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Why the Edge is Nearing Closer and Cyber Security Needs a New Approach

As edge computing deployments continue to increase, it is likely that the usage of confidential computing will expand with it, as an efficient method of securing and protecting edge devices

Cloud adoption was once an emerging business strategy and is now nearly universal in some form. Most organizations are still catching up to securing the cloud, and now the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way as edge computing starts to take hold. The new trend brings a familiar issue: security needs to come along for the ride. Edge computing is a distribution of data storage and processing closer to endpoints, where the data sources are present. Whether it’s moving away from a data center due to a growing hybrid cloud infrastructure that puts more resources on-premises, the wide adoption and deployments of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, or geopolitical concerns, there’s more computing happening at the edge.

Market research predicts the edge computing market will grow at an annual rate of ~39% and reach a total revenue of ~$156 billion through 2030. This new trend is exciting but requires a new approach to security. As the next generation of services occurs at the edge, valuable resources like storage, servers, and data processors are vulnerable if devices can elude traditional cybersecurity protections.

Standard cybersecurity methods focus on the perimeter with tools like firewalls and endpoint detection and response. In the modern landscape, devices invade those security measures and get behind the fence. Not to mention it’s cumbersome and expensive to create firewalls for each individual resource. If we can encrypt and isolate data even as it’s being processed and used in applications, we can better protect it from hackers and cyber threats like malware. This is the promise of confidential computing. It’s already helping forward-thinking organizations harden their security posture as they bring resources back on-site from the cloud. Here are three real-world examples of confidential computing advancing security at the edge.

Protecting private 5G networks

The hype has been building for years, and now deployment of private 5G networks is surging. These networks are business enablers, delivering ultra-fast connectivity for organizations so their employees, machines, and devices can enjoy higher data rates and lower latency. The market is expected to grow so much that telecom providers aren’t the only ones in the space. For example, Google recently entered the fray with its own portfolio of private networking solutions. We’re starting to see targeted verticals for private 5G cellular networks, like industrial, healthcare, retail, government, transportation, and more. Vendors will argue that private 5G networks offer inherent security that’s stronger than previous communications technologies. However, that doesn’t mean they are flawless. Private networks add complexity because once a device is authorized to connect, it has bypassed the external firewall and is closer to accessing your data. Confidential computing can secure data in any part of the private network, enabling the fast deployment of private 5G networks while safeguarding all data at the edge. Servers with confidential computing capabilities or confidential computing cards installed on servers can protect edge computing resources and allow filtered access to those resources.

Securing biometric technology at airports

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on the rise, particularly with biometric technology in airports. According to one report, 62% of carriers plan to have self-boarding gates with biometric technology by 2024. Going this route means that massive amounts of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) are moving through the airport’s system and it all needs to be secured. In July, more than 1.5 million files of sensitive airport data were left unsecured due to a cloud misconfiguration. Many airports are trying to avoid these cloud risks by creating on-premises secured islands that move processing entities from the cloud to the edge. Of course, that brings its own challenges and risks. Confidential computing keeps PII secure by encrypting and isolating the data while it’s in use, in motion, or at rest. It also prevents hackers from exploiting AI applications by allowing only predefined operations to be executed.

Shielding industrial IoT (IIoT)

One of the keys to the fourth industrial revolution is efficiency, powered by IIoT devices. This exponentially growing market is projected to reach $102.5 billion by 2028 and, according to one report, more than 70% of organizations have already completed at least one IoT project or are in the research or implementation stages. As IIoT devices transmit data, synchronization and networking become extremely important since external access security isn’t enough. The IIoT gateway also needs a secure computing infrastructure at the edge. The data is collected, analyzed, and processed via on-site servers and is sometimes even backed up to the cloud. What happens between those uploads needs to be secured. Confidential computing ensures that data is secured at all points in the process, from the IIoT devices to the edge, to the cloud. While you could assemble a number of other cybersecurity tools to achieve the same end goal, confidential computing simplifies the process.

As edge computing deployments continue to increase, it is likely that the adoption of confidential computing will rise with it. Vendors are offering more options for hybrid cloud environments, recognizing the growing preference for organizations to move some cloud computing capabilities to the edge. With more verticals taking on edge computing, storing their most sensitive data on-premise rather than in the cloud, securing data and resources with encrypted enclaves can offer the best protection in an evolving threat landscape.