Zero trust network access (ZTNA) replaces traditional security solutions with a more dynamic and agile approach. It focuses on user identity and context, hiding applications from discovery, blocking lateral movement by bad actors, and providing granular access to apps based on the user’s device and location. ZTNA provides flexibility, agility, and scalability while protecting workloads through end-to-end encrypted tunnels that de-emphasize the corporate network. It can also evaluate additional factors like the security posture of devices and provide different permission levels for personal vs. business-owned devices.
What is ZTNA? ZTNA or Zero trust network access is a product or service that creates an identity- and context-based, logical access boundary around an application or set of applications. The applications are hidden from discovery, and access is restricted via a trusted broker to a set of named entities. Zero trust network access provides granular, identity- and context-aware access to applications that may reside in multiple clouds or data centers. This is a critical need for organizations with remote and hybrid work environments, as it minimizes the impact of any breach, reduces visibility on the public internet, and mitigates security risk by only granting access on a need-to-know basis. To establish an environment that follows the principles of ZTNA, enterprises must perform a gap analysis and map out their internal network. This will help them understand how sensitive information flows and the interdependencies between networks, devices, and applications. Doing this lets you identify the areas needing protection and how to segment the network. This will allow you to create a software-defined perimeter, reducing the attack surface by limiting lateral movement after a breach and preventing privilege escalation.
Zero trust access provides granular security control by monitoring all network traffic with visibility into internal and external cloud, application, and workload context—not just IP addresses and ports. This information is used to apply specific and consistent access policies for every user, service, or device within a network segment. This reduces the attack surface and prevents lateral movement of threats. This approach allows IT to identify critical applications, which can be defined by their role, business function, or compliance status, including HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOX regulations. Once identified, a microsegmentation solution can create software-defined network segments that separate applications and data. The security policies applied to each segment can be tweaked based on the latest threat intelligence and business needs. The zero-trust security model can replace traditional VPNs and firewalls by securely connecting only the users, servers, VMs, and data needed. This reduces infrastructure costs and improves cybersecurity. A zero-trust network architecture should include a multi-factor authentication solution, which verifies the identity of all users and devices on your network with two or more methods—such as passwords, phone numbers, or biometrics—and can automatically block access to unauthorized entities. It should also perform continuous monitoring to detect any breach attempts and continuously adjust security policies as necessary based on evolving threat landscapes.
Authenticating users, devices, and networks from outside the enterprise is one of the biggest challenges for today’s IT staff. ZTNA is a solution that can address this issue and safeguard sensitive data. It does so by using a zero-trust model to verify all connections and by isolating applications from each other so that even if an infected device gains access, the attacker won’t have visibility into other services or apps that could be compromised due to the breach. ZTNA also supports micro-segmentation, which helps to improve security by segmenting the network into smaller and more isolated sections. This reduces the impact of a breach by preventing threat actors from moving laterally across the network and accessing more sensitive assets. It also allows businesses to define security policies more granularly and ensures that only the most critical data is accessible from external networks. Another benefit of isolation is that it can help to improve performance by reducing clogs on internal networks and improving bandwidth efficiency. This is because users are connecting directly to where the application is hosted rather than through a VPN, which can be more secure but can stifle performance. In addition, it can also help mitigate risks to user privacy by limiting personal data on BYOD devices to what is needed for work-related tasks.
With the rapid increase in remote work, multi-cloud, and IoT deployments, enterprises face new and growing cybersecurity risks. These vulnerabilities could expose sensitive information, lead to costly outages, or trigger data breaches. These breaches can also damage a company’s reputation, so security experts recommend implementing zero trust network access (ZTNA) to help protect business data. ZTNA provides a logical access boundary around applications hidden from discovery, limiting visibility to only trusted entities. This prevents lateral movement and reduces the attack surface. It’s an ideal solution for organizations transitioning to multi-cloud and hybrid work environments. This model separates application access from network access and authenticates users individually for each application, ensuring only verified employees can access the resources they need to complete their work. Unlike VPNs, which only verify the user’s identity and role, ZTNA checks more than this, evaluating additional factors like device risk and context, time and frequency of requests, and the requested apps.
Additionally, this approach allows businesses to deploy software-defined perimeters and segment internal networks into micro-segments. It prevents threat actors from moving across the organization, protecting valuable assets from breaches and minimizing the impact of any potential breach. In addition, it helps ensure compliance since it implements the least privilege principle.