The Role of ZTNA Solutions in Mitigating Cybersecurity Threats

ZTNA solutions offer security, scalability and network capabilities that aren’t possible with stand-alone, client-based approaches. They also improve business agility by eliminating the need to open inbound firewall ports for application access. Zero trust network access works similarly to software-defined perimeters (SDP) by hiding applications from public visibility and requiring user credentials and devices to be validated before connecting. This enables micro-segmentation to reduce the attack surface and prevent lateral movement.

Identity Management

Identity management is an important element of a zero-trust security model. Organizations implementing zero-trust networking must ensure that their identities and context are always authenticated and validated, especially as they move data and applications from on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. This is accomplished by ensuring that users are connected to the right network resources using roles mapped to an employee’s role within an organization and by enforcing strong access controls. As more organizations adopt BYOD and remote work, it is important to ensure employees can access the apps and data they need from various devices. ZTNA solutions provide a secure way to support these initiatives by granting access to private applications based on the device and user’s security context. This can be done through an agent-based approach on the device itself, a service-based federation of an enterprise’s existing directory services, or by analyzing network traffic to and from the application.

Many Zero Trust Networking solutions offer a range of additional security capabilities, including antivirus/malware, firewall and gateway protection, IPS, sandboxing, DLP and network access control. For this reason, it’s important for organizations implementing these types of solutions to consider their overall cybersecurity posture and risk tolerance before selecting a solution.

Access Management

Zero trust access security replaces VPNs and gated network access, making it easy for organizations to support remote work and BYOD initiatives without exposing business applications to unnecessary risk. Verifying identity and contextual policies ensures that users are sent directly to the applications they need, not the wider Internet, preventing data exfiltration.

To provide this level of control, a ZTNA solution must verify every user and device, including the device type, operating system, location, time, and application they need to access. It also checks whether the user’s credentials are compromised or their device is infected with malware. It can also enforce policy-based access based on user location, time of day and network conditions, as well as the security posture of the device.

In addition, ZTNA solutions can create software-defined perimeters (SDPs) and divide internal assets into micro-segments, limiting intruders’ lateral movement within the network and reducing the attack surface in the event of a breach. ZTNA also helps organizations protect their workloads by hiding infrastructure from discovery and bridging users to applications through a secure tunnel, making it impossible for intruders to scan for other services that they need to gain access to. This approach reduces a breach’s impact and helps lower the risk of ransomware and other threats.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

DLP tools help prevent the accidental or malicious transfer of sensitive information outside the business’s corporate firewall. For example, if an employee were to send a confidential document via email or upload it to a consumer cloud storage service, DLP software would notify the user that they cannot share the information outside of the network and automatically encrypt the file before it was sent, so only the intended recipient could access it. Zero Trust Network Access solutions can also offer granular access controls and restrictions to ensure that users are only granted “least privilege” access to private applications based on the context of the situation. This includes assessing the user’s identity, device, location and security posture. This can be done per session, ensuring that every flow or group of flows is granted access rights that are too high or allowed to stay connected longer than necessary. This is especially important as businesses move towards a secure access services edge (SASE), the convergence of wide area networking, or WAN, and security services in a cloud-delivered service that helps organizations simplify their network and cybersecurity architectures. The SASE approach can replace the traditional firewall, CASB, FWaaS and SD-WAN, providing a more integrated solution that reduces complexity and delivers network and security efficiency.

Network Access Control (NAC)

NAC solutions control a network’s access and allow only authorized users and devices to connect. This helps to respect cybersecurity threats by ensuring the user and device meet pre-admission criteria. NAC also verifies that all devices are connected to the right applications and that the correct data is protected as they move across the corporate network. In the age of remote work, BYOD and hybrid work, traditional corporate networks depend on a security perimeter to keep out external threats. However, in the wake of cyberattacks like ransomware designed to evade security, it’s time to reconsider how we protect corporate networks from attacks.

Zero trust is the new way to approach network security. It replaces the traditional firewall-based perimeter by identifying and verifying each user, device, application and resource. It then continuously monitors and verifies that the device meets its criteria before granting access to an app or system. This approach is particularly useful when dealing with Bring Your Device (BYOD) systems and other non-user device categories that can connect networks. This includes Internet of Things (IoT) devices, Operations Technology (OT), Industrial IoT and medical technologies that often lack the operating systems required to run antivirus software or other endpoint solutions. It also allows organizations to manage the connectivity of guest or contractor access to ensure they only have access to what is necessary for their roles, reducing the risk of lateral movement from a compromised device.