The Virtual Private Network (VPN). What a marvelously impenetrable fortress of IT security brilliance! VPNs were virtually—pun intended—uncrackable at the time of their creation in… 1996. Yes, you read that year right. VPN technology is in its late 20s, and unfortunately, its best days are undoubtedly behind it.
Though the tide had already turned in favor of newer approaches, COVID-19 was a significant breaking point for VPN technologies. The pandemic demanded a massive shift to remote work for countless organizations around the world. Unfortunately, this shift also represented a proverbial gold mine to hackers, and 44% of organizations surveyed by the 2022 Cybersecurity Insiders VPN Risk Report said they observed a tangible increase in exploits targeting their VPNs.
So, why is the thought of thousands of organizations leveraging VPN technology a mouth-watering prospect to cybercriminals, and why have many organizations already phased (or are working on it) this technology out? To start, you have to think about the world that VPN was conceptualized and created within. VPN technology was never designed to protect organizations existing in the hybrid and multi-cloud world we know today, and it certainly was not designed to support the infinitely expanding Internet of Things. Thereby, the continued use of VPNs in these complex, heterogenous environments has culminated in some acute vulnerabilities to network security and uptime.
Every Single VPN Connection is a Key to the Network
Perhaps the single most critical vulnerability of VPN is how network access is regulated (or the lack thereof) for its users. Any single VPN connection represents access to a full slice of an organization’s network. In other words, a single entry point can be exploited to the tune of limitless lateral attack surface.
Physical Infrastructure is An Expense and Point of Failure
Hardware VPNs require a physical processor to support VPN tunnel creation, and as the need for additional VPN tunnels grows, so does the hardware footprint. Setting up and configuring this physical infrastructure is a complex and costly process to begin with. Not to mention, these physical appliances also must be diligently maintained, because ultimately, they represent a potential point of failure within any IT environment. This leads to VPN appliances being accompanied by significant recurring expense in order to remain reliable.
VPN Security Can Be at the Mercy of Password Strength
Best practices for password security have certainly evolved over the years. There are mandated bi-annual or quarterly updates, prohibited repeating of passwords, and growing minimum character limits. However, many organizations don’t have the resources to enforce policies like this, and humans are, well… Human. Convenience often outweighs optimal security for those who haven’t experienced a data breach personally, and in the context of VPN, one set of compromised credentials can unlock an entire network to bad actors.
External AND Internal Bad Actors
When people consider the cybersecurity threats facing today’s corporations, it’s natural to think about external bad actors hacking into your network for the first time and compromising your organization’s data immediately. However, there are thousands of recorded instances where bad actors have quietly and covertly breached a network perimeter, and then remained dormant for an amount of time before actually executing an attack.
SDP: The Answer to VPN Vulnerabilities
Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) and Zero Trust technology is where the information technology industry must continue heading to have the best chance of defending against today’s cyber threats. Not only do these solutions avoid the significant expense and vulnerability accompanied by physical VPN appliances, they also include critical functionality such as the following.
Application-Level Access – SDP solutions regulate access much more granularly—limiting user access to specific authorized applications. This is a huge distinction from the excessive permissions and full slice-of-the-network access enabled by VPN. If a user were to be compromised, this capability eliminates lateral attack vectors and isolates the adverse effects of a breach to the authorized application(s).
Cloud-Ready – Software-defined perimeter technology was purpose-built for today’s heterogenous multi-cloud and hybrid cloud deployments. It gives you the power to interconnect disparate infrastructure safely with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) connections.
Trust Nothing, Verify Everything – This has become the mantra of Zero Trust Security, and a call-to-action that software-defined perimeter technology delivers on. Whether internal or external to the network, users are asked to complete continuous verification and authorization throughout their interactions with a network.
With more VPNs being exploited every day, the future of information technology security is relying on organizations to get proactive when securing their network perimeter. VPN technology is over 25 years old, and a changing of the guard to SDP technology is critical to protect organizations in our hybrid and multi-cloud world.
DH2i’s Take on Software-Defined Perimeter
DH2i’s DxOdyssey SDP software integrates all the standard functionality of other Zero Trust solutions in the industry, but it also contains some powerful differentiations such as:
- No “middleman” data path intrusions (we never see your data ourselves)
- Up to a 40% increase in network throughput with patented hybrid TCP/UDP technology
- Ensuring uninterrupted access with highly available tunnel groups
Let us know if you’d like to check out a free personalized demo.
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