The Cisco booth is seen at the 2014 International CES at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

The Cisco Partner Summit started in Las Vegas on Tuesday with the large networking and security giant emphasizing the progress it has made on the Cisco Security Cloud, zero trust, and overall network security.

Cisco’s cloud platform aims to unify management and policy administration across an organization’s entire environment via a single interface. The platform features open APIs that support integration and has been designed to protect an IT environment end-to-end.

Frank Dickson, who covers security and trust at IDC, said that integrated, seamless, single console-policy solutions like the one Cisco offers are necessary to bridge today’s hybrid, remote and on-premises computing environments.  

“The need for vendors to reduce complexity for organizations cannot be overstated,” Dickson said. “Rationalizing security tools into integrated platforms to support seamless hybrid work experiences is the theme for 2023.”

On the zero-trust front, Cisco announced that Duo Passwordless Authentication was now available for all customers to protect single sign-on (SSO) applications. Users can login without any password by leveraging biometrics (Windows Hello and Mac touch ID) and security keys. Cisco has also added the Duo Mobile app as a new option for passwordless authentication.

Melinda Marks, a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, said Cisco’s announcements underscores the importance of managing authentication in the cloud as the industry moves more applications out to the cloud. Marks said access is too often or easily over-provisioned, and organizations have cloud apps used by employees, partners, customers, as well as having the applications connect with different resources to pull data in and out of the applications, increasing risk of data loss.

“If you can provide a better user-authentication experience, you can better prevent unauthorized access to applications,” said Marks. “Setting up and updating passwords, setting up two-factor authentication, are known as best practices, but it’s easier to be careless than to go through the extra steps or try to get others to go through these steps to protect your applications. So passwordless authentication should be helpful. Also, unified reporting and policies make it easier for security teams to better manage DLP.”  

Jack Poller, also a senior analyst at ESG, added that with Cisco Duo adding passwordless authentication, users can now authenticate to apps using biometrics such as fingerprints or facial recognition, just as they do for smartphones. Poller said the foundational technology for passwordless authentication is potentially much more secure than passwords or MFA, and it’s much easier to use because users no longer have to remember hundreds, if not thousands, of unique, complex passwords.

“Another aspect of zero trust is applying the principle of least privilege access — providing users with access to only the data and systems they need to do their jobs,” said Poller. “Unfortunately, as more organizations shift workloads to the cloud, data access policies and cloud configurations become more complex and voluminous, and it's challenging for admins to correctly provision accounts. To avoid becoming a hinderance to business operations, admins tend to over-permission accounts to ensure workers have access to data. This can lead to inadvertent or malicious data loss especially when a user account is compromised. Organizations can leverage Cisco Umbrella to detect this inadvertent or malicious transfer of data while the data is in motion across the network.”

SC Media’s sister publication ChannelE2E is now in Las Vegas covering the Cisco Partners Summit extensively for managed service providers.