From VPN to SDP – Four Reasons to Switch Now

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Read more about author Don Boxley.

There once was a time when the virtual private network (VPN) was the hot new technology. In its day, VPN was nothing short of amazing – an impenetrable innovation in IT security. But that time was in the mid-nineties – 1996 to be exact – when it was created. No one can call this the latest and greatest anymore. Instead, organizations should consider switching to a more modern software-defined perimeter (SDP) solution.

When did the shift away from VPN begin? While the transition was already in progress toward more modern data security solutions, when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2020, the limitations of VPN technologies became much clearer. As workplaces worldwide moved over to remote work, hackers had a field day thanks to the weaknesses of VPNs. In 2022, the VPN Risk Report from Cybersecurity Insiders found that close to half (44%) of companies in the survey experienced an increase in their VPNs being targeted by cybercriminals.

Why do hackers find the thought of targeting organizations that use VPN technology so appealing? What do the companies that have taken steps toward phasing this technology out know about it that you might not have thought of yet? The main thing to keep in mind here is how much has changed in the world since VPN was created. In short, network security needs have become much more complex than they were in the past. Hybrid and multi-cloud configurations dominate the landscape along with the Internet of Things (IoT). VPN technology is now way out of its league, as it wasn’t intended or designed to protect companies in these heterogeneous spaces. The result is that organizations that still try to rely on VPN put their organization at risk because of VPN’s shaky network security.

If you’re still limping along with a VPN for your security system, consider these four reasons to shift to an SDP solution instead:

Each VPN Connection Gives Away a Key to Your Network

What’s the biggest vulnerability of a VPN network? It’s the lack of reliable regulation of network access for its users. Each and every VPN connection can be thought of as offering up access to a sizable slice of a company’s network. This creates the opportunity for virtually limitless lateral attack surface from a single-entry point.

The Cost and Unreliability of Physical Infrastructure

VPNs are not only a major expense in an IT environment but also represent a ready-made point of failure. That’s because hardware VPNs need to create VPN tunnels and can’t operate without a physical processor to support them. As more VPN tunnels are needed, an organization’s hardware footprint and configuration needs for the physical infrastructure expand, which kicks off a complex, costly process. Regular maintenance is also an issue with physical appliances to try to boost their reliability, which creates another significant recurring expense.

VPN Security Can Be Easily Compromised

Password strength can make or break VPN security – which isn’t a very secure feeling. No matter how much password security best practices have improved in recent years through updates and longer character limits, IT can’t always enforce these policies, and human limitations often surface as users opt for convenience over security. With VPN, once your credentials are compromised due to a weak password, bad actors can suddenly have access to your entire network.

Bad Actors x 2

External threats are the natural place to point a finger when considering the cybersecurity threats companies currently face. But with VPN, it’s not just external threats to data, but internal ones you need to worry about. It’s now common for bad actors to covertly breach a network perimeter, remain dormant for a period of time, and then mount an attack.

What is a better way to approach network security to avoid these four clear vulnerabilities of VPN? SDP is a “zero-trust” technology and the best way for companies to safeguard their data against escalating cyberthreats. SDP solutions not only avoid the expense and security weakness of physical VPN appliances but also improve functionality in a number of ways, such as:

  • Access at the application level. Unlike VPN, SDP solutions take a more granular approach to regulating access and ensuring it’s properly authorized. They do this by giving users access only to specific applications. Since VPN gives much too wide a berth with their permissions – equating to a large “slice” of the network, having application-level access is a major advantage of SDP. This approach eliminates lateral attack vectors while minimizing potential breach damage only to authorized applications.
  • Built for the cloud. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud deployments, which are the norm today, require a solution that was designed for heterogeneous environments. SDP technology is cloud-ready and purpose-built for exactly this. The result is the power to safely connect disparate infrastructure.
  • Zero-trust assurance. The SDP way is to trust nothing and no one, while verifying absolutely everything and everyone. This ultra-secure approach is why SDP succeeds where VPN fails. It ensures that all users – both inside and outside the network – are continuously verified and authorized at each and every touchpoint within the network.

With the drawbacks of VPNs and the benefits of SDP technology so abundantly clear, it’s time to make the shift if you haven’t already. As VPNs continue to be successfully targeted and exploited by cybercriminals, companies that want to survive the onslaught must get smarter about safeguarding their network perimeter. With VPN technology more than a quarter-century old, upgrading to SDP technology is the best way to keep your company’s critical data safe in an increasingly cloud-based world.