Menu
Is SDN your next security nightmare?

Is SDN your next security nightmare?

Before you jump into SDN, be aware that there might be some security risks

The big buzzword in networking these days is Software-Defined Networking (SDN),  a de-coupling of the data plane and the control plane that allows you to manage physical devices via a software-based controller sitting on a general purpose server.

There are numerous benefits associated with SDN. Instead of having to touch every switch and router, the controller enforces policies by using the OpenFlow standard to talk to the physical networking devices. Also, customers can theoretically use any OpenFlow enabled hardware, meaning you no longer have to buy all of your networking gear from the same vendor.

But before you jump into SDN, be aware that there might be some security risks. That's the view of Robert Hinden, an industry veteran and Check Point Fellow, who spoke at the RSA Conference.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD Hot, new products at RSA | A running list of stories from RSA +

Hinden points out that once you've established centralized control of your network on this server, what happens if that server is attacked? What if a hacker gains control of the SDN controller?

Theoretically, the hacker could direct traffic around your firewalls, insert malware into the network, run man-in-the-middle attacks or send traffic to compromised nodes.

Also, what happens when outages or bugs occur in the network? It's unclear today how the SDN controller would deal with network outages that might require the re-routing of traffic, Hinden says.

In addition to security concerns, Hinden questioned how well SDN can scale. He pointed out that traditional routing and switching is destination based, with the physical devices reading headers and using routing tables to send packets to the appropriate destination.

But SDN is flow-based, which is good because it allows network managers to create fine-grained policies. On the other hand, all of those flow entries must be sent out to all of the devices on the network. Hinden worries that this could get unwieldy.

On the other hand, Hinden sees some positives when it comes to SDN and security. The controller can push security policies to all routers and switches on the network, creating a uniform SDN security posture for all traffic.

Also, if there is a compromised host, for example, the controller can easily isolate that host from the rest of the network, he says.

While it's still very early in the SDN adoption cycle, Hinden recommends that networking teams and security teams begin working together, because in an SDN world, "all network staff will be responsible for security."

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags SDNsecurityrsa 2014LAN & WAN

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments