Securing the future: four network trends to watch

Contributed by Justin Chiah, Senior Director and General Manager, South East Asia and Taiwan, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Asia Pacific is now home to the world’s largest population of Internet users, bolstered by a strong mobile movement and a thriving millennial generation. Apart from robust mobile uptake, recent government initiatives across Asia — from Digital India to Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint — are pointing towards the steady journey towards mass digitization.

In Singapore, the Government driven Smart Nation initiatives have been paving the way for an increasingly digitalised country. Designed to empower people to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives, Smart Nation harnesses the power of networks, data and info-comm technologies to improve the quality of life, create economic opportunity and build a closer community.

Already, Singapore is a connected city. It ranks second in the Global Connectivity Index for 2016 and 2017. The country has strong digital infrastructure and industry connectivity, in especially in relation to ICT expenditure, percentage of population covered by 4G networks, ICT access and usage, smartphone penetration rate and ICT laws.

Similarly, in neighboring Malaysia, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is on a mission to maximize the digital economy’s contribution to the country’s growth. It is building a digital ecosystem that promotes innovation and creativity. This includes creating the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), an ICT hub that hosts more than 3,800 foreign and homegrown companies focused on multimedia and communications businesses, employing more than 150,000 professionals.

However, better connectivity and greater digitization leads to more complex IT environments, as organizations and governments adopt technologies such as the hybrid cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. Moreover, more complex IT environments mean more cybersecurity vulnerabilities. As evident from the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware episodes, cyber criminals are also evolving and today wield the power to cause sweeping disruption worldwide.

These threats feel particularly imminent, as organizations in Asia Pacific are 80 percent more likely to be breached than its global counterparts. Despite countries like Malaysia and Singapore claiming top three spots in the recently released 2017 UN Global Cybersecurity Index, the majority of Asia continues to struggle. China, India, Taiwan, and Vietnam were among the nations most adversely affected by WannaCry. In fact, half of the infected systems in the first two days of WannaCry were found to be in China, according to China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Centre.

As organizations focus on providing the best solutions for their customers, how do they ensure that speed, security, impact and timeliness are still high on their radar? Here are four targets that businesses should set for themselves in order to meet this checklist.

Digital workplaces and modernized networks

Before we embrace any macro environment trends, we need to first review and look within our organization. In this agile world, automation of IT and the adoption of cloud-based services become key factors in the ability for businesses to adapt to this rapid pace of change. Mobility has changed the nature of access, requiring support for multiple devices per person with unpredictable locations, new traffic patterns, unknown devices on the network and a more sophisticated threat landscape without a trusted perimeter.

According to Frost & Sullivan, only 4.3 percent of Asian organizations believe they are resilient to withstand cyberattacks, hinting at the lack of confidence of the majority when it comes to their cybersecurity maturity level. Legacy network architectures built for the client-server era were not designed to meet the needs of today’s mobile/IoT/cloud-enabled organizations and their customers.

It is imperative that businesses modernize their network, unify wired and wireless, and leverage modern tools and technologies to digitize their workplace. Organizations need to adopt an intelligent core system, boosted by a flexible, fully programmable operating system and security overlays yet still maintaining a scalable and simple management.

Network security in the IoT era

A small misstep today can potentially lead to a snowballing effect of catastrophic proportions. This is reflective of network security. A small loophole or oversight in security measures can led to the next headline-grabbing data breach. This is why it is important to ensure that there is full visibility and transparency all around, in anticipation of blocking potential attacks. While over half of Asian companies have already adopted IoT technology today, a striking 84 percent of have already experienced an IoT-related security breach. There’s no question that IoT has introduced new security challenges and that enterprises must become vigilant when it comes to securing data and resources from would-be attacks.

The question is how best to implement an IoT security strategy. Enterprises need to identify ways to deploy more granular device or role-based segmentation for their networks, as well as review overall changes to campus design. An enterprise security strategy for IoT must include automated policies that identify which devices can connect, what data and applications they can access, and who has the ability to manage or maintain these devices.

This also means employing a solution that secures the organization’s business and infrastructure IoT through a ‘closed-loop’ approach, such as Aruba 360 Secure Fabric. The ability to see changes in these devices’ behavior over extended periods is also key to a complete security strategy for IoT.

Location-based asset tracking

It is easy to miss hidden opportunities while we are set on maintaining old traditions. In this increasingly competitive business climate – real-time and intuitive customer engagement becomes the differentiator. More businesses are seeking new opportunities with location-based services, analytics and real time engagements.

As businesses optimize operational efficiencies, build greater user engagement opportunities, and cut costs, the use of location-based services and analytics is a growing requirement. IT organizations in retail, healthcare, localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV) and enterprises are tasked with better identifying user traffic patterns, and space and resource utilization.

Simple and easy to use asset tracking for healthcare, retail and warehousing is also something that organizations are exploring. Many are looking to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled wireless access points such as the Aruba Tags, as these solutions can directly impact the business and user engagement without having to deploy an expensive secondary infrastructure.

Doing business at Internet speed

New business models and technologies may come and go but end user’s increasing expectations remain constant. Businesses need a partner that will empower them to enrich and enhance their customers’ digital engagements. In 2018, we are setting new standards. The 802.11ax – the new normal for wireless LANs – is one technology that will evolve end user engagements. Imagine going at speed that is 4x to 10x faster – that is what 802.11ax is promising.

According to The State of Online Retail Performance study, a two-second delay in load time on an e-commerce site will hurt bounce rates by up to 103 percent. Not only will 802.11ax allow speedier engagement, engagement at crowded places will also not be compromised and remain seamless.

What is best for businesses is to understand how their users interact. A business can invest in the most advanced tools but it needs to be user facing and intuitive. It is important that they engage in a partner vendor that delivers an architecture with context aware services which provide exactly the insights into who, what and how users behave in the network, and use that information to bolster security and application quality of service flexibly across all network elements, including third party services.

Technology is advancing at the speed of light and admittedly, threats are increasingly complex with the rise in IoT. With trends and predictions lasting no more than three months at a go, organizations need to address the imminent network security threats and future-proof the network. Thankfully, there are solutions that provide mobility and agility while advancing in tandem with the rise in complex threats—organizations just need to take the first step.

After all, in this increasingly competitive landscape, every dollar counts and no one wants another billion-dollar breach to dent the bottom line.