can be fully integrated with your existing DNS infrastructure. This setup, combined with end-to-end AES 256-bit encryption and full PKI, makes the VCN extremely secure; essentially, hackers can’t hack what they can’t see.

NetCloud Engine securely connects, monitors, and manages devices deployed anywhere in the world. You can create a virtual overlay network to connect devices using any form of public or private Internet access and segment them by customer, site, or function.

NetCloud Engine is designed to support the unique security requirements of M2M and connected device applications, including:

  • Strong end-to-end encryption
  • Auto-PKI and machine authentication
  • Fully cloaked private address space
  • Outbound-only connections
  • Virtual network isolation and micro-segmentation

Benefits of Virtual Cloud Networks for M2M-IoT

This software-defined IoT network architecture addresses an enterprise’s pain points by providing:

  • The security benefits of APNs without the cost and complexity
  • Reduced need for network hardware
  • A routable network that enables in-band management and reduced truck rolls, due to the separation between the control plane and data plane
  • Support for real-time applications such as remote monitoring, analysis, and CEP
  • Simplification of third-party deployments, because of the ability to produce an overlay network across several WAN sources in agnostic fashion
  • Self-healing cloud service ensures maximum uptime
  • Private IP address space and outbound connections, eliminating the need for expensive public IP addresses and on-premises firewall changes

SDN lets enterprises simplify the work of connecting thousands of “things” in dozens or even hundreds of different places. LTE provides the fast provisioning of connectivity, flexibility, and mobility needed for M2M-IoT applications. SDN pairs with LTE to bring the same benefits to the network infrastructure, by allowing companies to use the cloud to offload and automate the processes of building, securing, and deploying networks.

Essentially, the WAN can been abstracted into the cloud to function as a LAN — greatly reducing an enterprise’s network hardware, expenses, complexity, and man-hours.

The Benefits of SD-WAN for Remote Access and Workforce Mobility

How a Virtual Cloud Network Can Reduce Costs and Complexities for IT Departments

Workforce mobility provides some of the biggest opportunities and challenges for enterprise networks. The bottom-line benefits of employees being able to work anywhere are clear: greater productivity during business travel, more consistent communication, workday flexibility, reduced infrastructure costs, and much more.

However, the challenges are just as clear. Employees need access to a variety of applications and documents that live either in the cloud or at the corporate data center. Meanwhile, the IT department often must use inflexible legacy architecture and hardware to provide network and application access that is highly secure no matter where employees are working from or which devices they are using.

Finding a flexible alternative to traditional VPNs is important for IT departments as workforce mobility becomes more and more prevalent.

Challenges of Remote Access and Workforce Mobility

Many companies enable remote access and workforce mobility via a head-end box at the corporate data center. This supports security compliance for employees’ devices that may or may not be owned by the organization. However, this design is often inflexible when changes need to be made. Moreover, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) arrangements can present significant concerns with security and the backhauling of casual Internet traffic.

Giving employees remote access to legacy applications that live in the data center presents an array of challenges. For instance, remote users who are off-domain for long periods of time can present compliance issues once they reconnect. Also, traditionally there are high costs associated with supporting mobile and home workers. Their technological needs vary based on location, device, and WAN source — all of which may be resolved one week, only to change when they shift locations the following week.

IT departments often are left scrambling to ensure that these employees are reliably and securely able to connect to the resources they need while keeping expenses, such as IT man-hours and network hardware, to a minimum.

Virtual Cloud Network Solutions for Mobile and Workforce Mobility Challenges

Just as remote access and workforce mobility present unique challenges, they require unique solutions. By setting up a Virtual Cloud Network through Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Engine, any IT professional can ensure users have access to important applications that live in the data center and/or cloud via one tightly controlled network.

NetCloud Engine extends SD-WAN functionality to an organization’s mobile workforce, giving employees a secure, LAN-like connection to private and public cloud apps and files from anywhere and any device. As shown in the diagram above, with NetCloud Engine running on a router at the data center and on each employee device, there is a persistent encrypted connection to a VCN overlay set up specifically for mobile access. It also seamlessly integrates with Active Directory, requiring no changes to existing infrastructure; each remote member remains “on domain” no matter its location.

NCE moves to the cloud the key functionalities that reside in traditional network architecture — such as policy control, app filtering, and NAC — without sacrificing security compliance and without needing a head-end device. Any traffic destined for any application will still flow into the data center using the NetCloud Engine client, and anything coming from the client that goes to the Internet will go directly to the Internet.

A remote worker on the road may stop in a coffee shop and browse his email on his mobile phone while waiting for the train; once he’s on the train, he may connect and work from his laptop. With NetCloud Client loaded on his mobile phone and laptop, and with access to the Active Directory server back at the data center, the Internet essentially becomes his private network. At the same time, IT administrators have policy control for micro-segmentation so they can make sure the remote employee only has access to the applications and data he needs.

Benefits of Virtual Cloud Networks

With VCNs through NetCloud Engine, enterprises can solve the pain points typically associated with legacy VPNs. Benefits of SD-WAN for remote access and mobile workforce mobility include:

  • Less hardware required
  • Overlay fabric provides seamless integration with legacy architecture
  • More flexibility and scalability as an organization expands
  • Secure atmosphere for BYOD
  • Faster configurations and deployments
  • Fewer IT man-hours devoted to deployments and network management
  • Reduced bandwidth needs

What is a Cloud-Based Phone System?

cloud-based phone system - stationIntroducing the biggest trend in office communications right now, the cloud-based phone system. Cloud systems, also called IP Phones are typically used in a hosted environment. Outside lines are connected over a secure, encrypted VPN connection.

Features of cloud-based phones include voice messaging, auto attendant, mobility, conferencing, and call reporting. With a traditional phone system, the equipment for all these features resides at your office, where you are responsible for its maintenance and service. Cloud-based systems are located off-site and maintained by the provider.

A cloud-based phone system can grow and evolve with your business.

  • Add users and phones
  • Add applications
  • Improve call flow
  • Stay up to date on upgrades and office communications technology
  • Integrate mobile phones into your office system
  • Fixed monthly cost

Cloud-based systems provide ease of use and better integration with mobile and desktop devices. For more information, contact a Telspan representative at 860-761-1411

Dual SIMs vs Dual Modems

Explore Cradlepoint’s AER Series for small and branch offices, featuring dual-modem functionality for wireless-to-wireless failover: https://cradlepoint.com/content/aer-routers

Learn about Cradlepoint’s COR IBR100 and Dual-Modem Dock, purpose-built for in-vehicle networking and featuring dual-modem functionality for wireless-to-wireless failover: https://cradlepoint.com/products/cor-ibr1100-series