Trusted CDNs: enhanced content delivery with data privacy and security built-in

On 28-06-2024
Reading time : 5 minutes

Content delivery network (CDN) services continue to grow in popularity, with much of the world’s web traffic now being delivered through them. But there are challenges to deploying them effectively, with data privacy and security significant issues.

A CDN is a geographically distributed group of servers that caches content closer to end users. In the ever-evolving world of the internet, the role of CDNs can’t be overstated: they’re essential for ensuring that content is delivered quickly, securely, and reliably to end-users worldwide.

CDNs speed up content delivery because they are located closer to users than origin servers, and have a shorter round-trip time (RTT) latency. Essentially, they decrease the distance between where content is stored and where it needs to go. And they’ve been growing in use in recent years, mainly due to the ever-increasing demand for high-quality, rapid delivery of digital content. In 2023, it was estimated that 72% of all internet traffic travelled via a CDN, up from 56% in 2017.

The increase is driven by various factors, including the proliferation of video streaming, online gaming, over-the-top platforms (OTT), and other bandwidth-intensive applications. Cloud services expansion is a major factor in CDN growth, with the widespread adoption of cloud services and applications needing CDNs to ensure seamless access and performance. And this last, perhaps most significant, use case comes with some challenges.

The evolution of data privacy and CDNs

CDN services bring cloud-based data closer to end-users, so they are essentially “mini-clouds” and subject to local data privacy laws. Data privacy is a hot-button issue, and governments are increasingly concerned about dependence on foreign cloud infrastructure providers. According to the UN Trade and Development, 71% of countries have put legislation in place to protect data and ensure privacy.

Most of the world’s cloud hyperscalers - large, enterprise scale cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud - are US companies and incorporated in the US, so subject to US law. This can lead to conflicts when it comes to data protection. For example, the 2018 CLOUD Act, which empowers US law enforcement to access data even if it is stored in another country, has caused concern across Europe about potential violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Data privacy is a critical issue of our age, with the public becoming increasingly aware of them: nearly three-quarters of people say they are more concerned about their data privacy today than they were a few years ago.

The security factors

CDNs comprise multiple nodes and servers, increasing the size of the attack surface available to cyberattackers. They make a tempting target since CDNs store copies of web content, which can include sensitive data, across various servers in various locations. If any of these servers are compromised, it can lead to a data breach. A couple of years ago, a leading CDN provider experienced a significant outage caused by a latent bug in a software update, triggered by a routine configuration change by one of the provider’s customers. The incident led to a temporary shutdown of many websites around the world.

It was an example of the security risks that exist in CDNs. A range of attacks can be levied on CDNs to compromise data or disable CDN operations altogether. TLS certificates, the digital certificates used to authenticate a website’s identity and enable an encrypted connection, are another potential target, with attackers able to hack in and impersonate site owners, undermine a site’s user trust, and use phishing tactics to trick site users into submitting sensitive information.

Relying on one CDN provider for all your content delivery carries risk, too, since it presents a single point of failure, can mean poor site performance due to inconsistent geographical coverage, and has flexibility and scalability limitations. Cache poisoning is another potential target, where attackers fill a CDN’s cache with large quantities of useless content, which makes actual, relevant content disappear from the cache. The multi-tenant architecture used by CDNs, with different customers’ data and content stored on the same servers, presents the possibility of traffic redirection due to bugs or misconfigurations, leading to data breaches.

What should you check to maximize the privacy and security of your content?

If you want to maximize the benefits offered by CDNs and minimize the risks, you need to trust your CDN provider. That means meeting certain criteria that ensure data privacy and security.

Location of your provider’s headquarters

Where your CDN provider is based is a good place to start. The location of your provider’s HQ defines what jurisdiction and data privacy regulations will be applied to your data. And some countries have stronger online privacy laws than others. For example, the EU’s GDPR is considered the most robust Internet privacy and security law in the world. However, other governments around the world have given themselves the power to monitor any data stored in or transiting through their country, which can mean interference in the data provider’s policy.

Location of the CDN solution equipment and staff

The same applies to the CDN provider’s equipment and employees: where they are based impacts what data privacy laws are enacted. Where the data is stored and processed carries the same concerns. Not all data is sensitive, and with CDNs, it’s important to separate non-sensitive content from sensitive data, such as end-users’ personal details or financial information. Non-sensitive content can be stored in any CDN, but personal data should be stored and processed in specific locations where data privacy is maximized.

Location and administration of the central management system

Indeed, end-users’ personal data is usually not stored in the CDN caches, but some of the content provider’s employees’ personal data may be stored in the CDN solution central management system, such as log-ins and passwords. So, the location of this equipment is important, as well as how data is managed, by whom, and how it is protected.

Cross-border data transfers

Cross-border data transfer is another area that needs attention. Suppose personal data is transferred from one geographical jurisdiction to another for processing or storage. In that case, your provider may need to ensure the data transfer complies with applicable data privacy laws, which vary by country. The ecosystem your CDN provider works with matters, too: your provider should only use technology providers who share the same privacy laws and values to ensure consistent data privacy levels throughout the supplier and provider chain.

Cybersecurity is essential

It pays to work with a provider who also brings cybersecurity expertise to the table. CDN servers and nodes need protection against multiple threats that can cause data breaches, so your provider should be ISO 27001 certified. The cybersecurity imperative extends to the network itself since it’s an essential component of a CDN solution. A robust, reliable network is a must.

Trust is crucial in CDNs

Choosing a trusted CDN can help you deliver content more effectively and efficiently and significantly impact overall end-user experience. A trusted CDN provider should ensure compliance with cybersecurity standards, such as ISO, and operate in line with GDPR, to assure you that appropriate measures are in place to protect your data.

Orange Wholesale is headquartered in Europe, so our CDN solution adheres to Europe’s stringent privacy and security legislation. We’ve deployed CDNs in strategic locations around the world, and we support them with our world-class network backbone. Further, our Content Delivery Boost solution increases redundancy and reliability in CDNs using multiple server locations, ensuring uninterrupted access to content. Our new trusted CDN offer gives you the reliability and performance needed to ensure security and privacy while delivering content wherever you need to.

If you want to know more about Orange Wholesale trusted CDN and what it can do for you, please contact us to discuss this further.

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