Connected things are a signature of the fourth industrial revolution. Producing data at unprecedented rates, they’re driving a need for “edge computing”.
On the edge, data is no longer sent to a centralized data center. Instead, it is processed near its source which reduces latency and reduces bandwidth costs, helping to harness the full potential of data.
However, edge computing does have its flaws.
Compared to traditional, localized data centers, devices running on the edge pose an increased security risk because the physical access to data drives is not limited.
The core of edge computing is connectivity, where data-generating devices are connected to one other across a wide range of endpoints. This wide network will inevitably blur network visibility, making it difficult to identify suspicious activities and rectify them.
Also, there are additional attack vectors and entry points that can be exploited to gain access to core systems where edge devices eventually connect.
All it takes is for a device to be attacked, and whole networks can be compromised.
Connected edge devices come in an assortment, with a diverse range of functionalities and operational ‘language’. This dials up the difficulty in tracking the threat landscape for security teams. As mentioned, many of these devices lack adequate security features or have varying levels of protection.
For example, weak login credentials, zero-day vulnerabilities, and obsolete protocols fail to protect against modern threats.
Further, the physical size of edge devices makes them vulnerable to theft and physical attacks. This is because they are often deployed at remote, exposed locations such as cell towers, which is not actively monitored. Again, tamper with one device, and the entire network will be compromised.
Prior to deploying the edge, there must be actions taken to encrypt all data, both ‘at rest’ and ‘in motion’.
These data could also be sent via hardened VPN tunnels instead of untrusted public networks, which could reduce the risk of having MitM (man-in-the-middle) attackers gaining access to sensitive data.
Also, implementing multi-factor authentication is also a crucial step in securing data.
Edge deployments are also notoriously difficult to update and patch. Automated patching and assertion across such a large network of devices are nearly impossible. Thus, there must be an intentional effort to move beyond the initial setup and ensure that each device is being securely patched.
Ultimately, edge computing is a stellar example of how a disruptive technology can be used to benefit various industries.
If implemented well, it can give companies a competitive advantage and boost business performance.