NetworkSecurity

What Is Zero Trust Network Access?

What is Zero Trust Network Access? A service, technology, or product called Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) establishes an access control perimeter around a single or a group of applications based on context and identity. The apps are shielded from visibility, and only a select group of authorized users are granted access through a network security vendor.

Before the vendor grants access, they confirm the corresponding user’s identity, policy compliance, and context and restrict lateral movement to other network segments. It conceals business-critical applications or corporate resources from the public and drastically minimizes the attack surface.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) relies on well-defined access control policies. It offers secure remote access to a firm’s services, applications, and data. ZTNA solutions can aid in overcoming security flaws in other secure remote access methods and technologies as more users try to access resources remotely.

As more remote workforce gain access to a private network, it is critical to know the organization’s security posture vulnerabilities and security advantages of a ZTNA service for establishing a robust organization’s security posture.

The Zero Trust Security Model

The primary solution that allows businesses to adopt the Zero Trust security model is called Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). ZTNA is based on the core principles of the Zero Trust security model. The Zero Trust model implies that enterprises should not trust any users or devices, irrespective of location, on the security perimeters.

But rather mandatorily authenticate each entity before allowing them network access to critical assets, ensuring data safety and confidentiality. When Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is implemented, unauthorized users and nodes cannot communicate with or detect secured systems.

Functions Of ZTNA

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) accomplishes the following vital tasks:

Identification

All systems, resources, and programs users might need to access remotely should be identified and mapped.

Implementation

Enforce policies that specify the user access criteria whereby certain users are permitted or restricted to access resources.

Monitoring

To ensure that imposed regulations comply with the organization’s needs, track, record, and evaluate all requests made by remote users to access resources.

Adaptation

Correct or change misconfigurations. To enable maximum efficiency while lowering exposure and risk, either raise access privileges or limit them.

How Does ZTNA Work?

Following authentication, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) only permits particular resources or application access through the ZTNA service during operation. A private, encrypted tunnel adds network security by concealing services and applications from IP addresses visible otherwise. ZTNA utilizes this encrypted tunnel to grant particular application access to the user after successful authentication.

ZTNA functions similarly to the software-defined perimeter, employing the “black cloud” concept to restrict user access to other apps or services they are unauthorized to operate. It also defends against lateral attacks preventing a hacker from searching for additional services after getting access.

Importance Of ZTNA Solutions

Organizations rely on the internet to provide users application access through direct access, cloud access, or on-premises via Virtual Private Networks. Internet use reveals IP addresses that allow the detection of corporate resources and users to exploit them. Hence, exposing the users, devices, and networks to threats. Traditional security solutions also contribute to network vulnerability due to their inherent model, which trusts all users and devices within the network.

The flaws of the traditional security solutions worsened due to a substantial increase in remote employees in 2020. Remote users with unmanaged devices and public Wi-Fi got application access directly over the internet. VPN technology is challenging to deploy, troubleshoot, and maintain as it is developed for corporate resources rather than cloud access.

Hence, many organizations are focusing on the implementation of Zero Trust network architecture as ZTNA:

  • Determines policy-based network traffic cascading permission
  • Practices real-time dynamic policy
  • Default restriction of all traffic
  • Explicit policy-based permission of network traffic
  • Confirms user credentials before approving user traffic
  • Checks whether end-user devices are safe at all times
  • Never implicitly trusts any network entity
  • Includes context-aware access protocols that consider everything from device or user location, time, etc.

ZTNA User Flow

The Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) user process appears as follows:

  1. Users access and verify with a Zero Trust controller through a secure connection. MFA (multi-factor authentication) implementation enables additional security.
  2. The Zero Trust controller establishes the required security services and verifies several real-time and device characteristics (user location, current antivirus software, device credentials, etc.) based on implementation technique.
  3. Access to corporate resources and particular applications is allowed based on the user identity once the device and user satisfy prerequisites.

Benefits Of ZTNA

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) enables businesses to implement zero trust security which offers the following benefits:

Network Micro-Segmentation

By dividing the corporate network into numerous micro-segments and establishing software-defined perimeters, ZTNA enables enterprises to stop attackers from moving laterally and reduce the attack surface in the event of a breach.

Increasing User Satisfaction

Remote users can access SaaS and private applications with the same outbound connection with ZTNA’s safe, swift, seamless cloud access to corporate applications.

Access Control For Outdated Apps

ZTNA can provide a similar degree of security advantages as web applications to traditional programs running in corporate data centers while supporting secure connections.

Rendering Programs Internet-Invisible

By establishing a virtual dark web and preventing application access on the open internet, ZTNA protects enterprises from DDoS attacks, malware, and web-based data disclosures.

ZTNA Use Cases

ZTNA supports several use cases that enhance an organization’s security model and assist in minimizing security breach and exploitation risk from malware, including:

Private WAN Substitute

A private network can be replaced by ZTNA over the open internet when its main purpose is to protect user access to internal assets.

Remote Access And VPN Replacement

The limitation substitutes restricted network access with numerous resources to view and utilize only authorized resources.

Internal Firewall Replacement

Rather than employing physical network segmentation, ZTNA consumers use policies to assure resource separation and access control on each virtual or physical server.

Network Access Control Alternative

To ascertain whether an entity is reliable enough to connect to the network, ZTNA consumers conduct screening tests on it. They also aid in enforcing rules governing the function of an entity while connected to the network.

VDI Or Terminal Services Replacement

ZTNA can substitute for VDI or terminal services during physical data maintenance in a fixed location or while allowing identity-based access control to resources rather than LAN-equivalent access, such as access to applications incompatible with WAN bandwidth.

ZTNA Implementation

There are two main methods for adopting ZTNA solutions:

  • Service-based
  • Agent-based

Service-Based ZTNA Solutions

Service-based ZTNA involves creating and maintaining external access to the supplier’s cloud via a connector deployed within an identical network like the application. Following authentication through a cloud service for users who seek permissions, access management solutions like a single sign-on tool verify the user identity.

Application traffic travels through the vendor’s cloud, which offers protection against proxied attacks and real-time access. It is suitable for providing access and connectivity to apps from unmanaged devices because no agent is needed on the user’s devices.

Agent-Based ZTNA Solutions

Agent-based ZTNA involves an agent integrated into a trusted device communicating with a controller about the security context of that device. The context-aware access contains location, date, time, and in-depth details like device vulnerability. The controller then requests the user to authenticate the device.

Following user and device authentication, the controller establishes device communication through a secure web gateway. The gateway prevents unauthorized users and devices from directly accessing programs from the internet. User access is granted for precisely permitted applications.

Challenges Of ZTNA service

The following are some of ZTNA’s primary difficulties:

Mapping Access Rights

Which entities require access to what resources and data must be determined. It takes effort, time, and occasionally supplementary technologies.

Cost

A ZTNA system can be very expensive. It may be challenging to defend if it is not replacing other expenditures. As an aspect of the ZTNA implementation planning, cybersecurity and IT should be attentive and inventive in locating and seeking compensating savings.

Ingrained Technologies And Services

A hurdle to launching a ZTNA architecture and spreading it across all reasonable use cases is gaining conflicts with individuals fully committed to an established vendor or technology.

Despite the minor edge cases, objectors will focus on circumstances where the latest service or product could be less effective than the previous one. Furthermore, they will highlight features that the current service or product offers but the latest one does not, although those features are not used or required by the company.

The major tactic to combat this type of objection is to highlight the areas and ways in which ZTNA:

  • Excels at access control
  • Simplifies IT staff’s and users’ jobs
  • Its replacement retains money and time while enhancing security

Policy Extending Beyond PCs, Laptops, And Mobile Devices

It can be challenging to agree on ways to control IoT and unmanaged devices, and the service or product might not be beneficial to IoT devices that can’t manage a consumer. IoT devices may necessitate a distinct Zero Trust architecture, but that doesn’t eliminate Zero Trust security requirements.

End-User Resistance

Many organizations have experienced strong backlash because of the demand to keep end-user devices uninterrupted. Most IT teams have experienced disastrous deployment programs that failed because the users were reluctant to modify. Such occurrences have a long-term impact on IT’s reputation in upcoming Zero Trust implementation initiatives.

Suppose IT doesn’t highlight soon ways the modification will perform better, be more dependable, and convenient. In that case, it will be tough to explain to reluctant employees to modify their work and performance while offering a similar service like remote access.

ZTNA Vs. VPN

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) allow access to the entire network, while Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) only grants access to particular apps or services.

ZTNA And SASE

Various networking, security, and IT vendors use ZTNA in varied forms. They will gradually integrate ZTNA as a component of the larger Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) framework or substitute outdated VPN architecture.

To satisfy the access needs of the remote workforce, ZTNA serves as a major component for Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which changes the idea of a network security perimeter from a stationary, corporate data center to an interactive, cloud-delivered, policy-based edge.

ZTNA Vs. SDP

By establishing direct access and secure connectivity between the corporate resources required by user devices, ZTNA encrypts most corporate network services and infrastructure in a manner akin to Software-Defined Perimeters (SDP).

Endnote

An organization’s vulnerability to cybersecurity risk is drastically reduced by adopting a Zero Trust architecture. A firm lessens the potential harm caused by a malevolent insider or a hacked user account by restricting users’ permissions and privileges to those needed for specific tasks.

ZTNA implementation does not necessitate a large network reconfiguration. It is regarded as a security-recommended practice in a firm’s network environment. There are numerous Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) implementation methods. It can either be independent services integrated into a current network architecture or as a component of a strategy to substitute VPN with SASE or SD-WAN for digital transformation.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.

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