Modern technology has introduced us all to a new level of security concerns. These days, cyber-attacks are a growing concern for any business or individual. The risks of a data breach are too high to take lightly. This is why many people invest in Zero-Trust Network Access technology.
What Is Zero Trust Network Access?
Gartner defines Zero-Trust Network Access – or ZTNA – as a product or service that creates an access boundary around an application or set of applications based on identity or context. This technology provides secure remote access to an organization’s data, network, and applications.
Zero Trust Network Access solutions are also known as software-defined perimeters and use a specific trust broker to allow access, verify identities, and adhere to company policies. This technology goes under the assumption that every attempt to access the network should be reviewed.
As the name suggests, “zero trust” implies that trust is not automatically given to anyone – even if they’re in the same location.
This security feature prevents lateral movement in the network and improves the overall protection of the network. It does this by reducing application visibility and giving verified users secure access. This also reduces the surface area for a cyber-attack to take place by closing the gaps.
How Does Zero Trust Network Access Work?
The ZTNA is used to shield the internal network from any threats through a series of security layers. Usually, access is granted to users through an encrypted tunnel that hides IP addresses for added protection.
This secure tunnel connection is established using the concept of a dark cloud – where users cannot see applications and services that they don’t have permission to access. While each organization requires a specific level of protection, the same framework is found in most ZTNA solutions:
- Varying Access: With a Zero Trust Network Access solution, application access and network access are handled differently. This means that each one requires its access perimeters. Users who have access to the network do not automatically have the same access to applications.
- TLS Encryption: While most networks use Multiprotocol Label Switching – or MPLS – connections, ZTNA uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption instead as it’s built on the public internet. This means that smaller, more secure tunnels can be made instead of connecting users to a much larger, less protected network.
- Device Security: ZTNA assesses the risk of specific devices as well when asking for access. This is done by monitoring network traffic on the device or if the software is running on the device itself.
- Integrated Technologies: Identity Provider (IdP) services and Single Sign-On (SSO) platforms can be used together with your ZTNA security solution to determine exact identities and their specific access levels.
- Agent or Service: ZTNA platforms can either be based in the cloud or use an endpoint agent for securing access.
Difference Between ZTNA and VPN
When talking about Zero Trust Network Access, it may sound a lot like Virtual Private Networks – or VPNs. These are usually used to ensure that users can securely access a network. VPNs typically hide your IP address by letting the network redirect it through a specially configured remote server run by a VPN host.
This means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and other third parties cannot see which websites you visit or what data you send or receive online. While this does sound similar to ZTNA services, there are a few differences between the two:
One of the primary differences between VPNs and ZTNA is the range of access they allow. While VPNs typically offer network-wide access, ZTNA platforms only give more specific and granular access to resources and require frequent reauthentication. This means that users are only allowed to go into certain areas of the network.
VPNs are a lot less precise about who or what devices access the network. With an increase in remote working environments and more devices being connected to the central network, it’s important to have a security layer that focuses on each network endpoint.
ZTNA solutions ensure that access is secure from every endpoint and requires constant authentication. Trust is never an implied concept – regardless of location, identity, or frequency of use.
User Activity Visibility
While effective cybersecurity requires a level of user visibility, VPNs cannot possibly give the same amount of deep visibility into user activity that ZTNA can. Due to the lack of application-level controls, VPNs have no visibility of user activity once they’ve been given access.
ZTNAs also provide better visibility and allow you to create logs of user activity to feed into SIEM tools for real-time threat detection.
OSI Model Layer
While most VPNs run on the network layer in the OSI model, ZTNA typically operates on the application layer.
While VPNs do provide an effective service, they don’t always go further than that. ZTNA provides continued and intricate assessments of all connecting devices and users to ensure better security, improve access limitations, and inform cybersecurity decision-making.
Another key difference is that VPNs create a much bigger attack surface for cybercriminals. With the right SSO credentials, anyone can access a network with a VPN. ZTNA solutions offer a much stricter level of access and enforce better cybersecurity across the network and all applications.
Benefits of Zero Trust Network Access
The Zero Trust Network Access approach has been offering a much safer and more reliable alternative to network protection. However, these solutions also come with an array of other benefits for an organization:
- Accessibility: As mentioned before, remote working has taken over most corporate environments after the pandemic. ZTNA solutions allow users to connect securely from wherever they are. This is also useful where service-based applications reside on multiple cloud structures.
- Move to Modern Technology: These ZTNA solutions push companies to invest in newer technologies. This means that more businesses are stepping away from legacy architecture and toward software-based services. However, ZTNA is also equipped to integrate with a lot of legacy technology as well to ensure secure connections.
- Fast Deployment: While some security solutions may take weeks to months to deploy, ZTNA platforms can be deployed from anywhere in a matter of days.
- Segmentation: ZTNA solutions create software-defined perimeters for an organization and allow a business to section off the corporate network into multiple micro-segments. This isolates different parts of the network and reduces the risk of threat actors moving laterally across the network and spreading damage.
- Application Visibility: A key element of ZTNA systems is that they create a virtual darknet that prevents application discovery on the public internet. This means that your applications are practically invisible from the outside and to users without access permission. This prevents internet-based data exposure, malware threats, and DDoS attacks.
- Cost Efficiency: Making use of ZTNA is a lot cheaper as it is mostly cloud-based infrastructure. Additionally, remote users don’t need an additional, resource-intensive VPN client for establishing a secure connection.
- Better User Experience: ZTNA platforms have a dedicated and direct-to-app connection that ensures fast and secure access at all times. This also allows the network to be easily scaled and more flexible.
Zero Trust Network Access Use Cases
There are several ways that an organization might take to using ZTNA solutions. Here are a few of the use cases for Zero Trust Network Access:
Replacing VPN and MPLS connections
Gartner has estimated that 60% of enterprises will phase out most of their remote access VPNs in favor of ZTNA by this year. While VPNs can be effective to some extent, they tend to be slower in cloud-based environments.
VPNs are also typically more expensive to buy and maintain, unlike their software-based counterparts. The ZTNA solution is faster, more secure, and offers reliable resource management for companies.
Securing Remote Access to Private Applications
As more companies choose to switch over to cloud services, it becomes riskier to access private applications across remote locations. ZTNA technology ensures that a seamless and secure tunnel of direct-to-application connection is maintained for all permitted users.
This also increases the security of the entire network as all access is scanned thoroughly according to user identity, device type, user location, device security posture, and more.
Authentication and Access
Naturally, the main purpose of ZTNA is to ensure the right access to the right users. These solutions offer granular access based on multiple security factors and offer consistent security checks to ensure authentication. This helps to keep unwanted devices and users off the network and keeps application and network visibility and access for verified users only.
Reducing Third-Party Risk
Third-party users tend to require a large amount of network and application access which invites risk. ZTNA solutions reduce these third-party risks by ensuring that external and unverified users do not have access to the network or applications at all.
Control and Visibility
Integrating your ZTNA solution with a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution can give your organization better network traffic visibility and allows for improved security and scalability.
Accelerating M&A Integration
Usually, mergers and acquisitions have a long and tedious integration process as the two companies converge networks and deal with overlapping IPs. ZTNA systems reduce and simplify the time and management needed to ensure a successful merger and acquisition – providing immediate value to the business.
Secure Multi-Cloud Access
The move to cloud architecture is quickly spreading and securing hybrid and multi-cloud access with your ZTNA solution is crucial. Remote working and advancing technology have made the cloud an integral part of every company. ZTNA systems allow for efficient and effective cloud security and access control.
Zero Trust Network Access is the overreaching and holistic security layer for your company to maintain controlled access across applications and networks.
Sangfor Access Secure
The SASE Sangfor Access Secure solution provides a secure, cloud-based connection for HQ, branches, and remote users. Deploying Sangfor Access Secure gives you consistent network security from malware, viruses, and ransomware. The platform can audit all traffic - external and internal – and protect the enterprise from any insider threats.
As a leading and innovative technology, Sangfor’s SASE solution provides the three primary pillars of networking: identity, access, and security while verifying user identity through authentication - granting only authorized business applications access governed by preconfigured policies and user profiles.
Sangfor has also been listed as one of the examples in the 2022 “Gartner Emerging Technologies: Adoption Growth Insights for Zero Trust Network Access” report for providing ZTNA technology.
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Make Sangfor Technologies your partner of choice when seeking out dependable, affordable, and effective cyber solutions. For more information on Sangfor’s cyber security and cloud computing solutions, visit www.sangfor.com.