Redefining security in mobile networks with clientless SASE

SASE, Secure Access Service Edge

As organizations adapt their IT ecosystems to incorporate IoT devices and expand remote working opportunities allowing employees to use personal mobile devices, enterprise mobility has become indispensable in modern business operations. Nonetheless, this shift presents numerous security challenges and lifecycle management considerations, especially given that mobile devices connecting to networks frequently lack compatibility with traditional security solutions such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or endpoint tools.

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are at the forefront of this challenge. These service providers are tasked with the dual responsibility of ensuring optimal connectivity while safeguarding data privacy and user experience. As the market for basic connectivity services becomes increasingly commoditized, these operators are compelled to explore new avenues for revenue through value-added services. Among these, security services stand out as a promising opportunity.

Yet, serving these security responsibilities often becomes a persistent hurdle, primarily due to the limitations of traditional security architectures in addressing the needs of a mobile and remote workforce.

The challenges for MNOs and MVNOs

One of the primary challenges for mobile operators is the inadequacy of traditional security architectures designed for a more static and centralized IT environment. These architectures struggle to provide seamless and secure access to applications and data for users who are often outside the traditional network perimeter.

Furthermore, the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices adds another layer of complexity. Many IoT devices, characterized as "closed box" systems, do not support the installation of traditional security clients or agents. This limitation not only creates potential security vulnerabilities but also complicates the deployment of security solutions across these devices. In many cases, the security controls impart a heavy compute and bandwidth burden on devices that were designed to be low-compute and lightweight.

Moreover, the operational intricacies and rising expenses associated with overseeing multiple devices, operating systems, and user profiles present considerable challenges. The conventional approach, heavily dependent on software clients for access and security, results in fragmented security measures that are cumbersome to manage and scale. Furthermore, to accommodate agent-based security solutions, expensive firewall appliances are necessary to manage the large number of tunnels generated by end devices.

These challenges collectively underscore the need for a new approach that can offer comprehensive, scalable, and efficient security solutions tailored to the needs of mobile operators and their diverse user base.

Understanding SASE and its integration with SIM

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) represents a transformative approach to network security for mobile operators. It integrates comprehensive security services with advanced networking capabilities within a single, unified framework.

SASE is fundamentally designed to address the dynamic access needs of modern enterprises by combining network security functions such as secure web gateways (SWG), cloud access security brokers (CASB), firewall as a service (FWaaS), and Zero-Trust network access (ZTNA) with wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities. This convergence enables organizations to securely connect users, devices, and applications, regardless of their geographical locations, thereby ensuring a secure and seamless access experience across the distributed digital landscape.

However, there are several limitations to applying SASE within mobile networks. Many mobile and IoT devices are ill-equipped to handle traditional security clients, complicating their integration into a SASE framework and introducing complexities in lifecycle management.

To overcome this, SASE has now been integrated with Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) technology, referred to as Versa SASE on SIM. By leveraging SIM-based identity, SASE on SIM provides robust authentication and access control within mobile networks. This SIM-based approach facilitates the application of SASE’s dynamic security policies directly to mobile devices, thereby extending security services to mobile and IoT devices without the need for traditional security clients.

SASE on SIM operates by routing traffic from SIM-enabled devices through a SASE architecture, where it undergoes comprehensive security checks and policy enforcement before reaching its destination. This method ensures that only authenticated and authorized devices can access network resources, significantly enhancing security. Moreover, by utilizing SIM-based identity, this solution streamlines the authentication process, making it both more secure and user-friendly.

So, how does providing effective security as a value-added service and supporting enterprise mobility specifically benefit mobile operators?

Benefits of implementing SASE on SIM for mobile operators

The key advantage of SASE on SIM lies in its ability to offer a scalable, agentless, and secure connectivity solution while also conserving bandwidth by circumventing the need for individual tunnels created through VPN clients. It eliminates the need to deploy separate private Access Point Names (APNs) for each enterprise, simplifying the network architecture and reducing operational complexities. This integration addresses the critical security and connectivity challenges MNOs and MVNOs face. At the same time, it aligns with the evolving needs of modern enterprises, offering a scalable, secure, and efficient solution to support the diverse and mobile workforce of today.

SASE on SIM enables mobile operators to scale their security and connectivity services efficiently, accommodating the rapid growth and diverse needs of the expanding mobile and IoT device ecosystem. As operators can move away from managing multiple security agents across various devices and operating systems, their operations are simplified. By leveraging SIM-based identity for authentication and access control, SASE on SIM cuts operational complexity and costs, enhancing network management efficiency.

Also, it drives enhanced security by combining SASE's comprehensive security services with the SIM's strong authentication capabilities. This approach ensures consistent application of security policies at the network edge, close to user devices, offering advanced protection against threats and unauthorized access.

Most importantly, SASE on SIM complements the Zero Trust security model, which adheres to the principle of "never trust, always verify". Such solutions maintain a strict security stance by continuously verifying every device and user seeking network access, regardless of their location. This minimizes the attack surface and reduces the risk of data breaches, ensuring mobile operators can deliver a secure, efficient, and user-friendly connectivity experience. Such an approach embodies the essence of built-in security measures within the contemporary mobile ecosystem, aligning seamlessly with Zero Trust principles.

Overall, SASE on SIM stands as a key innovation for MNOs and MVNOs, offering a path to deliver secure and efficient mobile connectivity services. By marrying SASE's dynamic security capabilities with the ubiquity and reliability of SIM-based authentication, mobile operators can address the evolving needs of the enterprise mobility landscape, ensuring security, scalability, and operational simplicity. This approach not only solves the pressing challenges of today's mobile ecosystems but also paves the way for a future where secure and seamless connectivity can be sustained.

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Chitresh Yadav is Head of Sales Engineering at Versa Networks.

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