In today’s world, most businesses have decentralized work environments and they commonly rely on remote employees. On top of this, they use several cloud services and SaaS applications for organizational operations. The rapid rise in cloud usage and remote employees increases cybersecurity risks, especially when a business uses traditional security models to safeguard corporate assets.
Unfortunately, traditional security approaches can no longer deliver efficient security measures to protect decentralized corporate networks, remote employees, and cloud assets. In essence, traditional security approaches assume that every connection inside the network perimeter is secure while external connections can be hostile. Using these security approaches can be extremely risky as an implicit trust given to users inside the corporate perimeter can lead to data breaches.
To cope with the complexity of modern networks, modern security solutions are needed. Because today, an organization’s scope can’t be measured by a physical perimeter, and it is more critical for businesses to safeguard network perimeter, end-point users, their devices, and cloud environments. That’s why adopting security solutions like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) has become a necessity for most businesses. Before we dive into the components of Zero Trust, let’s briefly explain what is Zero Trust further.
What Is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)?
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a holistic approach to network security. This framework is built upon two principles. First up, it has the “never trust, always verify” principle, meaning the Zero Trust framework considers all users, devices, and applications hostile even when they are inside the corporate perimeter. That’s why this architecture demands authentication from all entities that request access to corporate networks and resources. After authentication, users, devices, or applications are granted access to corporate networks and resources.
Secondly, Zero Trust adopts the principle of least privilege and gives each user, device, or application a limited amount of access for a limited amount of time. In other words, setting time periods for each connection helps Zero Trust enforce continual re-authentication of users, devices, and applications. Additionally, giving limited access to each entity secures sensitive areas of the networks, and mitigates the security risks as the vast majority of employees can’t access sensitive network areas.
On top of these principles, Zero Trust automates monitoring processes and inspects and logs all network traffic. Additionally, it employs activity monitoring of users and alerts IT admins when abnormal or suspicious user behavior is detected. This way, it allows businesses to respond and isolate threats quickly.
Other than these, Zero Trust is a software-based technology, and it is scalable and easy to integrate into an organization’s existing infrastructure. Zero Trust has a simple use. For instance, once it is integrated, IT admins can manage the complete system from a single control panel, and see real-time and historical data of user activities, and network traffic. Additionally, IT admins can set or remove access privileges at any time they see necessary.
By all means, Zero Trust enables granular protection for users, devices, applications, networks, and cloud environments while having greater visibility and control over the corporate networks. In this regard, Zero Trust delivers security features and measures that are up to date with today’s security requirements. Lastly, it can help a business establish complete security across all corporate assets.
Components of Zero Trust Network Access
Zero Trust employs several technologies to secure users, devices, applications, networks, and cloud environments. These technologies operate as one and enforce all security measures and policies across corporate networks and resources. Network segmentation, multi-factor authentication (2FA), biometrics, and network access control (NAC) are among the main components of Zero Trust. Let’s start by explaining what is network segmentation.
1- Network Segmentation
Network segmentation is the process of separating a network into smaller sub-networks. In essence, this process seeks to create individual sub-segments for every corporate asset and internal department. This way, a business can hide sensitive sub-networks from others and restrict users, devices, or applications’ access to these sub-networks.
Additionally, while working with multiple vendors, business associates, contractors, or even freelancers, IT admins can create individual segments for each third-party partner access to an organization’s networks and resources. This way, a business can mitigate the risks associated with third-party access as these partners won’t be able to reach sensitive areas inside the corporate networks.
On top of these, network segmentation can help a business to protect its vulnerable devices from cyber attacks. When vulnerable devices are segmented individually, Zero Trust can prevent harmful network traffic or unauthorized access from reaching these segments. Mainly, network segmentation creates many checkpoints inside the network perimeter, and doesn’t allow lateral movement between segments. This way, it reduces the surface areas of potential cyber-attacks and prevents attackers or dangerous network traffic from reaching sensitive segments, and vulnerable machinery.
2- Multi-Factor Authentication (2FA) & Biometrics
Zero Trust authenticates users via multi-factor authentication (2FA), and biometrics tools. Authentication tools are really important components of the Zero Trust framework because they add an extra level of security to the network access of users without compromising user experience. In essence, authentication tools improve security and guarantee that solely authorized users can reach corporate assets.
Multi-factor authentication tools authenticate users’ identities with various methods and requiring biometric verification is one of them. But, generally, 2FA tools require users to type in SMS authentication codes, or in-app approvals via client 2FA software. As for biometrics, 2FA can demand physical characteristics like fingerprints, voice, eye iris scan, and so on. Although these tools add an extra couple of minutes to users’ access, they are needed as they prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to corporate networks.
3- Network Access Control (NAC)
Network Access Control (NAC) is an important component of Zero Trust and it has several capabilities that improve overall network security. Network access tools can enforce security policies across the network perimeter, and enable guest network access. Additionally, while using network access tools, IT admins can set access permissions and security requirements for each user, device, and application. This way, it can prevent users and devices that don’t meet security or compliance requirements from accessing corporate networks and resources. A well-functioning NAC system can help a business mitigate the security risks associated with end-point users, devices, and applications.
The rapid rise in cloud usage, and remote employees have made corporate networks more complex to protect, especially while using traditional security approaches. Nowadays, most businesses need modern security solutions like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) to cope with the complexity of networks. Zero Trust is a cutting-edge technology and implementing this framework can help businesses improve network security and secure end-point users, devices, and applications.