Security and the edge: Combat threats, shift thinking

Moving to the edge brings benefits to businesses, but also increases risk

by Danessa Lambdin, Vice President of Security Solutions, AT&T

Moving your business to the edge can bring many benefits – speed, the ability to calculate larger quantities of data, reliability and, often, lower costs.

With the dramatic increase in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, moving to the edge may be the only way for many companies to handle the sheer number of devices. In fact, the amount of data and computing power needed for many IoT devices can be considered impossible with the traditional computing model.

By moving to edge technologies, it takes the strain off the network and allows businesses to connect more devices.

Security issues

While moving to edge technologies can bring many benefits to businesses, it also opens up some new security issues – both with IoT and other devices.

Each IoT device adds another access point to the network, so security risks often increase with the number of devices added. Businesses must not simply keep their same security plan, but instead take a hard look at the best way to secure the edge.

Organizations find it necessary to enable the business and manage information risk by consistently and effectively assessing and implementing security controls across the enterprise.

It’s not just adding another layer; it’s rethinking the way you approach security.

Many of the same security threats are found on both edge and traditional network configurations. However, the presentation strategy and the threat level are typically higher with edge technologies.

Here are three common security threats to edge devices:  

1. Spoofing

Attackers gain access to the network by pretending to be someone else, usually in an email. When a user of a device connected to the network clicks on a spoofing email, the attacker gains access to the network.

One solution is using trusted platform modules (TPMs) in the hardware layer to add an additional layer of authentication. This way, attackers cannot actually see or access the data until their identify is verified.

2. Privilege Access

Once an attacker gains access, the level of damage they can do largely depends on their access privileges. For example, someone with admin-level privileges can do far more damage than one with user privileges.

By using Privileged Access Management (PAM), you can keep unauthorized users out of an existing Active Directory. Consider building this level of security into the communication layer of your network.

3. Tampering

This security breach starts with the device.

It’s not enough to secure the network; you must make sure hackers cannot gain access directly using the device. It seems simple – passwords, latest updates and anti-virus – but large breaches can occur when hackers are able to gain access to users’ devices or profiles.


The edge makes things easier in some regards, especially speed of processing, but a bit more complicated in others, such as security. With so many new threats appearing every day, it’s almost impossible for an IT team at a business to be up to date on all the latest threats. Security is a very specialized area, and hiring true experts can be cost prohibitive for many small to medium companies.

Many companies are attempting to solving this problem by moving to a software-defined networking (SDN) model. Instead of having physical servers and routers at their building, the infrastructure is virtualized in the cloud. At first glance, this may seem less secure, but if managed correctly, it should be the opposite. You would have an entire team of some of the best security experts in the country working to protect your network.

By being the first to know about many threats, your SDN vendor can update your security protocols and help keep you protected, without you ever having to lift a finger.

Yes, it’s a shift in thinking. But moving to an software-defined model with edge technologies is a great way to help keep your data, network and devices safe.