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How Security Service Edge (SSE) Can Help Federal, State, and Local Government Security Leaders in Their Zero Trust Journey

Mar 02 2022

The federal government continues to make progress towards Zero Trust (ZT) adoption. On May 12, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14028 to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks and on January 26, 2022, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a Federal strategy to move the U.S. Government toward a Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity. 

Ensuring federal mission sustainment in today’s heavily-remote environment now requires personnel access to enterprise data and assets from nearly anywhere, not just on-prem, but also in the cloud. Security leaders in state and local government and higher education are facing similar issues too. A traditional approach to security based on a strategy rooted in an on-prem environment simply won’t be effective in an environment where your users and data are being accessed outside the purview of your security team and tools. 

To address the gaps in security created by this new heavily-remote workforce, agencies are moving towards secure access service edge (SASE), an architecture that combines several different security and networking elements, at one time siloed, for enhanced security in federal enterprises where cloud access and applications are now ubiquitous. Security service edge (SSE), an important concept for understanding the journey to a SASE architecture, represents the evolving security stack needed to successfully achieve a SASE convergence, which includes technology capabilities such as cloud access security broker (CASB), cloud-native Next-Gen Secure Web Gateway (NG SWG), Firewall-as-a-Service, and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) that are core requirements for that stack.

If we usefully organize how SSE solves what security must do in this newer world of keeping data safe in the cloud, there are four core principles:

  • Principle #1: Security must follow the data
  • Principle #2: Security must be able to decode cloud traffic
  • Principle #3: Security must be able to understand the context surrounding data access
  • Principle #4: Security can’t slow down the network

With these core SSE principles in mind, here are some security challenges that federal, state, and local government security leaders can overcome by leveraging SSE capabilities as part of a data-centric SASE architecture

1. Mitigate user-driven cloud adoption risks with cloud data protection

User-driven adoption has created massive security blind spots. The July 2021 Netskope Cloud and Threat Report noted that cloud app adoption had increased 22% during the first six months of 2021, where the average company with 500–2,000 users now uses 805 distinct apps and cloud services, 97% of which are shadow IT, unmanaged and often freely adopted by business units and users. Netskope is the gold standard for cloud data protection, as acknowledged by multiple industry analysts and evidenced by adoption in the market. We’re pioneering a simple yet powerful approach to modern data protection for hybrid and multi-cloud environments. In contrast to the rigid experience with legacy, appliance-based DLP, Netskope cloud data protection provides the scale, accuracy, and precision needed to deliver security for SASE architectures with agility.

2. Performance and security don’t have to be mutually exclusive

While legacy approaches to security often mean a degradation in performance, modern approaches and tooling can make security and performance mutually inclusive for federal agencies. Netskope boosts business productivity and agility with the fastest user experience and optimized application performance from its NewEdge security private cloud. Netskope’s extensive peering with web, SaaS, and IaaS providers offers fast, low-latency on-ramps to more than 50 global locations equipped with full compute for real-time, inline security traffic processing close to users. Netskope reinforces its cloud security services with industry-leading service level agreements (SLAs) focused on security traffic processing in the cloud.

3. You can’t protect your data if you don’t know where it is

In 2020, 83% of users accessed personal app instances from managed devices each month. Personal app instances pose a data security threat when users upload sensitive data to them: the organization loses control over access to the data, making it more prone to exposure or misuse. Netskope Intelligent SSE is cloud-smart and data-centric—ensuring security follows data whenever it goes and providing real-time, context-rich awareness of agency data. 

4. Legacy security approaches are static— the Netskope approach to continuous adaptive trust is dynamic and data-centric

While federal agencies may be starting with zero trust, the goal should be to create more trust. Traditional security approaches with legacy tooling most often were not designed with zero trust in mind; instead, they focused on perimeter-based security and only protected data that remained within the bounds of that perimeter.

Netskope’s continuous adaptive controls expand zero trust models as part of a SASE, hybrid, and multi-cloud architecture to control access, manage threat protection, and monitor data movement. Explicit and granular access controls across applications, application instances, and application activities reduce the attack surface against primary threat vectors such as risky cloud apps, cloud phishing of sanctioned app credentials, and data loss through personal or sanctioned instances of federal government applications, such as M365 or Google Workspace.

5. Compliance is static, continuous adaptive trust is dynamic and data-centric

Compliance requirements should serve as a foundational framework in the SLED space, but they should not be viewed as a failsafe. Relying solely on compliance requirements can prove disruptive over time, and can leave organizations in a constant state of compliance catch up. Instead, an organization’s approach to security must be continuous and adaptive—capable of following sensitive data not just within the bounds of the traditional perimeter, but outside of that perimeter, wherever the data resides and across any device that’s used to access the data. Netskope’s continuous adaptive controls expand zero trust models as part of a SASE, multi-cloud, and hybrid architecture to control access, manage threat protection, and monitor data movement.

With the Netskope Intelligent SSE solution, federal security leaders can be empowered to move beyond their legacy approaches and tooling and abandon security distractions so they can focus on maintaining a secure organization for today and tomorrow. Similarly, state and local government and higher education security leaders can be empowered to move beyond their legacy approaches and tooling and abandon security distractions. For more details and deeper insights into how government organizations and academic institutions can leverage SSE to solve modern security challenges, check out the Federal white paper here and the SLED white paper here.

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Colby Proffitt
Leading Netskope’s Public Sector Marketing Team, Colby Proffitt is a cybersecurity strategist with more than a decade of experience supporting various federal agencies including the Department of Defense (DoD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of State (DoS), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Colby’s work as a strategist, researcher, and media maven has been featured in publications including Bloomberg, United States Cybersecurity Magazine, NextGov, FCW, Homeland Security Today, GCN, Federal News Radio, SIGNAL Magazine, and Federal Times, among others.

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