Why Your Business Needs Zero Trust Network Access

edited August 2023 in Business

The term ‘never trust, always verify’ can be applied to data security and data access, and to virtually any form of devices connected to resources and information. What is zero trust, one might ask. ‘Zero trust’ was coined by Stephen Paul Marsh in April 1994, and that concept surpasses human factors like morality, ethics, judgment, etc. Soon after, major tech companies like Google started implementing its own zero trust architecture, and as cloud services and increased mobile use accelerated, the number of entities increased.

What is zero trust network access? 

Zero trust network access (ZTNA), is an IT-based security solution that secures access to an organization or entity’s network, data, and applications through controlled policies. It is formed in the design and foundation of IT systems that grant access to data. ZTNA aims to provide cybersecurity solutions by authenticating identity verification, confirming device compliance before granting access, and ensuring access to only authorized entities. Think of it as an added layer of security with only a couple of authorized people with the key.

How does ZTNA work? Once implemented, only a user who has been granted access through strict authentication can see or use specified applications and resources. The application will then be shielded from other IP addresses that would otherwise have access through another secure, encrypted layer of security. Zero trust security also protects users and data breaches from lateral attacks.

ZTNA Vs. VPN: what’s the difference? 

There’s several differences when it comes to VPN (virtual private network) and ZTNA. While both offer secure remote access, the two offer it in very different ways.

  • Access. As mentioned above, ZTNA is based on the concept of ‘never trust, always verify.’ If granted access through a VPN, which is only one round of authentication, a user has access to the entire network. Through a ZTNA, a user has to go through individual authentication to bypass different applications. This increases security levels and ensures that even if a hacker did gain access to a network, it limits how much resources and data the hacker has access to.
  • Visibility and agility. If a user connects to a network via a VPN, the IT network can only see a limited amount of information, such as which network and when. Details such as which application the user has logged into or for how long is undetected by admins.
  • Speed and efficiency. As the number of remote workers grows, VPN implementation to a large number of people may slow efficiency and connection, straining larger businesses and their manpower. ZTNA, on the other hand, connects users directly to applications and doesn’t need to go through a central point, eliminating the latency caused by the process VPN has to go through.

ZTNA benefits 

Businesses nowadays need to have their digital assets and information available everywhere for everyone at any given time of the day. With multi-cloud services and numerous datacenters of today, ZTNA mitigates the risks associated with security models that were used to accommodate a larger user base. Here are some of the benefits zero trust network access provides.

  • Minimize cyberattacks. Factors such as older security models and public Wi-Fi increase the risks for data breaches. ZTNA allows organizations to manage their data and resources well through letting users only gain access after a series of authorizations.  
  • Better user experience. For users, VPN login steps take a much longer time than ZTNA to get to a certain application. Users are able to get fast and direct access without any central datacenter.
  • Segmentation. Because ZTNA isn’t tied to the network, businesses and users can track down to each application rather than having to perform app segmentation. This also reduces the risk and time to check networks. A user must be re-authenticated if a location, network, or connection changes.
  • More control. Once ZTNA is implemented, an organization can have full visibility into real-time traffic. All traffic is passed through a secure private network that allows a business to manage data, reducing data loss and threats in real time.

Types of ZTNA 

Gartner focuses on two types of zero-trust security.

  • Endpoint-initiated ZTNA. Endpoint-initiated ZTNA allows an agent to install ZTNA on the user’s devices. The agent then sends information to a controller, which prompts the user for authentication, then allows the user to access a list of applications. The controller opens connectivity through a gateway, and then the user may access information through that gateway. Some ZTNA removes itself from the gateway once the user is connected, and some don’t.
  • Service-initiated ZTNA. Service-initiated ZTNA doesn’t need an agent for installation. This is used mainly by organizations that allow unmanaged devices (bringing your own laptop, etc.). Networks will have a connector that establishes connections to a cloud-based ZTNA. A user would have to authenticate with a provider, then in turn validates the user using an identity management product. Once validation is successful, a user can access certain applications through the provider's cloud.

Top use cases of ZTNA

  • Authentication. Most businesses implement ZTNA to ensure users and their devices are trustworthy at every data point. It offers granular access to specific resources if a user provides verification. This is to lessen the risks and to increase security from outsiders and insiders. A double, or sometimes triple, form of authentication keeps compromised devices or hackers away at each login point.
  • Trust. It is to extend a modern enterprise’s trust across the network. By implementing ZTNA, an organization can benefit from the scalability, visibility, and security for monitoring traffic.  

How to implement ZTNA in your business? 

As remote workers grow and multi-cloud environments emerge, businesses will have to scale their cybersecurity system for increased visibility and trust. Here are two types of delivery models for implementing ZTNA.

  • Stand-alone ZTNA. The organization would have to manage all aspects and elements of ZTNA within the environment, while securing connections. This is mainly directed towards businesses that are cloud-based, but management, deployment, and maintenance could become a burden after a while.
  • ZTNA as a service. Organizations can hone in on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, which manages everything. If a business decides to go this route, they require a user license, connectors for applications, and then let the cloud provider deliver the ZTNA. This decreases management and maintenance, and ensures that all traffic is passed through optimally for all users.

Some of the more renowned providers of ZTNA include: Palo Alto, Akamai, Zscaler, Perimeter 81, Cato Networks, Cloudflare, Cisco, and Forcepoint.

‘Never trust, always verify.’ This has almost become a mantra in cybersecurity. With data breaches and hackers, an added layer of security would only benefit an organization or an entity. Double verification and 2-step verification has also become implemented in our day-to-day lives, and it’s only a matter of time for all businesses to start implementing zero trust network access as well.

Janice is a contributing writer for Acer with a background in marketing and copywriting. She's passionate about literature, tech, blockchain, and creative trends. She has worked with several clients to grow and position their brands internationally.


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