Zero trust network access solutions are relevant in today’s digital landscape, where remote work and BYOD are the norm. They provide a streamlined solution to secure cloud and on-premise applications for your hybrid and distributed workforce. When selecting a ZTNA vendor, you need to consider its area of specialization. For instance, some vendors specialize in identity and access management, while others focus on security services.
Identity and Access Management
ZTNA solutions offer identity and access management (IAM) that secures connectivity to internal applications across various devices, including BYOD. This approach ensures that contractors, suppliers, and other third parties who need access to sensitive data or systems receive it only when necessary and for as long as needed. When users connect to the network, a Zero Trust platform’s PA – which can run on-premises or in a cloud presence or be offered as a service – authenticates them and determines whether they should have access to specific resources. The PA typically uses a combination of factors, including multi-factor authentication (MFA), device attributes such as current antivirus software, and real-time location or other contextual information to decide on a security policy to govern their access. Once a user has been authenticated, the PA will enable application connectivity via a gateway that shields applications from direct internet access and protection from attackers. By leveraging the principle of least privilege, the PA also limits the damage if a user’s credentials are compromised. Most ZTNA solutions require that the PA be installed on a managed endpoint device for agent-based implementation, while others are designed to operate as services without requiring an agent. This choice can impact how quickly an organization can roll out ZTNA and its cost and scalability.
Network Access Control
ZTNA solutions offer network access control capabilities that allow enterprises to protect business applications and services, whether deployed in branches, enterprise data centers, or the cloud. These solutions identify a user’s role in the organization, device state, and access location to determine which privileges are granted, ensuring that every employee is sufficiently trusted and no network resource is left exposed. Unlike traditional perimeter security solutions, which grant full network access to users with valid credentials, Zero Trust Network Access tools establish a secure tunnel between the connecting device and the application or service they’re trying to reach. These tunnels are created after verifying the identity of the connecting user through an identity provider and validating the device’s security posture, allowing organizations only to grant access to specific apps on a need-to-know basis. This model also reduces third-party risk by ensuring that contractors, vendors, or supply chain partners are only granted access to apps they need and that their connection is only as long as necessary. It eliminates the need for organizations to open inbound firewall ports or connect third-party devices to their corporate networks, and it makes it easier for IT teams to ensure that employees are using only approved and supported devices. This allows them to improve productivity and lower security risks in a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud environment.
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
Authentication and access control are vital components of any security framework. But they are only a tiny part of the overall picture regarding protecting your business from cyber threats. A complete zero-trust architecture consists of multiple components, including strong multi-factor authentication (MFA), granular access control, dynamic policies, micro-segmentation, continuous monitoring, and more. These technologies work together to reduce your business’s attack surface, protect sensitive data, and create a more secure environment for your team. The most common method for implementing zero trust is with a service-based solution. This approach involves connecting to a service provider’s cloud over a secure channel and performing validation of identity, device, and context—typically with the help of an IDaaS or SSO product—before granting access to applications. This approach allows businesses to support BYOD and remote and hybrid work without exposing business-critical applications to risky environments. It also simplifies integration with other solutions and tools and can be deployed in days or weeks rather than the months typically required for complex network and security solutions. It provides visibility and centralized control via a simple, graphical management portal. Some providers offer additional features, such as supporting legacy apps. Some offer the option to deploy as a service in the cloud, making it easy to scale capacity when needed and keeping infrastructure invisible.
The ability to monitor the behavior of both devices and users and the context in which they’re accessing applications and data is crucial for identifying unusual activities that can indicate the presence of security threats. Typically, the sooner these threats are detected, the more manageable they will be and the less impactful on the organization’s operations. Many organizations are looking to increase their level of automation and orchestration to reduce the number of manual processes required for security functions like device onboarding, application access request approvals, and threat response. As such, a growing number of ZTNA solutions offer capabilities to automatically evaluate devices and users as they connect to the network. There are two primary types of ZTNA: agent-based and service-based. Agent-based ZTNA involves deploying an agent on endpoint devices that transmit security-based information to a Zero Trust controller. The controller then evaluates the user and device, applies appropriate security policy, and opens connectivity to applications via a gateway function that is logically located proximate to the required application. However, this type of architecture often requires “hair-pinning” – redirecting data from the endpoint to the cloud and back to the network – which can negatively impact performance. In addition, OT and IoT devices commonly found in hybrid work environments cannot accommodate agents, limiting the effectiveness of this type of solution.