Why Zero Trust Network Access is Crucial for Modern Security


Zero Trust requires an organization to adopt a new mindset and set of tools. The approach relies on visibility, identity-based micro-segmentation and control, and continuous monitoring to detect threats and malware.

It requires all teams to work together to help classify data, adjust working practices and develop a culture that supports the new security posture.

What is Zero Trust Network Access?

Zero trust requires that every user, device and network connection be verified and authorized before access to digital assets is granted. This process uses a combination of scalability, context and threat-based adaptive policies to deliver safe remote access to applications and data regardless of device, location or identity.

The first pillar is a zero-trust approach, meaning no users or devices are implicitly trusted inside or outside the network. Instead, every user and device attempting to access assets must be explicitly authenticated, verified and authorized, using multi-factor authentication (MFA) that ensures more than just a password is used.

This process also enforces the principle of least privilege access, which only grants users minimum permission to do their job. This minimizes exposure to sensitive areas of the network.

Another pillar is micro-segmentation, which allows large networks to be separated into smaller zones and secure individually. This limits the impact of a breach and prevents attackers from moving laterally across the network.

A final pillar is continuous monitoring, which constantly watches the activity on the network to look for signs of compromise. This is done by using a combination of analytics, filtering and logging to detect activity that’s out of the ordinary. This helps to detect and respond to threats faster and more effectively, such as a janitor’s stolen credentials trying to access the company’s credit card number database.

Why is Zero Trust Network Access Important?

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is crucial to a secure future for all of us as cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated. Traditional security models that use strong perimeters to keep out attackers are obsolete. They must be replaced with a “never trust, always verify” framework that secures the entire enterprise, including users, identities, devices, applications, infrastructure, data and networks.

Today’s business environments are incredibly complex and dynamic. Employees, customers and partners no longer work from a single location or use the same device to connect to critical applications and infrastructure.

Many of these connections are unmanaged, allowing attackers to move laterally inside the organization and exploit vulnerable systems without detection. A Zero Trust model provides a more secure way to connect and enable business while eliminating the threat of lateral movement.

An effective Zero Trust solution must provide full visibility into all connected devices and endpoints to continuously assess their posture, validate identity, and protect against threats such as malware, phishing, ransom ware and more.

It must also support multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires more than one piece of proof of identity to access sensitive applications and services. Finally, a Zero Trust solution must provide continuous monitoring and enforcement of granular security policies, including least privilege access, to minimize the impact of a breach.

The right solution will also ensure that every workload is protected no matter the network environment, enabling safe digital transformation and secure cloud adoption.

What are the Benefits of Zero Trust Network Access?

Zero trust is an effective alternative to traditional security solutions relying on a centralized network perimeter. Many of these traditional security tools have been in use for decades, but they need to adequately address the needs of today’s networks, which are increasingly distributed and virtual.

With zero trust, access to corporate applications is delivered via a secure broker that verifies the identity and context of devices and users before connecting them directly to private applications. This approach enables organizations to quickly extend remote access for employees, third parties and BYOD devices without establishing VPN connections.

The resulting strong security posture is enhanced by continuous verification, which ensures that all access to applications is verified and enforced by the principle of least privilege. Access is granted per-session basis and limited to the minimum privileges necessary for the application. The broker also monitors for anomalies, such as connection attempts to service accounts that can enable lateral movement in the event of an attack.

Ensure that any solution for zero trust network access offers support for managed and unmanaged devices (including mobile). A cloud-delivered ZTNA should also provide granular visibility and reporting, including details about all activities on the system and which users are doing what with the system.

It should also have a flexible architecture for rapidly onboarding new users, which is especially important for supporting agile teams with quickly changing requirements.

How to Implement Zero Trust Network Access

A Zero Trust network requires an architecture that includes a software-defined perimeter (SDP) solution, a next-generation firewall, and an application security gateway. The first step is to identify the areas of the network you need to protect. This is often called mapping the “protect surface.” This should include data, assets, applications and services. Prioritizing these items is a good idea, as it will help guide your decisions as you move forward with the migration.

Once you have identified the protected surface, it’s time to start creating and implementing security policies. This will require visibility and auditing of all users, devices, and connections in and out of the network.

Verifying user identities and device security, including multi-factor authentication and SSO, is critical. It is also important to use a network access control solution that allows you to configure rules and policies for different types of devices.

It is also important to use the principle of least privilege so that users have access on a need-to-access and need-to-know basis. This will minimize the impact of a breach and prevent lateral movement within your network.

Monitoring and updating all connected devices is also critical to ensure that vulnerabilities are not exploited. This is where micro-segmentation can be used effectively. This will further limit access to essential areas of the network