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As the world advances towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the technologies meant to spur this most desired change continue to advance by the day.
Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Analytics, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are some of the 4IR technologies that have among other things, made digital communication easy and worthwhile. It is now clear that these technologies can be combined and applied to a wide range of industrial, commercial and social applications.
But like the the proverbial fire, said to be a good servant but a bad master, technology portends an ugly side if not ‘tamed’. The badness of these technologies, albeit numerous, sums to one big threat; data breaches and general insecurity.
Martin Kioko, the F5 Channel Sales Manager at Westcon in Sub-Saharan Africa and a F5 enthusiast, walks me through the security best practices to ensure your “digital world” as he puts it, is secure.
Kioko starts by appreciating that on a daily, most people live on their mobile devices. So much so that lifestyles have changed to match this reality. He has no doubt that attackers are becoming wiser and using new tools to access the biggest currency in the world, Data as technology advances.
“In this new age of technology, data drives the world more than ever. Many companies want to know what you like and how you operate while users want to live simpler and more efficient. For this to work, data collection is key to create that sweet spot that would be both efficient for users and most of all, Profitable to the companies.” Martin Kioko
He notes that F5’s strength comes in through how it understands the digital world. From its beginning as a full proxy that provided basic and advanced application network services, it evolved its service offering to include load balancing, web performance, optimization, application delivery firewall and secure remote access. With that he says, F5 optimizes application delivery and control.
“When the internet started, it was a gateway to access information and to communicate among users. The links were simple and easy to use. However, it grew much bigger. Now, a link can take you through an unexpected rabbit hole into a dark world of malicious content and attacks that would mine your data and infect all the digital services that you may be connected to,” he says.
The current digital world as is then means that everything done online is vulnerable if steps are not taken to secure access.
“This is where F5 shines. Remember, as a proxy it could see how traffic flows between servers and users, and therefore, can sit as a digital bouncer, managing traffic, authenticating the users coming in and giving them a secure passage to the services they need; quickly and efficiently,” says Martin adding; “F5 integrates real-time optimization and security as part of its offerings.”
From inception, F5 has existed in the digital world and is well placed to secure it. It was birthed from the fact that traffic could be seen going to the application thus vulnerabilities in access if the traffic was not genuine. This also Attackers moved from firewalls attacks to targeting web application and servers.
F5 ensures that the people accessing the digital content are authentic and that traffic coming in is genuine while checking behavior of the users, protecting internet application and services from DDoS (Distributed denial-of-service) attacks, HTTP floods, SQL injections, cross site scripting, parameter tampering, and Slow Loris attacks that would take out access to digital services. This makes F5 a security vendor with an all in one approach to security that could ensure uninterrupted flow or seamless internet service delivery. This does help reduce TCO (Total cost of ownership).
So, what about businesses security?
With the flexibility of working entirely remotely, one can be in Canada working for a Kenyan company, thanks to applications, cloud services among others and therefore you are not far away from your desk at all. The next one-million-dollar question is, how then do we secure data?
“In this age of BYOD (bring your own device), where users can work from anywhere with their mobile devices and hold corporate data in their own devices, enforcements are critical to protect the integrity of companies and end-user data,” Martin says.
By investing in dynamic security solutions, Companies are able offer robust products and services that would satisfy their clients while maintaining data integrity. Over the years we have seen companies pay heavy penalties for mishandling user data. Global standards and compliance regulations have dictated how user information and transactions are handled. From GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, F5 solutions can help companies not just comply with such policies but also automate the compliance processes easily.
“We have come from the age of perimeter security that has fundamentally established the security standard from policy enforcement to application visibility. Whereas data centers need to be guarded and the data within, the perimeter still acts as the bridge between those accessing the data and data centers,” he adds
However, there is not so much in an encrypted world as equips Martin.
Users come in through and are reviewed by a firewall. Unfortunately, most traffic come in as encrypted traffic. While firewalls can try reviewing encrypted traffic, it is resource intensive. Something that increases latency and reduces application performance. In this case F5 has the capacity to offload SSL traffic and can redirect it to a firewall for deeper inspection. Augmenting existing security structures to create a “best of breed” approach to protecting user and company data. If it finds anomalies it proceeds to deny access which is however not easy in an encrypted world.
Encryption (https.) is meant to enhance user security but is invisible to most data centers. A fact that most attackers know and have weaponized to ensure maximum assault. Firewalls struggle to recognize or monitor encrypted traffic in most cases and if they tried, then it becomes too resource intensive that eventually, it compromises on the quality of service. By including F5 in the architecture, such traffic can be offloaded and properly inspected without compromising on quality of service and in real time.
This encrypted traffic monitoring however leaves out users. Are they real or are they bots?
Today more than ever before, companies want to be trusted in their capacity to provide services while maintaining credibility and trust. If you don’t use intelligent methods to stay ahead of the ever-changing digital threat landscape.
Automated attacks have become prominent in this age because as computers and mobile devices have become more powerful and can mimic some human behaviors. Bots are capable of various types of activity including web scraping, vulnerability scanning, credential stuffing, DoS attacks, and much more that make them efficient and effective attack vectors. A feature with F5 Advanced Web Application Firewall (WAF) allows one to monitor bot signatures and create proactive defenses.
So, is it so easy maintain a suitable digital business?
“As a user, I want to believe that my product vendor is taking time to create a secure environment for my transactions whether in banking, social media, e-commerce or just in keeping my information. It would be difficult to use a company that does not take, user privacy and data integrity seriously and definitely can’t recommend them to others.” Says Martin.
But this is not a fight for companies alone, individual users must ensure they maintain digital hygiene by not using the same password everywhere and not sharing personal information freely without questioning how the data is being used. Change passwords as often as possible and use stronger passwords always.
“The digital world is ever changing, F5 is at the forefront of securing that world and that is a good thing, I however prefer using pass phrases to passwords as they are more secure.” concludes Martin.