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As Data Moves to the Edge, We Need to Talk About Security

By Juan Penaranda
Published: March 18, 2021

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with data, that data must be processed closer and closer to us. There are several reasons for this, namely lower latency, covered in my previous post on edge computing. With our data being processed in so many locations, operators are increasingly thinking about the security of their edge data centers. Before we dive into the security around the “edge”, let’s discuss some background on the factors driving us there.

With 5G on the horizon, and new technologies like autonomous vehicles, console-free gaming, and even instant grocery delivery, we are creating an unparalleled amount of data that is reshaping the data center landscape. All this data from new applications needs a location to be stored, processed, and distributed. Historically, large, centralized data centers are where these critical services are rendered. These data centers comprise large groups of computer servers, used for storage, processing, and distribution of large data from a central location.

In recent years, we’ve seen a trend in these critical facilities needing to be closer to the end-user, mainly to drive down latency (the time it takes to pull up a webpage or video.) There is now a shift from centralized data centers to small data centers closer to consumers, or the “edge”. What does this mean? Well traditionally, data centers conjure an image of a large building with fencing, remote sensors, security guards, and other features to protect those business-critical servers. The shift from these large buildings to smaller remote sites presents several complications, in addition to the magnitude of benefits delivered by these new applications and services.

Remote sites may not have security personnel or the same budget for protection as larger data centers. The consequences for poorly protected infrastructure could be wide-ranging. Rural sites could be vulnerable to tampering or to theft. Deep-sea cables could be targets for tapping, giving malicious parties access to the troves of personal data that circulates through the internet every day. If a malicious hacker got a hold of your network, the damage could range from changing your password to identity theft. Protecting your data at the edge seems daunting, right? It doesn’t have to be if you’re proactively mitigating risk.

Corning participates in the TIAA Security Working Group, which focuses on concerns regarding the receiving and sending of data originating from edge data centers. One of the main takeaways from the Security Working Group is the increasing importance of the TIA-942 standards on physical security. In the cabling portion, it was important to consider cable tampering and connector modifications. What if the “edge” was a telecom cabinet on the end of a neighborhood street? Imagine someone forgets to lock the access door or there’s a car accident that pops it open. Now you have part of your network open to whoever happens to walk by. Like your neighbor who’s having Wi-Fi issues and suddenly fancies himself a fiber field engineer. Cable and connector security modifications could prevent this well-intentioned neighbor from tampering with the network and compromising everyone’s service. Color coding and special keying mitigates these types of risk in a not too far away future. Whether it is a hacker or curious neighbor, these types of secure connections are important for protecting your network on these data center islands far away from the fortified traditional larger data center.

When looking for a solution with this type of flexibility, Corning offers a variety of secure solutions, ranging from tap modules to monitor network access, to 12 color-coded key options in base-8 and base-12 options for the matching of connectors to the patch panels. These features, in addition to others in our secure solutions portfolio, allow you to identify tampering or damage to your network. With color-coded key options, your technicians can swiftly identify what’s damaged and rectify the situation.

Security at the edge can often seem like an impossible task – while certainly not a problem that’s going away, security and network monitoring can be implemented in a way that mitigates risk. While car accidents and tampering happen, having secure solutions will allow you to address the issue as quickly as possible, minimizing network downtime. Want to learn more about our secure solutions?

Visit our website to learn more about  Secure Solutions.

Juan Penaranda is a data center specialist in market development for Corning Optical Communications. He specializes in multi-tenant data centers and data center interconnects, analyzing the market and focusing on how trends such as AI, the Internet of Things, and 5G will affect this data center market segment.

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