Three Must-Have Data Center Security Practices
There is no universal cybersecurity solution. Nevertheless, there are a number of broad rules and best practices that can guide data center security initiatives.
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Data center security is a multidimensional, multilayered problem for the majority of enterprises. Data centers are the "crown jewels" of a business, regardless of whether they are hosted in-house, in managed or co-located facilities, in corporate-owned off-site data centers, or on the cloud. They contain vital information that enables the operation of company operations and provides the context for making informed business decisions.
Attackers, on the other hand, want these extremely desirable and lucrative data and strive diligently to acquire access to it. Similarly, insiders may accidentally or intentionally misuse or compromise important organizational information. In either scenario, company and customer data may be held for ransom, sold on the dark web, or exploited in other ways.
1. A Specific Environment
The sheer magnitude and variety of data center environments further complicate the issue. In traditional networking, cybersecurity focuses primarily on the network's perimeter, preventing intruders from ever obtaining a foothold. This method is still applicable despite the growing rise of the distributed workforce, which increases and frequently eliminates a significant portion of the network perimeter.
In contrast, data centers often manage more traffic, with virtualized workloads operating on servers, VMs, and containers that collaborate to complete tasks and share data. Data center architectures may be as simple as a single in-house facility or employ hybrid or multi-cloud architectures with a fairly flexible boundary.
Given the diversity of data center architectures and the enterprises they support, there is no universal cybersecurity solution. Nevertheless, there are a number of broad rules and best practices that can guide data center security initiatives.
2. Security at the Edge
Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are typically implemented as the first line of security for data centers, similar to traditional networking; however, depending on the size, traffic load, and other factors, a specific data center NGFW may be necessary. Typically, these solutions may offer firewall throughput in the terabits (as opposed to gigabits for conventional NGFWs) and millions of concurrent user sessions.
Typically, NGFWs for data centers can be subdivided into many virtual firewalls that can offer individualized services to clients in multitenant situations. Typically, these virtual NGFWs are directly controlled by the clients, allowing fine feature customization for each customer's needs.
Redundancy and failover are crucial for data centers to provide constant uptime in the case of a breakdown, disaster, or another business-disrupting event. In classical networking, failover strategies may be active/active or active/passive; however, in data center environments, active/active is typically preferable to maintain operational continuity during failover.
In a failover event, user connections must be maintained in addition to data and applications, particularly if the redundant data center is geographically distant. With the proper systems in place, failover can occur almost imperceptibly to users without interrupting active connections.
However, there is always a trade-off. The expense of purchasing and installing NGFWs must be evaluated against the possible financial and reputational losses that a breach or business disruption could cause. In addition, the majority of an NGFW's heavy lifting is accomplished by security policies, and while most vendors provide configuration wizards and other tools, policy disputes may develop. For instance, supporting distant workers could necessitate manual configuration to enable access to data center services.
3. Diving Deeper: Micro-Segmentation
Almost every modern data center utilizes cloud architecture through virtualization, containers, multi-cloud utilization, and other components. This provides for scalability and flexibility but introduces inherent security vulnerabilities. For instance, once an attacker has obtained access, the data center's interconnected work processes can give a path to other servers, data, applications, and other resources.
Microsegmentation solutions enable security teams to establish discrete data center sections and then implement security policies to safeguard them right down to the virtual machine, container, or workload level. It is possible to monitor and visualize east-west traffic between data center elements, so protecting against malware and other indicators of intrusion before they may spread broadly throughout the data center.
Moreover, in multitenant environments, a micro-segmentation solution can prevent unauthorized users, threats, and assaults from gaining access between clients. In addition, these solutions offer comprehensive visibility into intra-data center traffic and a standard set of protection mechanisms, such as IPS, antivirus software, and other attack defenses.
Despite the numerous advantages of micro-segmentation, its implementation in current contexts can be extremely complex and difficult to deploy appropriately. Normal traffic patterns can be analyzed by machine learning to determine which east-west traffic flows to permit or reject; nevertheless, a misconfiguration can interrupt corporate operations. Similarly to NGFWs, the costs and benefits of this approach must be considered.
Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)
As mentioned in the last section, one of the keys to safeguarding a data center is an insight into cloud workloads and understanding how assets generally interact. By simulating the typical behavior of workloads, it is much simpler to spot any deviations that may suggest a potential hazard and then eliminate or eliminate it.
This emerging technology, dubbed cloud workload protection platforms (CWPPs) by analyst firm Gartner, typically provides the following essential security features for multi-cloud data centers:
- A dashboard that enables monitoring, visualization, and control.
- AI or machine learning-based modeling of normal behaviors and patterns to enable threat identification.
- Micro-segmentation across several clouds.
Consider that some solutions may only support some use cases, such as containers and microservices, when evaluating CWPPs. Moreover, because most CWPPs are agent-based, the cost to install and maintain an agent on each data center asset can quickly escalate, slowing deployment and impacting asset performance.
While data center security is an ongoing effort rather than a one-time event, it is vital to implement fundamental safeguards at the data center's perimeter and within its components. Doing so will build the framework for successfully protecting the corporation's key assets, regardless of location.
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