Is our need for internet speed putting sensitive data at risk?

Internet network architecture and data exchange

Technology makes us more impatient than ever.

Research suggests that, for the average user, it takes 16 seconds of a slow loading website to trigger those primary feelings of frustration and occasional outbursts of rage. Others barely reach that number.

Next day shipping, immediate answers to all questions in the palm of our hands, more content than can be consumed in a lifetime, and instant gratification have reshaped our generations to the point of no return.

What’s going on behind the scenes of ever-faster websites and apps?

Businesses are using CDN technology to meet the needs of an audience that can’t imagine life before lightning-fast loading times or has grown accustomed to lag-free life.

What is a CDN, how does it avoid lagging websites, does convenience come at the expense of users’ personal data, and what are the best practices for securing these networks?

We investigate below.

What is a CDN, exactly?

CDN: Does our need for internet speed put sensitive data at risk?

A Content Delivery Network – or CDN – also called the backbone of the Internet, is the technology behind every fast-loading website and application.

It is dedicated to removing lag and allows users to instantly load whatever content they want wherever they are in the world.

How does a CDN work in practice?

A CDN creates shortcuts, reducing the distance content travels between the website’s hosting server and you. As a result, it allows immediate access to the website even if the originating server is on another continent.

If we break down the anatomy of a CDN, it would consist of:

  • Points of Presence (PoP) – strategically placed data centers that contain a cache
  • Caching servers placed in various locations around the world and storing cached files
  • SSD/HDD and RAM inside caching servers used for storing cache files

Websites that use a CDN perform better and faster because their users don’t have to wait for it to travel from the originating host’s location to you. Instead, it reaches cached versions of content stored in a local PoP.

Buffering was never an option

Primarily, CDNs were designed to speed up load time and remove latency.

For online businesses, this is relevant as they allow remote employees to connect to the network without anything disrupting their workflow. They also allow users to enjoy multiple content platforms and impulse purchases without interruption.

Lagging websites affect the sales of e-commerce sites whose customers leave their carts quickly. Additionally, the lag would also impact the performance metrics of blogs whose audience would bounce back before reading the article hook.

When it comes to video content, patience levels are even lower.

The study suggests that users won’t wait more than five seconds before bouncing (leaving) buffering content and finding another video to enjoy.

Can a CDN compromise sensitive data?

Yes. In 2017, it was reported that the CDN provided by Cloudflare had a bug in the source code that caused sensitive user data to be potentially leaked. Anyone who noticed this error could access otherwise encrypted personal information.

These users were prompted to update their passwords.

In 2021, another flaw was discovered: the CDNJS vulnerability which endangers 12% of sites on the Internet. Back then, millions of websites used Cloudflare services to make their services more efficient.

All vulnerabilities in the code have since been patched, making the network safe to use.

Either way, these incidents have raised major cybersecurity concerns as more businesses are adopting this technology.

What can companies do to secure a CDN and prevent data breaches and leaks?

Best practices for securing a CDN

Some precautions you can take with CDNs include:

  • Be careful which CDN provider you choose
  • Deploy WAF on your application
  • Have good cybersecurity hygiene

These days, many CDNs are available for free and offered by different providers. Not all are famous.

Get to know their approach to security (for example, ask them how often they perform penetration testing and cache information) and what their current measures are to ensure data security.

The Web Application Firewall (WAF) monitors and blocks any malicious traffic that could infect your website and therefore put your users’ sensitive data at risk.

Ongoing security management that defends your organization is essential. This includes analysis, monitoring, testing, analysis of results and remediation of possible vulnerabilities.

If such hygiene is performed regularly, the business is protected against cyberattacks that result in data leaks, unauthorized user access, or breaches.

Large companies usually have cyber analysts whose job it is to manage security and mitigate advanced threats that could lead to major incidents for the organization.

Also keep this in mind:

Since CDN providers are already experienced with vulnerabilities and errors, they have been perfecting security and their features since the 1990s, which makes using CDNs safer.

Should you use a CDN?

As technology advances, we can only expect even higher speeds and faster connections, which means users might get even more impatient as they get used to websites. better and faster.

For companies that enable remote working and rely on their online services to reach their global audience, CDNs are invaluable tools that improve work and user experience.

However, lag-free services and websites should not come at the cost of compromised user data.

Determine if CDN services are right for your business. For example, if all of your remote workers and audience (users) are local anyway, you may not benefit from that network as someone with a global audience would.

Suppose you decide that CDNs are a necessity. In this case, you need to apply security best practices to protect your employees’ and customers’ information because they get the fastest possible service, wherever they are in the world.

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