Home Editor's Pick Security Implications of Using CDNs: Benefits and Risks

Security Implications of Using CDNs: Benefits and Risks

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As businesses begin to expand, reaching new audiences and generating traffic from different countries, they face a central problem: latency.

Latency refers to the total time that it takes from data in one location to travel to another. In a business sense, the load time that a user experiences when clicking on a website and receiving its data would be latency.

When businesses have one central server, customers in different parts of the globe face a worse customer experience, with high load times and poor reactivity. A content delivery network fixes these problems, providing a local data cache that enables low latency, no matter where.

In this article, we’ll dive into the complexities of content delivery networks, comment on their security benefits and risks, and outline why they are vital data architecture for growing businesses.

What is a CDN?

A content delivery network is a cached data repository that stores website content in a remote location. If a business operates in London, but has clients in Australia, then sending data across the globe would simply take too long. Instead, the company can build a CDN in Australia. When an Australian user accesses the site, data would instead load in from the closest CDN, reducing latency.

Each remote location is known as a PoP, or Point of Presence. The more PoPs that a company has across the globe, the more equal a customer’s load time would be. The majority of websites, especially those that focus on web traffic (like newspapers, e-commerce stores, and entertainment sites), will use CDNs to enhance their average customer experience.

According to HubSpot data,  a B2B website that loads in under one second has a higher conversion rate by nearly 5x, compared to one that loads in 10 seconds. Spoiled with fast internet, most customers won’t wait around for your site to load. It’s vital to invest in CDNs to keep your data flowing smoothly.

Load times considered, almost every major business around the world uses a content delivery network to ensure customers get similar load times despite their location. Most likely, even while reading this, you’re interacting with a CDN without knowing it.

Security Benefits of a CDN

Alongside direct benefits for your customers, content delivery networks also help your business create a more robust security posture.

A central part of moving to a CDN system is distribution. Instead of having one central hub, you instead have several different hubs around the world, each with replicated data that you can then deliver to customers.

With a distributed approach, your business can access several security benefits:

DDoS Protection: A Distributed Denial-of-Service attack aims to overwhelm your data architecture to stop it from being able to deliver content to your users. When using a distributed architecture structure, your CDNs can simply step in to send data. While latency may be higher during a DDoS attack, it won’t completely stall your business.
Built-In Security: Most CDN networks are managed by third parties. As it is their responsibility to keep your servers safe from harm, there are typically many additional security precautions taken, such as malicious pattern detection, traffic filtering, and the use of cybersecurity systems.
Resource Distribution: By spreading your resources across the globe, you make it much more difficult for a hacker to neutralize your systems. Equally, if one system sees a spike in traffic, it can be supported by nearby CDNs, helping to produce a more stable global performance while preventing malicious traffic from overwhelming your business.

Content delivery networks aren’t primarily a security tool. That said, their distributed architecture offers your business several security enhancements as a byproduct. This dual nature of advantages makes them a leading infrastructural choice by many businesses. With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising to see just how popular CDNs are across the world.

Security Risks of a CDN

While content delivery networks do offer a number of security benefits, helping to distribute vital architecture to avoid concentrated server attacks, they also create new ones.

As a business begins to distribute architecture across the globe, it radically increases its attack surface. By introducing new data repositories, businesses create new potential points of access for cybercriminals. If even one of these servers has vulnerabilities, then hackers can use it to gain entry into your whole system.

Additionally, remote management of these data centers can create further difficulties for your cybersecurity teams. CDNs are often managed by third parties, which can reduce the active visibility that your teams have over your own systems, creating potential problems.

However, it’s important to note that these security risks are a drop in the ocean when compared to the benefits of using CDNs. What’s more, effective risk management can help to neutralize these problems.

Managing the Security Risks of CDNs

No matter where the resources of your applications are, distributed or not, you should endeavor to secure your applications. Following security practices and creating a comprehensive level of security architecture doesn’t only protect your business, but also ensures you meet security compliance regulations.

While CDNs can create a security risk, they only do so when a business fails to prioritize application security. With how vital CDNs are, especially for growing organizations with a presence in several countries, using them is almost mandatory.

With that in mind, protecting your applications as comprehensively as possible should be your main focus.

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