SD-WAN is the future. But not without security

By Jeff Farley

We’ve seen the articles. The adoption of software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) is on the rise1, and for good reason. 

The story of embracing SD-WAN is really a story about digital transformation (DX), amplified by the pandemic. Yes, organizations were already in the midst of figuring out what DX meant for their network, data and applications before 2020. But when COVID-19 sent a huge percentage of the workforce home, it was no longer a question of whether an organization should digitize, but rather how they should do it.

Almost immediately, businesses had to deal with higher network traffic from remote workers. And with them, an increased demand for cloud-first applications, APIs and voice, video and collaboration capabilities. 

Embracing SD-WAN is the logical choice for improved network performance and reliability. 

Even if remote workers return to the office full time – and many are not2 – SD-WAN was and still is the right call for the demands of DX3. Legacy wide-area networks (WANs) simply aren’t equipped to support cloud-first business strategies, and this will only become more problematic as time goes on.

One big but…

The way people talk about DX technologies is often rosy, because they solve a lot of problems.

Having said that, DX does come with certain challenges, not the least of which is giving bad actors a bigger target to hit (or hack). In many cases, organizations choose to deploy SD-WAN with broadband internet network connectivity, and when compared with private connectivity, it significantly expands your attack surface.

It might be tempting to minimize the threat of cyber attacks, but they’re a real, expensive and increasing threat. According to recent threat reports4, ransomware cyber attacks in 2021 were up 105% from the year before. There was also a 65% spike in never-before-seen malware.

New threats are the hardest to keep up with because security measures generally require constantly scanning for threats. As just one example: Chemical distributor Brenntag paid $4.4 million USD in 2021 to prevent the DarkSide ransomware group from publicly leaking stolen data5. This is an example of double extortion, and it’s becoming more common.

Out-of-the-box SD-WAN security is not enough

Some advanced SD-WAN providers have integrated security features, which is the future of secure networking, and goes a long way in preventing threats and mitigating risk. These features often include next-generation firewall (NGFW) protection, automatic security signature updates and specialist teams to manage the entire security stack. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your SD-WAN security. Ideally, your solution would meet all these criteria.

1. Does the solution offer application awareness and automated path intelligence?

You want to be able to help your network teams see which applications are being used across the enterprise and make well-informed decisions about routing across network circuits.

2. Does the solution feature automatic failover capabilities?

It’s important that routing can automatically change to the best-available link, if and when the primary WAN path degrades.

3. Which security and protection measures are included in the solution?

Your team likely already knows the features you have, but this question is really about asking what isn’t included. 

4. Which managed services are covered with the solution?

If you are looking for a managed service, it is important to understand which elements are and are not managed by the service provider. It could include comprehensive services like network/security architecture design, installation, CPE and WAN links, monitoring, updates and reporting.

For those who want specifics, here’s a shopping list of features you can take with you on your search for secure SD-WAN:

Security is a battle worth fighting

More and more businesses are going cloud first every day. Their uptake of SD-WAN is also increasing to keep pace with network demands. But these changes exciting as they are should not move forward without proactive network security. 

Businesses can’t afford to forget the quiet-but-constant battle happening in the background. Threat actors are sophisticated and they’re always adjusting their strategies. By prioritizing robust SD-WAN security, you stay on top of protecting your network, your data and your reputation.


1 “Futuriom expects the SD-WAN market to reach $2.6 billion in 2021, $3.5 billion by 2022, $4.6 billion by 2023.” https://www.futuriom.com/articles/news/the-2021-sd-wan-growth-report-is-here/2021/06
2 Gallup, Remote Work Persisting and Trending Permanent, October 2021, https://news.gallup.com/poll/355907/remote-work-persisting-trending-permanent.aspx
3 “Indeed, by 2022, 70% of all organizations globally will have accelerated their use of digital technologies, transforming existing business processes to drive customer engagement, employee productivity, and business resiliency.” https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=US48299421&pageType=PRINTFRIENDLY
4 SonicWall, Cyber Threat Report 2022, https://www.sonicwall.com/2022-cyber-threat-report/?elqCampaignId=13998&sfc=7013h000000MiQZAA0&gclid=CjwKCAiAgbiQBhAHEiwAuQ6BkmbfNdHZWbIdJBPGBn4ut4T3yR5wDxM6JrGQbSMPEUk4O5ClyAmcVxoC7MsQAvD_BwE
5 Chemical distributor pays $4.4 million USD to DarkSide ransomware, https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/chemical-distributor-pays-44-million-to-darkside-ransomware/


About Acronym

Acronym Solutions Inc. is a full-service information and communications technology (ICT) company that provides a range of scalable and secure Network, Voice & Collaboration, Security, Cloud and Managed IT Solutions. We support Canadian businesses, large enterprises, service providers, healthcare providers, public-sector organizations and utilities. We leverage our extensive network expertise to design and build customized, fully scalable solutions to help our customers grow their businesses and realize their full potential. With more than 20 years’ experience managing the communications system that enables Ontario’s electrical grid, Acronym is uniquely positioned to understand the mission-critical needs of any business to deliver the innovative and reliable services that respond to the changing demands of businesses, and support rapid growth and digital transformation initiatives.

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