Zero trust network access is a security model that uses continuous validation rather than one-off authentication at the entry point. This approach allows users access only to needed applications while limiting access to the most privileged resources.
The benefits of this model can make it a worthwhile investment, especially as more businesses support remote and work-from-anywhere initiatives. However, it can also be challenging to implement an entirely zero-trust cybersecurity model.
Authentication is identifying and verifying an individual’s identity before they can access sensitive data or resources. It is an essential security practice first appearing in recorded history as cylinder seals imprinted on Sumerian clay tablets around 5,500 years ago.
As we enter the digital age, verifying who is accessing an organization’s resources and applications is necessary. This is often done through mutual authentication, which requires two parties to authenticate each other simultaneously.
In addition to establishing the user’s identity, the authentication process must also be secure and limit access. This can be achieved by implementing several authentication factors, such as usernames and passwords, one-time passcodes sent to verified phone numbers, or biometric information, such as fingerprints, retinal patterns, DNA, face, or voice.
To implement this approach, organizations need to have a clear understanding of the resources that they want to protect. This includes physical and virtual assets, including network infrastructure, communication channels, end users, and devices.
The next step in zero trust is to create policies for these resources and how people will authenticate (multifactor authentication is a must). These policies must then be monitored to ensure they are implemented correctly, that users are not compromised, and that threats are detected quickly enough.
Access control determines how and who should be granted access to resources within a network. Essentially, it’s about ensuring everyone has access to the right things at the right time and on the proper terms.
Traditional network security is based on the principle of least privilege, which prevents users, accounts, computing processes, and systems from having unnecessary and broad access to resources. This approach also helps protect against lateral movement and creates a more secure network overall.
On the other hand, the zero trust network access example limits the scope of access an attacker can get to your network. This ensures that if a breach occurs, it’s minimally damaging and provides time for people and systems to respond.
Organizations must consider how to securely authenticate each user and device to execute this strategy and separate trust from the network. They must also consider externalizing apps and workflow, implementing inventory-based access controls, and creating policies to enforce security standards across their entire digital estate.
A robust security framework is needed to meet these requirements, which includes a combination of advanced technologies such as risk-based multifactor authentication, identity protection, next-generation endpoint security, and cloud workload technology. It also requires consideration of data encryption, securing email, and verifying the hygiene of assets and endpoints before they connect to applications.
Perimeter security is a method of protecting an organization’s IT systems and assets from intruders. It consists of firewalls, perimeter guarding, and other measures to keep malicious actors out.
However, the perimeter approach has limitations and could be more effective in today’s complex and dispersed networks. This is due to the rise of Bring Your Device (BYOD), remote work, and cloud-based assets that don’t fit inside an enterprise-owned network boundary.
Consequently, adopting a zero-trust security strategy for these environments is critical. This approach helps reduce risk by implementing strict user access controls, which only give users the granular privileges they need to complete their jobs.
This enables organizations to secure their data and applications in the cloud without compromising user experience. It also allows them to protect their resources from threats such as phishing and malware.
A software-defined perimeter (SDP) is a cloud-native security framework that uses Zero Trust principles to limit network access and reduce the attack surface. It combines identity- and context-based access with micro-segmentation and authentication to isolate applications from the network. Then, it grants access to them through a trusted broker that verifies the identity, context, and policy adherence of the users requesting access.
This enables organizations to use a centralized security platform to control, monitor and automate the entire network. It also provides comprehensive access policies, compliance assessment, and integration with existing Identity and Access Management (IAM) and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions to simplify security operations.
Monitoring is a crucial aspect of zero-trust network access. It enables security teams to understand and analyze all aspects of the security process. This information allows them to make informed decisions and adapt to changes in the security landscape.
The key to effective monitoring is ensuring that users and devices always have the correct permissions. This is especially important with the zero trust model, which requires strict controls on device access.
Mapping and defining user permissions requires time, effort, and sometimes additional tools. This is where a secure access service edge (SASE) solution can be helpful.
Zero trust also requires that all connected devices be vetted before joining in minimizing the risk of malware or a compromised endpoint. This prevents unauthorized data transfer and reduces the damage caused by a user breach.
Unlike VPNs, which only verify a person’s identity, ZTNAs continuously assess connected devices and terminate their connection when a device is compromised or infected with malware. This can significantly limit the impact of an insider or external security breach and minimize the “blast radius.”
The pillars of infrastructure, network, and data security form the foundation of a robust zero trust network. These pillars involve micro-segmentation, enforcing and defining network access, and encrypting end-to-end traffic.