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How SASE Are You? Questions to Ask

Mar 12 2020

As we have discussed on the blog previously, Gartner recently coined the term SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) to describe the convergence of cloud services, security and networking into a new model where security and networking no longer comprise discrete applications and devices, but are delivered as services to secure access to cloud-based infrastructure and applications.

This emerging security and network framework supports the new approach in which data and applications are deployed and consumed, and further evolves security infrastructure to protect an increasingly perimeter-less environment.

But how SASE ready is your organisation’s architecture? Gartner points to seven areas in which security and network teams should review their architecture with a view to achieving the benefits of SASE. Here, I capture a few questions that you can ask your technology vendors to help assess how close your organisation is to seeing those benefits. More questions, and additional information can be found in our Adoption Guide for SASE.

Gartner says to… Shift operations from managing security boxes to delivering policy-based security services via a cloud-native, microservices-based environment.

You should ask vendors….

  • How they built their cloud platform. Did they build their platform natively from the ground up on a microservices software architecture, or did they simply port security appliances or software to the cloud? 

Gartner says to… Converge cloud and web security technologies to simplify configuration and operations, and to reduce cost. 

You should ask vendors….

  • Whether they support all of the capabilities of a Next Generation Secure Web Gateway (i.e. adaptive access control, data protection, third-party risk, activity visibility, granular application control) as part of their SASE architecture.
  • Whether they understand granular context of application instances such as distinguishing between personal instances and corporate instances of cloud applications (e.g. Office365, G Suite etc).

Gartner says to… Follow a data-centric model and implement context-aware controls to readily detect and prevent sensitive data movement.

You should ask vendors….

  • Can they protect any user, device, or location including using browsers, sync clients, or mobile apps? And do they support any app, or only a limited number?
  • Can the same DLP policy be applied to data-at-rest and data-in-motion use-cases? 

Gartner says to…. Protect against cloud-enabled threats, and combine inspection capabilities for threat and data to make an efficient, single-pass inspection solution.

You should ask vendors…

  • To describe how they would prevent a rogue or personal instance of a cloud service delivering a cloud phishing attack. And ask how they do this for remote offices and users–whether they’re using browsers, sync clients or apps.
  • Whether they have a limit for the number of TLS encrypted un/managed cloud services they can inspect.
  • If they have third-party integrations with EDR, identity, SIEM, and SOAR solutions, and whether they offer threat intel sharing.

Gartner says to…. Evolve remote access strategies, adopting a zero-trust approach.

You should ask vendors…

  • How they have implemented their ZTNA solution. Did they just port a third-party vendor’s product into their platform or is the capability built into the solution?
  • Whether published corporate applications are accessible from anywhere on the internet, and if inbound connections are used in their remote access solution? 
  • Whether they still require a WAF or SD-WAN service to complement the protection of published applications?

Gartner says to… Use a robust, global edge network that is high-performance, high-capacity and capable of supporting ‘cloud heavy’ communications.

You should ask vendors ….

  • How reliant are they on the public internet for their cloud security service?
  • Do they manage and optimize the entire cloud infrastructure, including the first and last mile?
  • How they define a POP – and whether their POPs are all consistent (with similar capacity and latency thresholds). Are these POPs available to all customers worldwide–or are there limitations? 

Gartner says to… Integrate management and administration tools to reduce complexity and increase efficiencies.

You should ask vendors…

  • How many consoles do they require to configure their security portfolio of web, public cloud, private cloud, and data centre apps? Are these consoles merely dashboards connecting to multiple systems without any workflow or central policy enforcement integration? 
  • How many of their security defences are made for the cloud (vs hosted in the cloud) and integrated? 
  • Do they have a single, extensive policy engine, designed to integrate with current and future  microservices? 
  • How do they handle integrations with third-party tools and is it cumbersome?

Organisations embracing SASE can expect a simplified environment based on the consolidation of multiple technologies, as well as reduced costs and a much-improved user experience for both end users and administrators. Adopting a SASE architecture leaves organisations much better protected and resilient against emerging threat factors, and better equipped to navigate data protection requirements.

Is your organisation’s network and security infrastructure SASE ready?

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Neil Thacker
Neil Thacker is a veteran information security professional and a data protection and privacy expert well-versed in the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR).