About Edge Computing
Real-time insights are the driving force behind the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). That’s why edge computing, an extension of cloud computing, is being increasingly adopted by enterprises that have to navigate a large number of use cases for their mission-critical scenarios.
As the term suggests, edge computing provides the “edge” in computing and processing data on a real-time basis, which in normal circumstances (on-cloud computing) would not be possible due to network latency.
The edge computing concept aims to bring computing and storage devices nearer to users’ geographical locations. Essentially, it’s having “distributed data centers” or “mobile data centers” near the end users so that the outcome is optimized.
Edge computing offers faster response times and better insights to manage critical infrastructure.
If we look back a little, edge computing was introduced in the 1990s when the objective of this concept was to introduce nodes at the specified locations geographically that were closer to the end-users. Gradually, this evolved into a topology where it started to be used as a location-sensitive form of distributed computing for effective and real-time action-led results.
Benefits and Challenges
Gartner research predicts that by 2025, 75% of the data will be processed at the edge. Today, the technology is readily accepted and adopted in multiple industries, including automotive sectors, telecoms, and other manufacturing setups where OT (operational technology) is implemented for daily operational tasks. Businesses can depend very much on reliable connectivity like edge computing for their IoT applications as well. It enables IoT applications to use less bandwidth and operate more smoothly even when connectivity is limited.
- As already mentioned, there are definitely a host of advantages to edge computing, especially in high-speed data-intensive infrastructure (eg. 5G environment):
- It reduces the latency (time taken by data packet to transfer from one designated point to the other) and hence boosts network speed. So, the IT operational responsiveness is improved.
- Edge computing significantly reduces cost due to lower bandwidth. It is applicable even in data centers because data centers can prevent costly improvements (eg. cloud storage features) by storing fewer data in the cloud and processing more data locally.
- Edge computing may be utilized to enhance the scalability of IoT networks without worrying about storage. The data transmitted here is in a centralized manner.
- The cloud data always faces a high risk of being hacked. Edge computing helps to avoid this as it sends only the appropriate data to the cloud. Also, it does not always require a network connection for data transmission. So, even if the hackers gain access to the cloud, much information might not be at risk.
Nevertheless, what about the security of that critical piece of information? if accessed illegitimately it can wreak havoc in critical infrastructure. And what about the users who are accessing the edge networks? What about controlling their access to edge devices? There are several security risks associated with edge computing. If not given sufficient attention, it could be catastrophic.
Let us analyze the risk areas that can be broadly divided into physical risks and digital risks.
Risk no. 1
The chances of physical tampering with devices in an edge computing architecture are quite high. It depends majorly on the location of the devices and what level of preventive measures (physical access prevention) are taken by suspicious users. The reason is that once the malefactors get physical access, they can tamper with the node circuits, modify the OS or even extract critical cryptographic information. Once they destroy the edge nodes, the entire network gets compromised.
Risk no. 2
Inadequate control of the huge data volume is another risk area. For instance, in the BFSI industry, there is maximum data flow during the fiscal year-end. Edge computing fastens the data process, but what about controlling the volume of data?
Earlier, there were two or four CCTV cameras in a housing complex, but now there are the same number of cameras on every floor of a building. Just think of the amount of data generated from all the CCTVs in a multi-storeyed building. How can this data volume be secured against hacking?
Risk no. 3
Access control is another area of concern. There is always a team of dedicated users who keep on accessing the edge servers regularly. So, if the organization is unaware of who is accessing which device on the edge network, when, and why, there is a risk of unauthorized access, password compromise, or data sabotage. This user identity risk could be catastrophic if not authenticated or authorized, especially in a distributed environment where data is transferred from the main server to different sub-servers. If we ensure the security of the main data server, a single loophole in a single sub-server can pose huge risks.
Solution: Reinforce the Access Control Mechanism
Just like on-premises or on-cloud infrastructure, edge computing also requires a strong identity and access control posture to mitigate illegitimate access threats. It is therefore essential to implement a centralized access control policy that can secure edge computing in a distributed data center environment. A centralized access control helps in provisioning, authorizing and governance of users that access edge devices.
- The multi-factor authentication process for dedicated edge computing users ensures that all access to critical infrastructure is validated before it is granted.
- Password credentials are one of the most vulnerable forms of IT assets. Critical passwords for accessing data assets need to have a continuous password randomization mechanism so that unauthorized access is prevented. Also, with ARCON Password Vault, the passwords could be vaulted in an encrypted manner.
- Since edge computing is all about fastening data transmission processes, Single Sign-On helps the IT administrator to centrally manage, authenticate, and authorize end-users accessing the edge devices and provide one-time administrative access to all applications for enhancing administrative efficiency.
- In conditions where data is stored in a cloud environment, then a seamless monitoring of each and every elevated session helps organizations detect anything anomalous that has happened in the IT environment. Identifying this risk can help the administrators prevent any possible cyber incident.
Lastly, needless to mention, there has to be adequate physical security measures in place to prevent physical tampering of the key devices.
The paradigm of Edge Computing has revolutionized data management and data transmission processes in the IT ecosystem. However, without adequate access control security, the whole idea of operational efficiency could be at stake.