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What is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)?
There is no such thing as trust when it comes to the IT networks in organizations. The notable shift from on-premises IT infrastructure to cloud environments has changed security protocols. With about everything virtual on a cloud platform, strict verification of everyone and everything is compulsory now.

What is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)?

The Zero Trust model does not sound offensive in the IT landscape. It is now a crucial principle of network security considering that remote work is now the new norm and consumers prefer the e-commerce platform. The greater reliance on online transactions has also increased the cybercrimes now four-fold than pre-pandemic.

Here we will look into how the zero-trust model works and how it helps protect the IT network.

What is Zero Trust Security?

An IT security model enforces strict identity verification of every user and device that tries to access a private network. Verification has become essential irrespective of whether within or outside a network perimeter. The Zero trust network access (ZTNA) is the leading technology behind the Zero Trust architecture.

ZTNA has a similarity to SDP or software-defined perimeter in its approach towards controlling access. The connected devices are unaware of other resources such as servers, applications, etc., on the network other than those to which they are connected. ZTNA sets up one connection between the user and resources, similar to when two people exchange phone numbers to contact each other. Here instead of the phone numbers, ZTNA uses unlisted IP addresses, services, and applications. In ZTNA, however, the connections need to be reverified periodically.

Zero trust security is a holistic approach to a network using various techniques and principles. It is opposite to a traditional IT network that trusts everyone inside the network.

A zero-trust framework trusts no one.

ZTNA vs. VPN

Many organizations use Virtual private networks (VPNs) instead of ZTNA to control access. In the VPN model, once users login into a VPN, they can access the entire network and all the resources on the network. T is called the castle and moat model. On the other hand, ZTNA only allows access to specific applications requested and does not allow access to data and applications by default.

The principle behind Zero Trust Security

Continuous monitoring and validation zero-trust policy philosophy of not trusting anyone assumes that attackers can be inside or outside the network. Thus, no device or user is trusted without verifying user identity and their privileges and the device's identity for security. The logins and connections get periodically timed out. They are established after the users and devices re-establish their credentials.

  • Least Privilege

The least privilege access is another principle of zero-trust security. It allows users to access only as much as their job roles allow them and minimizes their exposure to sensitive data in the network.

Implementing least privilege options for users involves giving permissions carefully. For this principle, VPN is not suitable as authorization to log in to a VPN provides access to the whole connected network.

  • Device control access

Zero trust also exercises strict controls on device access, apart from controlling user's access. Zero Trust systems monitor the devices that try to access the network and ensure that every device is authorized. In addition to this, it assesses all the devices to make sure that they are not compromised. It reduces the probability of an attack on the network.

  • Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation is a process where security perimeters are divided into small zones to maintain separate access for different network parts and spread the security risk.

  • Prevents lateral movement

A lateral movement in a network is considered when an attacker moves inside after gaining access to that network. Suppose an attacker's entry point in the network is discovered. In that case, it is challenging to detect lateral movement because the attacker may have moved to different parts of the network and compromised them.

Zero Trust is designed in such a manner so that it can contain attackers and prevent their lateral movement. The segmentation of Zero Trust access and periodic validation ensures that an attacker cannot move across to the network’s other microsegments.

If an attacker’s presence is detected, the compromised device or user account is quarantined and cut off from further access. It is in sharp contrast to the castle-and-moat model. Here a lateral movement makes it possible for the attacker to be unaffected by the quarantining of the original compromised device as it may have already reached other parts of the network.

  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

The MFA is the core value of Zero Trust security. The requiring of more than one confirmation to authenticate a user, for example, a password, is not enough to gain access.

A typical application of Multi-factor Authentication is the 2 FA or 2-factor authorization used on online platforms. Apart from entering a password, users who opt for 2FA for these services must also enter a one-time passcode sent to another device, such as a mobile phone, to doubly confirm that they are the one and same user.

Installing Zero Trust Security

Zero Trust may appear complex, but using this security model is simple with the right technology partner who can use a SASE platform that combines network services with an in- built Zero Trust security for its user and device access.

ZTNA - Agent-based vs. Service based

ZTNA, which is agent bases requires installing a software application called an "agent" on all endpoint devices.

ZTNA, which is service-based, is a cloud service and, not an endpoint application. It does not require the installation or use of an agent.

Organizations that want to implement the Zero Trust philosophy need to consider what kind of ZTNA solution fits their requirements best. For example, if an organization finds that the growing mix of managed and unmanaged devices is a concern, then an agent-based ZTNA is an effective option. On the other hand, if it focuses mainly on locking down certain web- based apps, then the service-based model is ideal.

Another thing to consider is the easy integration of service-based ZTNA with cloud applications but with on-premise infrastructure. If the network traffic is routed from on- premise endpoint devices to cloud platforms, then on-premise infrastructure, reliability, and performance could be affected badly.

Conclusion

The Zero Trust security was discovered in 2010 by an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. The concept was presented, and then later Google adopted the Zero Trust security in their network. It led to more awareness and interest among the tech community. In 2019 Zero trust security was listed as a core component of SASE solutions.