If there’s one thing to learn about the digital world, it is that no connection is entirely safe.
94% of organizations are aware that their VPNs are potential targets for cyberattacks, and 19% are very concerned about VPNs compromising their security.
The top three concerns are:
Our survey results show that 67% of companies experienced serious cybersecurity incidents over the past year, costing them an average of $330,000 in damages.
Case in point: No matter how sophisticated your security measures are, your system may still be vulnerable when reliant on logins and protocols.
Although malware protection is essential, it cannot provide a complete solution to cybersecurity threats. This is where cloud VPNs come into play.
In this article, we will walk through the advantages of cloud VPNs, explore whether VPNs are safe for cloud assets, understand security considerations for VPNs, and lastly map out some of the alternatives to VPNs.
In this section, we will take a deep dive into the main advantages of a cloud-based virtual private network (VPN).
Scalability tops the list of advantages. Traditional VPNs have difficulties managing increments in traffic and, hence, offer limited scalability. Meanwhile, cloud VPNs can quickly scale up to accommodate growth or an unexpected spike in network demand.
Working remotely, or need to access sensitive information while on the move? Cloud VPN serves as the right tool at such times. High-performance connections can be established across international lines, so employees can connect irrespective of their geographical location.
Cloud VPNs can extend secure, policy-based network access controls to any device — irrespective of where it’s located.
Access can be explicitly granted or denied depending on certain attributes such as device health, user authentication status, or IP address. These features deliver centralized control, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
Change is a constant in business environments, especially those reliant on evolving technology features. The aspect of scalability becomes critical when tech advances drive new ways of doing business or call for augmentation in the data flow.
With a traditional VPN, scaling to meet this increased demand proves a challenge.
However, with cloud VPNs, expansion is a seamless part of the system engineered to respond to real-time demand increases — all without disruptions.
Cloud VPNs often have robust data usage policies to prevent misuse and ensure compliance. The policies are implemented to prioritize privacy, maintain network security, and regulate access to certain classified data.
The exciting part? With cloud VPNs, such policies can be auto-enforced and tweaked with ease — thanks to the simple-to-operate dashboard interfaces.
Yes. VPNs are indeed secure for cloud usage to a significant degree. But how? Let’s see the difference between cloud data protection with and without a VPN.
Without a VPN:
With a VPN:
In this section, we will delve into what to consider when determining the security strength of your VPN setups.
Think of a hacker breaching a secured enclave and then using it to run malicious codes. VPN doesn’t inherently safeguard your system against remote code execution attacks. This type of cyberattack can destabilize your networks and potentially lead to loss of data or controlled contravene experiences.
If a perpetrator manages to convince an authenticated user to perform certain actions or share confidential data, VPN security stands no chance. Most online scams, spear-phishing emails, or impersonating attempts on social platforms are categorized under social engineering – and against these, the encryption or identity mask by the VPN doesn’t make a difference.
Grasp the difference between the two main types of VPN in order to better mitigate risks.
Site-to-site VPNs link together multiple locations under one network, whereas remote access VPNs let individual users securely access the network from different locations.
Both have unique risks to consider.
The former might have weak points lying unattended if not tested for security on each site. The latter opens up the possible risk gates when the user’s endpoint device is infected or penetrated.
A VPN kill switch is intended to immediately disable your internet connection if the VPN fails, halting the accidental exposure of your data. It ensures zero data leaks by adding an extra layer of security. Incorporating a reliable VPN kill switch in your setup is a significant safety consideration.
When you think of network management, dynamic routing comes into the picture. It ensures efficient and reliable path selection for network communication, reducing administrative overhead. However, misconfigurations in dynamic routing can expose your system to attackers pretending to be reliable nodes. Thus, a stable, capable VPN provider must be chosen — one that properly integrates with network infrastructure.
The tunneling protocol determines how your data is transported from point A to point B over the VPN. Here are some of the common tunneling protocols:
This signifies the challenge of isolating various parts of a network while using site-to-site VPN. Network segmentation enhances security and usability, but faces difficulties with compatibility and management hurdles when introduced in a VPN context. Thus, extra thorough consideration will be required where segmentation is essential while using a site-to-site VPN.
Though VPN isn’t entirely foolproof, its imperfections could leave minor cracks exposing your privacy by ending up not entirely masking your identity or data, by perhaps leaking your IP address or DNS queries.
It’s true — the encryption offered by VPNs can be a double-edged sword.
While it keeps your data safe from prying eyes, it can also make detecting and mitigating an ongoing attack or intrusion attempt a significant challenge.
Concealed under encrypted cover, cyber threats may silently penetrate or persist in your network calling for more intricate solutions to understand the underlying layer.
From incorrect firewall rules to neglected security patches, a minor misconfiguration can create leeway for hackers.
Appropriate steps include regular audits of VPN set-ups and employing automation to ensure adherence to best practices and known safety configurations.
Must read: Top 24 HIPAA Books to Read to Stay Compliant in 2023
In this section, we discuss some alternatives to VPNs and use cases where they may potentially be superior.
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a security system that enables the right individuals to access the right resources at the right time for the right reasons.
IAM is primarily driven by business requirements and complies with various multi-client access and regulatory compliance requirements.
Note that while it boosts the protection of sensitive databases, it is no substitute for a comprehensive security protocol inclusive of VPN, Firewall, and IDS systems.
The Zero Trust Network, as the name implies, trusts no one. Its concept is simple—verify everything and everyone seeking connection. Users can only access the data they require, even when already inside the network.
This is its main strength, making the system not only hard to penetrate from the outside, but securing it from malicious insiders too.
However, similar to IAM, Zero Trust is part of a comprehensive security approach and doesn’t entirely replace VPNs for securing private network traffic.
But it is also worth noting that Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the fastest-growing segment in network security and is forecast to grow 31% in 2023, according to a Gartner study. And the primary reason is that it extends secure access control, and verifies each request — no matter where the source of that connection. However, it all boils down to choosing the right ZTNA.
Must read: Make Zero Trust All It Can Be: Tips from the U.S. Army
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a model that combines network security and wide-area networking capabilities into a single service in the cloud. Adopting SASE can result in considerable improvements in performance, scalability, and lower costs. However, the transition to SASE requires strategic planning and focuses on services rather than specific technologies, making it a supplementary tool to a VPN, rather than a complete substitute.
Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) is an approach to managing wide-area networks that allow businesses to streamline their bandwidth usage by mining into readily available, cheap internet links. Companies use it to ensure uninterrupted connectivity and concurrently safeguard their data traffic.
SD-WAN is luring companies previously rigid about using VPNs, particularly when combined with other techniques such as encryption for end-to-end security.
However, like the aforementioned security measures, SD-WAN works best as a component of a holistic digital protection plan.
It is not a direct replacement for the confining and shielding properties of the VPN.
Must read: 5 Most Common Mistakes That Organizations Make with SD-WAN Security
Choosing the right security layers for your network isn’t about selecting a single tool but rather about creating a robust, multi-faceted defense strategy.
VPNs, IAM, Zero Trust Networks, SASE, and SD-WAN — each have their strengths, weaknesses, and distinct use cases. Their thoughtful, coordinated deployment can create a secure, resilient network that’s ready to withstand the evolving threats of the digital age.
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