What is Zero Trust Network Access?

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is an approach to enterprise IT security that provides secure remote access to an enterprise’s data, applications, networks, and services based on defined access control policies.

ZTNA establishes multiple layers of protection by assuming that any connection will be malicious. Therefore, it places various security mechanisms between the user and the resources of the organization. As a result, authentication can happen at every layer and not just once at a centralized point.

See Also: Best Zero Trust Network Solutions

How does ZTNA work?

The fundamental concept of ZTNA is to segregate critical assets in a network by not trusting endpoint devices. Therefore, when accessing a resource, an end user device must be authenticated before being allowed access to the resource or part of the network.

A zero-trust network assumes that any device can be potentially compromised, so it restricts access to resources based on the user’s location, level of authentication, and the risk assessment of the endpoint accessing the resource. For example, with ZTNA, access to a specific service is granted when authentication is successful.

ZTNA operates on the “zero trust, always verify” principle. A zero-trust approach requires that all users, devices, systems, networks, and resources be treated as untrusted strangers. He says IT needs to move away from the monolithic model where all devices have unrestricted access to all applications, and the “always verify” part means there is no internal or external system of implicit trust. Any identity is presumed to be risky until proven otherwise by authentication from an acceptable source at the appropriate level.

ZTNA technologies, unlike VPNs, have a “default deny” policy and only allow access to services for which the user has been granted access. If one area is compromised, attackers don’t automatically gain full access to other areas of the organization.

When implementing ZTNA, organizations must take a layered security approach with multiple controls between the outside world and their sensitive data or infrastructure. The different layers act as obstacles, making it difficult for attackers to reach their target.

See Also: Secure Access Service Edge: Big Benefits, Big Challenges

Benefits of ZTNA

ZTNA offers tremendous benefits to organizations. They include:

Improved compliance

Improving compliance can be a difficult task because it requires many different measures. ZTNA enables an organization to more easily adhere to regulatory requirements such as PCI DSS, GDPR, HIPAA/HITECH, and NIST SP 800-53A. It adheres to these requirements without compromising data protection.

Protect access to legacy applications

By enabling encrypted connections and providing the same degree of security benefits as web applications, ZTNA could be used to enhance the security of legacy applications running in private data centers or on-premises servers.

Application micro-segmentation

With ZTNA, companies can create a software-defined perimeter (SDP) that uses identity and access management (IAM) technologies to segment their application environments. This technique allows companies to divide their network into multiple micro-segments to prevent the lateral movement of threats and reduce the attack surface by compartmentalizing business-critical assets.

Agile security posture

The agile security posture provided by ZTNA enables enterprises to quickly change their defense tactics based on an evolving cyber threat landscape.

Make apps invisible

ZTNA provides the necessary protection for a network because it creates a virtual darknet that prohibits the availability of applications on the public Internet. In addition, ZTNA monitors the data access patterns of all applications, helping to minimize risk and protect businesses against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, data leaks, and other cyberattacks.

See also: Containment of cyberattacks in IoT

Common ZTNA Use Cases

Authentication and access

Instead of a single credential or access point, users in a zero-trust network must authenticate at each login session to gain access to specific data resources on a given system. So, for example, they may only be able to see certain files stored on a server instead of having all files visible.

User account management

ZTNA changes the way user accounts are managed by creating different access and control policies for different types of users, such as contractors, vendors, vendors, customers, and partners, with different levels of access to sensitive information within the ZTNA network. an organization.

Visibility and analysis

A zero-trust approach enables authorized and unauthorized activity to be tracked across various company assets (systems and databases). This enables organizations to detect anomalous behavior to protect against threats before damage occurs.

ZTNA’s integration into a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution helps organizations get the most out of their investment in this technology. When properly implemented, SASE solutions will provide granular visibility and automate actions based on preconfigured rules about risks and vulnerabilities. As a result, security teams can now manage risk proactively through automation rather than reactively through manual intervention.

Real-time data loss prevention (DLP) inspection and enforcement

ZTNA offers organizations real-time DLP inspection capabilities. Continuous monitoring enables detection and mitigation of insider threats without the need for constant scanning that could overwhelm IT infrastructure.

Organizations can identify who is accessing what content, when it was accessed, and where it came from in greater detail, allowing them to make better decisions about what to share internally and externally.

Remote access from any device, including unmanaged BYOD devices

Mobile employees, remote office workers, and visiting guests may need to access company networks remotely over the Internet or a VPN. Zero-trust networks can support this requirement by implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) for remote connections and traffic encryption to protect intellectual property.

With the help of strong authentication, businesses can maintain strict compliance requirements and data privacy laws while preventing malicious attacks and unwanted malware on their networks.

See also: Steps to build a zero trust network

Differences between VPN and ZTNA

VPNs grant access to the entire network, while ZTNA grants access to specific applications or services. Also, VPNs are often used when users need remote access to the entire network. Meanwhile, ZTNA requires individual app approval, which means that before a user can access apps or services on your network, they must complete an authentication process. This could be a combination of the identity of the user, the location of the user or the service, the time of day, the type of service, and the security posture of the device.

Network-Level Access vs. Application-Level Access

The main difference is that VPNs grant access to the entire network, while ZTNA only grants access to specific applications or services. In other words, VPNs generally allow users to log in remotely and have full control over the network, while ZTNA allows users to log in remotely. Still, user access is limited to the need for access.

End point posture assessment

After granting the device access to applications on the corporate network through a VPN or ZTNA, it is important to assess its endpoint posture. The posture of an endpoint refers to how compliant an endpoint is with the security requirements of corporate policy. These include:

  • antivirus software
  • anti-spyware software
  • Password Complexity Requirements
  • Software update frequency settings

While VPNs do not consider the risks posed by end-user devices and applications after access, ZTNA does. ZTNA continuously monitors all endpoints after connecting to the corporate network validating their security posture.

Visibility of user activity

ZTNA provides a granular level of visibility into user activities across applications and services, making it easy to detect unusual behavior and malicious intent. When an employee takes actions outside of approved applications or services, IT is more likely to know because ZTNA operates at the level of individual applications or services. However, VPN does not offer application-level control, which means it lacks visibility into user actions once they are inside the private network.

See Also: Best IoT Platforms for Device Management

How to implement ZTNA

Companies must follow the ZTNA principle to identify, classify and authenticate users accessing their networks. ZTNA can be implemented as a standalone ZTNA or ZTNA as a service.

The former requires organizations to build their ZTNA infrastructure and work independently on setting up an identity management system and implementing network access control devices. At the same time, the latter offers a quick way to implement ZTNA through third-party providers.

With this approach, organizations must purchase a software license from these vendors and install it on their servers to enable centralized management of all endpoints in the organization’s network.

See also: Best network management solutions

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