As cyberattacks continue to plague businesses of all sizes, the need for adequate network security has never been greater. According to a recent study by Cybersecurity Ventures, cyberattacks are expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.

Security Service Edge (SSE), first introduced by Gartner in early 2021, provides organizations with a centralized and unified approach to network security. Traditional network architectures relied on a patchwork of point security solutions to protect their networks, users, workloads and data, including firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and other security measures deployed throughout the  infrastructure. This approach was complex and cumbersome to manage, particularly for large organizations. 

SSE addresses these issues by placing security functions at the edge of the  source entity (users, branches and workloads), where they can be applied more effectively and at a larger scale. In addition, organizations can use security measures in a more coordinated and integrated manner by centralizing and unifying security functions and integrating various point security solutions into a single platform.

Learn more about SSE and how it minimizes risk and enhances performance. Top insights include:

  • What is SSE?
  • SSE Core Capabilities
  • Use Cases of SSE
  • Benefits of an SSE Strategy
  • SASE Vs. SSE

What is SSE?

According to Gartner, Security Service Edge (SSE) secures access to the web, cloud services, and private applications. Capabilities include access control, threat protection, data security, security monitoring, and acceptable-use control enforced by network-based and API-based integration. 

Regarded as a critical component of cloud and networking security, SSE is primarily delivered as a cloud-based service and can include on-premises, agentless, or agent-based components. By placing security functions such as firewalls and intrusion prevention closer to the network's edge, SSE allows security measures to be applied more effectively and at a larger scale since they are closer to the point of entry for incoming traffic.

SSE is important today because it helps organizations protect their networks and data from cyberattacks, malware, and other malicious activity, irrespective of where the users, workloads and data is located. By placing security functions at the network's edge, organizations can detect and prevent threats at the inception, before they reach internal systems and cause damage.

In addition, SSE can also help organizations meet compliance requirements, such as those related to data privacy and security. By implementing SSE, organizations can demonstrate that they have taken appropriate measures to secure their networks and protect sensitive data. 

Delivered primarily as a cloud service, SSE accelerates digital transformation by optimizing cloud-based infrastructure and minimizing vulnerability to threats.

SSE core capabilities

An SSE solution requires these six critical security capabilities.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) provides safe remote access to applications and services based on predefined access control criteria. Unlike VPNs, ZTNA allows only legitimate users, servers and devices to  access authorized content. It reduces threats from malicious actors who can only steal usernames and passwords but lack the required information to access the system. This is possible because it employs multiple tiers of inspection and enforcement. Highlights include:

  • Centralized control to understand who's accessing data, where it's stored, the sensitivity level, and the volume of network traffic. 
  • Identity-based authentication with fully customizable authentication mechanisms.
  • Least-privilege access allows  cyber-security specialists to monitor user behavior for malware, credential theft, and data loss.
  • Uniform security policies for corporate-owned and third-party applications, regardless of data location. 
  • Granular, role-based access and dynamic, risk-based access that provides users with the information they need for their work.
  • Post-connect threat monitoring and AI/ML based analytics to detect attackers based on their  user behavior.
  • Identity and access management (IAM) tools—for instance, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) could be mandated. 

ZTNA 2.0 delivers:

  • True least-privileged access ensuring that users only get the minimum level of access they need to perform their duties, reducing the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • Continuous trust verification to check the trustworthiness of users, devices, and networks on an ongoing basis, ensuring only trusted entities are granted access to the network.
  • Continuous security inspection that continuously monitors the security of the network and its assets to detect and prevent threats.
  • Data protection to ensure network data is protected, regardless of how it is stored or transmitted.
  • Security for all apps, providing security for all applications running on the network and protecting them from external threats and vulnerabilities.

Secure Web Gateway (SWG)

SWGs protect users from web-based risks like malware while enforcing appropriate standards and granular use policies. Since it is a security gateway, it inspects the web traffic (north-south traffic) for threats and prevents cyber criminals from exfiltrating data. Instead of visiting the website, users can use the SWG to implement URL filtering, web visibility, malicious content inspection, web access controls, and other security measures. They provide secure internet access even when users are disconnected from the corporate VPN, making them critical to the SSE strategy.

In addition, SWG allows organizations to:

  • Enforce security standards to make internet access safer 
  • Block inappropriate websites or content based on acceptable use standards
  • Help prevent data theft and unauthorized transfers

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) is a security solution that sits between an organization's on-premises infrastructure and the cloud-based resources that it uses. It acts as a gatekeeper, enforcing security policies and monitoring the use of cloud resources to ensure that they are being accessed securely and compliantly.

CASBs provide several security and compliance capabilities, including:

  • Identity and access management: CASBs can provide single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that only authorized users can access cloud resources.
  • Data loss prevention: CASBs can prevent the accidental or unauthorized exfiltration of sensitive data by monitoring outbound traffic and enforcing data loss prevention (DLP) policies.
  • Threat protection: CASBs can protect against malware, phishing attacks, and unsecured networks by analyzing traffic and identifying and blocking malicious activity.
  • Compliance monitoring: CASBs can help organizations meet various compliance requirements by providing visibility into how cloud resources are being used and generating reports on usage and activities.

Overall, a CASB helps organizations secure their use of cloud resources and ensure they are compliant.

Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS)

Firewall-as-a-Service provides organizations with Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) capabilities such as Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), web filtering, intrusion prevention, and Domain Name System (DNS) security. They function like a regular hardware firewall, filtering traffic and limiting the types of sites users can access.

An SSE strategy uses FWaaS capabilities to help organizations aggregate traffic from multiple sources—on-site data centers, branch offices, mobile users, and cloud infrastructure. In addition, it consistently applies and enforces security policies across locations, so users get complete network visibility and control without deploying physical appliances.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

DLP is a security process that identifies and prevents data theft, corruption, and cyberattacks. It works by comparing hashes of encrypted data to ensure that they match. Hashes are essentially strings of code, and encryption helps convert large or small amounts of data into hashes that the DLP tool can work with. The tool flags the data as corrupted when it detects that the hashes do not match. 

DLP can also detect data policy violations through statistical analysis, lexical analysis, or rule-based filters that check for essential features like the number of digits a data set should have.

Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)

Remote browser isolation (RBI) prevents routine browsing from infecting computers or devices. It processes web pages on cloud-hosted browsers rather than the user's computer and thus contains browser-based malware downloads. 

The web page processing happens in an isolated environment on the cloud. The RBI is more like a sandbox or virtual machine (VM). Once processed, the page can be considered safe, and the user can start interacting with it without any malware concerns. RBI also prevents downloading, cut, copy, paste of senstitive and confidential information in users laptops, by creating an air-gap between end user’s laptop and destination Website or SaaS storage, thereby preventing data exfiltration. It provides data protection for BYOD and 3rd party users.

Use cases of SSE

Faced with a growing remote workforce and customer base, enterprises have struggled to reduce their security strategy's complexity while enhancing the user experience. Unfortunately, this outcome can hardly be achieved with legacy network architectures. Comprehensive SSE technologies decrease the security complexities and challenges posed by remote work, digital business enablement, and cloud transformation.

SSE aids businesses in tackling essential use cases.

Transforms Administration and Security Controls Management 

SSE helps reduce costs and complexities and streamlines policy adoption and implementation across on-premises, cloud, and remote work environments.

Organizations must handle cloud and on-premises environments with the right security measures. SSE policy control aids in risk mitigation while end users use the content on and off the network. Enforcing access control compliance policies and corporate internet for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS is another significant use case. 

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is another critical tool that protects your company from unsafe misconfigurations leading to breaches.

Replaces VPNs to Safeguard Remote Workers

Authenticated VPNs pose an inherent security risk since they offer limitless trust-based access to the entire enterprise network. As the threat landscape becomes increasingly vulnerable and more remote employees access private networks through VPN, this could pose a grave security risk, due to possible lateral movement in the private network by compromised or infected legitmate users. 

SSE uses ZTNA technology for granular resource access. Upon authentication from a remote user, the ZTNA establishes a secure, encrypted tunnel to the application or resource, allowing the user access to the resources required for that particular task. This will enable organizations to restrict lateral movement on the network while providing secure and reliable access to enterprise resources.

Protects Web Users from Malware and Ransomware

Businesses need to identify and mitigate modern malware and other threats. For example, many recent attacks include tactics like social engineering that target cloud provider capabilities and mimic user behavior using authentic credentials. SSE's SWG capabilities assist by serving as an inline cyberbarrier, detecting web traffic, and preventing unauthorized activity.

Moreover, by following the "dark cloud" principle, remote users will not be able to see or interact with anything other than the specific application they have been authenticated for. If the user wants to access a different resource, his or her rights and trustworthiness will be re-verified using that particular resource's security standards. This dramatically reduces the likelihood of attacks.

Provides Visibility and Control Over SaaS Applications

Organizations want visibility and control over data accessed and stored in the cloud and protection against cloud-based risks from a centralized, cloud-native enforcement point. SSE's CASB functionality offers multi-mode support by imposing granular controls to monitor and control access to sanctioned and unauthorized cloud services. 

Inspecting, classifying, and quarantining malware through CASBs helps protect users and apps before any damage is done. In addition, with an integrated CASB, organizations can easily keep pace with the SaaS explosion.

Protects Sensitive Data in Any Location

Organizations require protected usage, exchange, and access to information that resides or travels beyond the security perimeter. SSE offers Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for a centralized,unified and modular approach to data protection. Data classifications are established once and enforced across the web, cloud, and endpoint.

SSE also provides a unified and dynamic cloud-based security stack that you can access and manage from anywhere at any time. Components such as FWaaS help track and monitor remote devices from a single control panel. For instance, you can check whether all laptops are running the most recent security definitions and implement risk-based rules that prevent connections from outdated devices.

Reduces Network Load with Cloud-based Security

Most remote traffic is destined for services outside the network and is routed through the enterprise network firewall. SSE provides security as a cloud-based service, eliminating the need for remote, cloud, or web-destined traffic to route through the enterprise network firewall. This means you’re routing remote traffic through an SSE solution in the cloud rather than a physical device in the office or data center. As a result, enterprises can work more efficiently and reduce bottlenecks by  avoiding the backhauling to headquarters or Hub datacenter and reducing the enterprise network’s load.

Scales Hybrid Working with ZTNA

Based on zero-trust principles, SSE offers optimal and secure access. The technologies impose micro-segmentation at the application level while continually monitoring traffic and prohibiting suspicious activity. Further, the cloud-native design adapts dynamically to suit the needs of remote workers, simplifies the security architecture, and reduces the attack surface.

Secures Cloud Migration

SSE expedites cloud migration by maintaining consistent security while migrating on-premises assets to the cloud. The solution automates rule enforcement for workload migration. It can locate data, provide insights into its use, and control data access. This results in a uniform security posture across many clouds and regulates access and data governance.

Accelerates the Move to SASE

SSE enables companies to adopt a SASE platform from a single provider. The solution integrates network and security infrastructures into flexible deployment models that are simple to use. In addition, the self-healing network and adaptive security allow businesses to adapt to changing digital needs without sacrificing security. Frequently, SASE capabilities are complemented by fully-managed network and security services supported by an SLA.

Benefits of an SSE strategy

A complete SSE strategy thus offers enterprises a comprehensive set of security technologies that provide benefits to security and IT teams and stakeholders, both on-site and remotely. The benefits can be summed up as follows:

  • Direct, secure internet access to applications, tools, data, and resources from anywhere in the world.
  • Quicker and more efficient connectivity to the web, cloud, and private apps when accessing application resources for users from any device, anywhere.
  • Testing and tracking the user behavior across the network.
  • Threat protection within the cloud and any internet destination, recognizing cloud-native threats and sophisticated malware.
  • Data security across the internet, within the cloud, and when transferring from cloud to cloud.
  • Zero Trust access to data and applications based on least privileged access.


Gartner's 2019 introduction of the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) technology is best understood as a convergence of networking and security technologies delivered as a single cloud-based platform. SASE enables secure and rapid cloud transition, primarily by combining a highly converged Wide Area Network (WAN) Edge Infrastructure platform with a highly connected security Security Service Edge (SSE) platform.

Thus, SSE is a subset of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), specifically its security component. It unifies various security technologies to secure access to the web, private applications, and cloud services. SASE takes a more comprehensive and holistic approach combining both SSE and WAN Edge Infrastructure to ensure safe and optimal access. It handles user experience optimization and secures against threats, assaults, and data loss.

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