Don’t let microbranch security be your network’s weak link – CSO Online

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If you hear the term “microbranch,” you probably picture a small banking location with a handful of ATMs. For many years, this term was specific to the financial industry, but as remote work and internet-connected devices have grown more common, the definition has evolved to include any small remote office associated with a larger corporation. This could be a home office, a shared workspace for a handful of employees, or a remote industrial location.

Modern enterprises must protect and manage hundreds of sites, including data centers and high-traffic branches, and address pressing needs like new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. Because of this, it could be tempting to ignore microbranches and focus on seemingly more significant priorities.  

But malicious actors are getting better at sniffing out security gaps and leveraging them to infiltrate the network at large. This means one of the most important things a company can do to protect against sophisticated cyberattacks is to ensure its security posture is unified across all locations and environments. Without addressing microbranches within their cybersecurity approach, enterprises can unwittingly create opportunities for attackers to exploit. As the saying goes, “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link.”

The role of the microbranch

Microbranches within enterprise networking aren’t as well understood or commonly discussed as the campus or branch, but with the rise of hybrid work following the pandemic, small offices have become more prevalent. Think of all the people you know who use flexible workspaces or work from home.

Depending on the industry, a microbranch may include IoT and operational technology (OT) devices such as smart lightbulbs, security cameras, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which collect critical systems data. Think of a retail kiosk in a shopping center with a single point-of-sale terminal or a remote wind turbine on the top of a mountain. 

When it comes to modern networks, the volume of microbranches and their importance will only continue to grow.

Using SASE to protect the microbranch

Of course, it’s easy for me to write about the importance of microbranch security but it’s much more challenging to build a strategy to protect these environments. Networks vary widely, as do microbranches, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. 

Unified secure access service edge (SASE) has emerged as one of the best and most thorough ways to protect your microbranches. The solution delivers converged networking functionality with cloud-delivered security to all users and edges within the network. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when assessing SASE solutions for microbranch security:

  • The strength of a platform approach: Microbranches often don’t require expensive, dedicated solutions with elephant flows and top-of-the-line throughput. Instead of deploying new products that will add complexity, expanding solutions already deployed within the network is ideal. For example, if you already use Fortinet FortiAP wireless access points (APs) to connect the microbranch, you can leverage Fortinet Unified SASE to intelligently offload traffic from microbranches to a SASE location. This allows for comprehensive security inspection at scale for all devices within the microbranch and brings enterprise-grade, AI-powered, cloud-delivered security to these locations via APs. 
  • Simple deployment and management: Because microbranches have few IT resources and often no on-site technical support, leveraging a security solution with intuitive provisioning and simple management is critical. This will ensure the security at the microbranch can be managed and maintained remotely so the site remains online and protected. With a SASE solution, organizations can access this functionality through a central SASE console. 
  • OT and IoT devices: Microbranch security needs to cover all users and devices at the location, including agentless OT and IoT devices. SASE solutions can forward traffic from these devices to SASE locations for a full security inspection, ensuring they aren’t hiding anything malicious.
  • Granular identity verification with ZTNA: Despite a microbranch’s small size, there will likely be an employee or device at the location that needs to access the overall network or cloud-based applications. SASE includes zero-trust network access (ZTNA) which provides granular, session-based access to specific assets within the network. This limits access to the specific applications and data a user or device needs to complete its job rather than allowing unlimited access to the network, minimizing the potential impact should a bad actor steal login credentials. 

Fortinet Unified SASE can protect your microbranch

Microbranches are here to stay, and their security is paramount to your organization’s overall security posture. Fortinet Unified SASE is an ideal method to ensure the microbranches within your network are visible, protected, and well-managed. This solution combines all the components needed to converge networking and security for zero implicit trust everywhere.

Learn more about Fortinet Unified SASE and how it can increase the security of your microbranches.

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