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Is Your Data Security Living on the Edge?

Gartner's security service edge fundamentally changes how companies should be delivering data protection in a cloud and mobile first world.

Do you live life on the edge? If you're a rock climber, skydiver, or striving to be a TikTok dance influencer, the answer might be yes. Putting yourself out there requires risk but can be rewarding. Why? When you are able to confidently look risk in the eye and say "I win," that dopamine hit makes you feel invincible! So, do you feel the same way about your data protection? Letting your data protection live on the edge might sound risky, but in reality it's a step in the right direction, and it dramatically transforms how you think and deliver data security.

Before we get too far into it, let's actually explore what the "edge" means. If you're familiar with Gartner's latest collection of letter-soup offerings for the security industry, you probably know where this is going. Secure access service edge (SASE) and its better half, security service edge (SSE), are frameworks that define how organizations should think about cloud security platforms. In short, organizations are being encouraged to double down on SSE, which unifies all security services into a zero-trust cloud platform. SSE follows the user over any connection, drives down risk with always-on protection, and ditches the cost and complexity of point products like SWG, DLP, VPN, CASB, firewalls, and sandboxes. It's the next big thing, but how does this change data protection?

Let's start with the traditional view of data protection, which has been driven by DLP and CASB vendors over the last several years. The discussion focuses on how users interact with data, how the data is handled (sometimes dangerously), and how the internal threat to your data should be controlled. It's the standard data-protection pitch you've probably heard multiple times. Well, here are the real questions: What about the external threat? Which has the most potential to damage your organization: internal or external threats? I often talk to customers that know they are losing data due to accidental user error but have come to accept it as background noise. Those same customers, when a data breach happens, spring into action with the force of a thousand caffeinated SOC employees. See my point? Now, please don't get me wrong — the internal threat shouldn't be neglected, but it's clear that the best strategy should masterfully combine both external and internal data threat protection. This is why SSE is such a powerful concept — if delivered correctly.

Since SSE focuses on incorporating data protection into a larger zero-trust, cyber-threat story, we should understand what that means. Like any great architecture, it starts with a strong foundation. In the case of SSE, that foundation without a doubt is inline proxy inspection, which enables SSL inspection. Want to keep data from leaking to the Internet? Want full visibility to find and classify sensitive data? Want to stop data exfiltration during a breach? They all require full, scalable SSL inspection. Inline inspection sets up everything else, which is why it's so important to get that part right. But there's a big caveat here — your inline security cloud needs to prove that it can deliver when the going gets tough. If it can't perform or scale, everyone across the organization will immediately know there's a problem.

After that, stopping external and internal threats with SSE becomes easy. First, start with SWG to block risky destinations and content. This prevents external threats like phishing and ransomware from targeting your users and data. Add to that a helping of sandbox and AI/ML to quickly stop zero-days and advanced threats. Now, move to DLP, which is the core building block of great data protection. Define this to find and control your sensitive content and then send it hunting across your data in motion and at rest in your clouds (with CASB). Since you're already inline, and everything is unified, you only have one policy, which reduces complexity and alert noise. You get full control over user and cloud app activity, and can ensure data isn't accidentally or maliciously lost. Once you've tackled the basics, you can move on to other aspects of data protection, like browser isolation for BYOD or UEBA to quickly zero in on suspicious activity. Best of all, services can be easily added as you grow.

Hopefully, you're beginning to see that the right SSE platform can drastically change how you deliver data protection. It applies a more holistic approach to securing data, and equally focuses on external and internal threats, while drastically reducing cost, complexity, and overall risk. So as you look to evolve your data protection strategy, remember to live life on the edge! And maybe keep those TikTok videos to yourself.

About the Author

Steve Grossenbacherg

Steve Grossenbacher is Director of Product Marketing at Zscaler, where he currently focuses on data protection. Prior to Zscaler, Steve held marketing, competitive, sales engineering and support positions at McAfee and Xerox Engineering Systems. With more than 20 years of experience in the network and security industry, he has helped companies navigate the ever-changing world of IT and currently helps organizations securely transform their networks to a cloud-first architecture