Understanding Zero Trust Network Access and Why Needs It

Published on : 07 Jun 2024

Understanding zero network access

As flexible working arrangements become increasingly common across every industry, companies need secure, dependable ways to grant remote employees online access to company data, services, and applications. Productivity in today’s highly digital business environment depends upon employees being able to access the systems and information they need for work when needed, from any location.

However, working predominantly or even exclusively through the internet also poses copious security risks to both individuals and companies. Implicit trust and the abundance of vulnerabilities in outdated security systems can lead to exposed IP addresses, the proliferation of spyware and other malware, and other security risks. Thus, no matter their core industry or the size of their business, it’s in any company’s best interest to invest in a robust Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution.

ZTNA is a category of technologies that are designed to provide users with secure remote access to select services and applications based on predefined access control protocols. Here, we dive deeper into what ZTNA solutions are and how they stand to benefit companies that implement them.

What Is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)?

Zero trust, as its name implies, is a digital security framework that emphasizes the need for strong, frequent authorization and authentication of all devices and users on a network. ZTNA solutions implement this concept by controlling user access to an organization’s network resources, limiting this access to only the services that each user has been explicitly granted permission to use. Instead of using a particular user’s IP address to identify their network location and establish trust, ZTNA provides access through a series of identity-based authentication processes.

A ZTNA solution blocks all network traffic by default and allows this traffic to flow only when and where organizational policy permits it. ZTNA also verifies the identities of all parties seeking entry into the network before granting them access, while ensuring that network endpoints remain secure at all times. ZTNA solutions typically treat organizations’ access policies as dynamic and area agile enough to respond in real time to any policy changes introduced into the system.

By default, ZTNA solutions assume that no individual user, or anything with an IP address, is inherently trustworthy, no matter the individual’s role or title within the company and no matter where a particular session or workload originates. The system also does not assume that entities formerly designated as trustworthy will remain trustworthy in the future. It thus evaluates every new access individually to account for the possibility that previously authorized users have been compromised or organizational policies have changed.

How Will a ZTNA Solution Benefit Your Company?

As businesses become more digital, their vulnerability to cybersecurity threats like data breaches and ransomware attacks also rises. With ZTNA, companies will no longer have to tolerate higher security risks in the name of maintaining productivity. Here are some benefits that ZTNA solutions can bring to any organization’s network:

Network Security

ZTNA eliminates the principle of implicit trust and instead grants only authorized devices and users access to company networks. Furthermore, this access operates strictly on a need-to-know basis. This means that instead of receiving unconditional access to company resources, users only get what information and applications they absolutely need to do their jobs, and no more.

These extra-strict access controls reduce a company’s risk of data breaches and other costly security issues. For one thing, they make it harder for external bad actors such as hackers and other cybercriminals to gain access to company networks. They also prevent employees and other internal agents from becoming security liabilities, whether through malicious action or simple human error.

Another aspect of ZTNA is network micro-segmentation, where networks can be segmented into smaller networks. Micro-segmentation prevents a hacker who has breached the network from moving laterally and causing damage. A common micro-segmentation best practice to segment networks for third party access because your organization has no control over the security practices of third parties.

Granular, Streamlined Access Management

ZTNA solutions controls access to company resources by securing access to the network, as it assumes that the internet is not a trustworthy access point by default. Instead of differentiating between internal and external network connections, a ZTNA solution provides context and identity-based access, no matter if the access came from an internal or external source. Furthermore, ZTNA policies can be context-aware, such as granting or blocking access based on a user’s geographic location to the time of day.

Flexible and Scalable

ZTNA solutions are hardware-free and are ready for cloud deployment from the get-go. Not only is implementing a ZTNA smooth and seamless, but ZTNA can also be scaled up easily and affordably throughout the company’s lifetime. Unlike firewalls, it is extremely easy to manage because you don’t need to manage countless policies. Further, ZTNA solutions can integrate with directories, making it extremely easy to update security policies.

Improved Network Visibility

With a ZTNA solution, system administrators have a comprehensive view of network traffic and user activities across the entire company. At any time, they can see who is on the network, what devices they’re using, what applications and information they’re accessing, and much more. This wide visibility makes it easier to identify malicious users and other sources of risk and remove them from the network before they can cause any damage.

ZTNA solutions uses the concept of zero-trust to offer the tightest and most consistent network security available today.  Leveraging the right ZTNA solution for your company’s needs will enable your business to perform at the highest level while enhancing your organization’s cybersecurity.

Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.