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What Is a Software-Defined Perimeter?

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The internet can be a pretty dangerous place. Constant threat from cybercriminals puts both people and businesses at risk of having their data stolen. Because of this, there’s now a range of different network security technologies we can use to keep our data safe. One such technology is called a software-defined perimeter, or SDP.

But what exactly is an SDP? Who can use one? And how do they differ from a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

What Is a Software-Defined Perimeter?

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A software-defined perimeter, or “black cloud”, is often used by large corporations and similar organizations that have many employees.

Cybercriminals try to infiltrate the networks used by these companies to either steal large quantities of private data, infect them with ransomware and get money in exchange for what data they’ve locked the organization out of, or to interfere with or shut down the main server. This happens quite often and can be pretty severe.

So, companies now use a variety of different products that can safeguard their networks and keep unwanted parties out. Software-defined perimeters are popular options in such circumstances. But how do they actually work?

Software-defined perimeters work by micro-segmenting network access. This means that only certain individuals can access a network, and each individual gets a different level of access based on who they are in relation to the organization as a whole.

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It provides a security architecture that operates on a “zero trust” basis, and so can implement zero trust networks. So what does this mean?

In network terms, “zero trust” relates to frameworks or products that work by assuming no user can be trusted by default. This means that no one should be able to access the wider network without having their identity authenticated first. When authentication is always required, it becomes very difficult for unauthorized individuals to gain access to anything.

Individuals are essentially only given access to content and data on a need-to-know basis.

This kind of identity-centric framework also helps companies keep up with the ever-evolving nature of cyberattacks, in which criminals are constantly developing new ways of infiltration and theft.

In short, a software-defined perimeter creates individual access perimeters for each user.

It also isn’t centralized in a data center, like many traditional security frameworks. Instead, it is delivered via cloud technology. This allows software-defined perimeters to keep up with progressively larger workforces and mobile devices so that networks using this framework can be accessed from anywhere.

So why are software-defined perimeters also known as “black clouds”? When an SDP is used, the network in question cannot be seen by unauthorized individuals. If a cybercriminal cannot actually see the network, they cannot identify weaknesses and loopholes, and this makes it much harder for them to hack. You’re hiding content behind a black cloud.


However, many assume that a VPN can be used instead of an SDP. This is often not the case. So, how do SDPs differ from VPNs?

SDPs vs. VPNs: What Are the Differences?

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You’ve probably been hearing about VPNs pretty regularly in recent years. They’re now hugely popular because they typically allow users to overcome geo-blocking, hide IP addresses, and encrypt internet traffic. This makes it much harder for cybercriminals to hack your device and steal your private data.

Though SDPs and VPNs both have a focus on cybersecurity, they are not one and the same. While VPNs allow all connected users to access the network, SDPs only give verified users access, and this access varies depending on the user at hand.

They do not share network connections and establish individual network connections between an authorized user (and hence their device) and the server.

Related: Great Alternatives to Using a VPN

SDPs sometimes use VPNs within their frameworks to establish secure connections, but SDPs are generally more secure, as they make it harder for someone to access wider networks.

They can also be easier to manage, and their use of micro-segmentation means that, even if a cybercriminal gains access under someone else’s identity, they most likely will only be able to view a limited amount of data and content.

So, on an organizational level, SDPs are usually the better choice of the two, but if you want to implement both, that’s also a great option. There is a range of different SDP products on the market today, such as Perimeter81 and Appgate, which are used by thousands of clients worldwide. Nonetheless, VPNs are completely viable options for individuals who want to browse the web securely.

SDPs Lock Out Cybercriminals And Keep Networks Secure

Though you may not have heard of software-defined perimeters before, they’re now commonly used around the world to keep networks secure and out of the reach of cybercriminals. They may even be used at your workplace!

With their “zero trust” frameworks that can be used from anywhere, SDPs are great ways for large organizations to stay safe and functioning in the face of cyber threats.


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