Zero trust network access (ZTNA) is a new security framework that authenticates, authorizes, and continuously verifies all devices, users, and applications. It limits the “blast radius” should a breach occur, minimizing damage from malicious insiders or external hackers.
Additionally, it takes advantage of the slightest privilege concept, giving users only the access necessary to finish their tasks. It helps reduce the attack surface and improves productivity.
The Zero Trust framework replaces the concept of network perimeters with security policies that verify every user, device, and application for integrity. This approach is based on the principle that users, applications, and appliances inside and outside your perimeters pose equal levels of risk and must be authenticated, verified, and continuously validated for their security configuration and posture.
Companies must first map out the resources (data, systems, apps, etc.) they want to secure, who usually needs access to them, and how those resources link before implementing a zero-trust architecture. They must also develop a policy to determine how users and devices will be authenticated, including multiple identity factors, and then build the infrastructure required to support this new way of working.
Rather than granting full network access to users, as VPN solutions do, Zero Trust networks authenticate all connections and then give least-privilege access on a need-to-know basis. It limits the attack surface and drastically decreases an organization’s exposure to cyber threats.
ZTNA solutions also incorporate micro-segmentation to create security perimeters around individual workloads, applications, and business-critical assets. This approach prevents attacks that use lateral movement from one point to another and ensures the right people have the proper privileges in the most secure manner possible. It is all done without sacrificing usability, as the system will only prompt for authentication when it deems that further access is needed.
Unlike perimeter-based solutions that allow full network access to anyone who has valid login credentials, zero-trust security models follow a “never trust, always verify” approach that makes every connection untrusted until it is proven trustworthy. It includes users and devices as well as applications and network resources. Zero trust security utilizes micro-segmentation to limit the attack surface by creating security zones around business-critical assets.
The architecture must also include the ability to detect suspicious patterns in traffic, communications, and access that could indicate a cyberattack is underway. In addition, policies must be dynamic, based on as much context from as many data sources as possible. It means cataloguing all IT and data assets and mapping transaction flows. Finally, an organization needs to decide what roles people will be assigned, how they will authenticate (multifactor authentication is a must), and how security processes will be designed and implemented.
Zero trust network access requires an approach to identity, access control, security monitoring, and micro-segmentation that can handle today’s workplace’s complexity, including BYOD, remote work, and as-a-service cloud elements. It should also be able to provide blazing fast, secure, least-privilege access to private apps from anywhere and on any device, including mobile, remote, or home, while enabling organizations to achieve the performance they need for their mission-critical applications.
Zero trust requires every user, device, and application to always be authenticated, authorized, and continuously verified before they are granted access. This continuous verification reduces the “blast radius” should a breach occur and limits the impact of lateral movement by attackers within the network. It also enables organizations to restrict access to sensitive applications and data.
Zero Trust requires an architecture that combines identity, a software-defined perimeter (SDP), and advanced security services such as risk-based multifactor authentication, next-generation endpoint protection, cloud workload security, and more to ensure only those who have been granted access to an internal resource are allowed to connect. This approach enables organizations to eliminate VPN appliances, reduce the number of inbound connections, and simplify their inbound stack while maintaining a higher level of cybersecurity.
Finally, Zero Trust must be able to do all of this while ensuring employees and contractors can perform their jobs. It is achieved by leveraging micro-segmentation to create security perimeters around individual applications, thereby hiding them from public discovery and significantly reducing the attack surface area.
To implement an authentic Zero Trust architecture, companies need to identify the resources they need to protect; map how they are accessed (i.e., from which locations, via which devices) and how they are used; build the architecture; and monitor and maintain it to ensure it is effective.
A zero-trust approach assumes that attackers are inside and outside the network, so no user or device is automatically trusted. It requires security infrastructure that constantly checks and rechecks users, devices, connections, and the organization’s overall security posture.
It is a complex architecture that demands new tools, technologies, and a different mindset among IT professionals. It is crucial to find a partner who can help you implement this model and provide the tools to make it work.
One of the biggest challenges is that today’s business operations must be connected to the traditional IT perimeter. It includes remote workers, BYOD devices, cloud elements, and as-a-service solutions. A zero-trust strategy provides a streamlined way to secure these disconnected business components.
A zero-trust approach can reduce the impact of breaches by ensuring that only the most critical applications have access to the network. It helps minimize the threat surface and makes it easier to patch vulnerabilities. It can also limit the damage from attacks like lateral movement. Lateral movement occurs when an attacker uses stolen credentials or a compromised machine to get into the network and then moves across it to reach valuable assets like customer data or finance systems.
A Zero Trust solution will also include a set of analytics that enable businesses to understand the current state of their assets, infrastructure, and end-users. This information should be used to create policies and ensure the security posture continually improves.