Zero trust, Cloud Security

VPN is dead, long live VPN!

close up on man hand type password on keyboard computer desktop to access VPN mode during use internet data telecommunication with interface icon for future network communication technology concept

Given recent headlines, it would be understandable to proclaim the final death of the virtual private network (VPN). Long hailed as a bastion of online security, recent revelations about VPN exploits are shaking this perception to its core. In just the last few months, the frequency and severity of reported VPN vulnerabilities and exploits was remarkable.

Despite the promises of privacy and security, the "P" in VPN seems increasingly questionable. Which is bad news for the roughly 93% of organizations currently using a VPN for business security (according to Cybersecurity Insiders).

The latest reports of VPN vulnerabilities show no signs of slowing down. These exploits, often resulting from outdated protocols or misconfigurations, have exposed the frailties of a technology that has remained largely unchanged since its inception in the early 1990s. Despite decades of advancements in networking and cybersecurity, the fundamental architecture of VPNs has remained stagnant, leaving them vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

Amidst this backdrop, the question arises: why aren't we simply making a better VPN? The answer lies in the inherent limitations of existing VPN technologies. Despite their widespread use, VPNs were not designed to withstand the sophisticated cyber threats of the modern era. As cybercriminals continue to evolve their tactics, the need for a more robust and resilient solution becomes increasingly apparent.

According to recent statistics compiled by Top10VPN, the landscape of VPN vulnerabilities paints a stark reality. Their research reveals a staggering increase in reported vulnerabilities, with a 32% rise in 2023 compared to the previous year. Alarmingly, this trend shows no signs of abating, as evidenced by a further 35% surge in the first half of 2024. These figures underscore the pressing need for organizations to reevaluate traditional VPN technologies and urgently adopt more robust security measures.

By all accounts, the death of VPNs should feel inevitable, so why doesn’t it? VPNs continue to serve as a reliable means of connecting remote parties to networks, offering speed and ease of use. However, in the face of escalating security concerns, can we truly guarantee the "private" aspect necessary for safeguarding sensitive data? Organizations grappling with this dilemma are increasingly turning to alternative approaches, such as Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

Solutions like ZTNA move away from the traditional perimeter-based approach of VPNs towards a more granular, identity-centric model. By verifying the identity and trustworthiness of users and devices before granting access to resources, ZTNA mitigates the risks associated with VPN vulnerabilities. However, this enhanced security comes at a cost, both in terms of time and resources.

Routing traffic through a cloud proxy, as is common with ZTNA implementations, introduces additional costs per packet and latency to the user experience. While ZTNA offers superior security compared to traditional VPNs, its adoption requires a significant investment of time and money. For organizations weighing their options, the choice between security and convenience becomes increasingly complex.

Creating a better VPN requires more than just patching vulnerabilities or updating protocols. It demands a fundamental reimagining of how we approach network security in the digital age. This entails integrating advanced encryption algorithms, implementing stronger authentication mechanisms, and adopting a more proactive stance towards threat detection and mitigation. Moreover, enhancing the privacy and security of VPNs necessitates collaboration between industry stakeholders, including cybersecurity experts, network engineers, and software developers. By fostering innovation and knowledge sharing, we can collectively address the shortcomings of existing VPN technologies and pave the way for a more secure and resilient future.

In conclusion, the latest headlines about VPN exploits underscore the urgent need for a paradigm shift in network security. While VPNs continue to play a role in connecting remote parties to networks, their vulnerabilities raise questions about their efficacy in safeguarding user privacy and data. As organizations explore alternatives like ZTNA, the challenge lies in balancing security requirements with operational efficiency.

Moving forward, innovation and collaboration will create a better, more secure VPN that meets the demands of the modern digital landscape. VPN is dead, but its evolution is inevitable. Long live VPN.

Sagie Dulce

Sagie Dulce is vice president of research at Zero Networks

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