The Benefits of Zero Trust Network Access

Also known as Software-defined Perimeter (SDP), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a service or product that creates context- and identity-based, logical access boundaries around a set of applications or an application. The applications are hidden from discovery, and a trusted broker restricts the access to a set of entities.

There are many benefits that are associated with implementing Zero Trust Network Access. This provides you with an effective way of fighting back against the many data risks that are in place today. But before we delve into them, let’s go over the seven pillars of ZTNA.

What are the seven pillars of ZTNA?

When building a Zero Trust Architecture, there are seven key pillars it should be built on, which are as follows:

  1. Resources – A business should treat all of the computing services, data, and devices as resources that need to be protected. If network users are able to access a business’s resources from personal devices, these devices also need to be considered enterprise resources.
  2. Dynamic policy – Access to resources at a business should be granted in accordance with the policy rules in place and the principle of dynamic least privilege. Such a policy ought to determine the business’s users, resources, and access privileges for these users.
  3. Communication – All communication, both from outside and within the network, needs to be treated the same and protected in the most secure approach available.
  4. Pre-session access – Every connection is a vital resource or a business should be established on a per-session basis only.
  5. Monitoring – To make sure that data is protected correctly and corporate resources are secure, businesses need to monitor those resources and all of the actions that are taken with them.
  6. Authorization and authentication – Before access is granted to any corporate resource, a business should implement dynamic authorization and authentication.
  7. Continual improvement – The final pillar states that a business should collate data about the current state of network connections, infrastructure, and affect to enhance the security posture of the network.
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What are the benefits of Zero Trust Network Access?

Now that you have a good understanding of what Zero Trust Architecture is, let’s take a look at the different benefits that are associated with this approach:

Modernize your business with Zero Trust Network Access

There is only one place to begin when it comes to Zero Trust Network Access, and this is with the fact that it enables modernization. When people hear the words “zero trust,” they tend to think that everything is hostile. While this sounds evident, the notion is antithetical to the corporate network security model.

Since the early 90s, businesses have been creating a network architecture with a secure perimeter that uses endpoint-based controls, relies on approved IP protocols, ports, and addresses to validate users, data, and/or applications, which are then trusted to communicate inside the network.

On the flip side, a zero-trust approach treats all traffic as hostile. This includes traffic that is already inside the perimeter. Unless there are a set of attributes that have been used to identify workloads, such as a workload identity or fingerprint, they are untrusted, and this means they end up being blocked from communicating.

Identity-based policies result in more effective security, which travels with the workload, no matter whether it communicates, from the on-premises network architecture to the public cloud.

As protection is environment-agnostic, services and applications are secure even if they communicate across network environments, meaning no policy updates or architectural changes are needed.

In the most basic terms, zero trust will securely connect applications, devices, and users using company policies over any network.

ZTNA supports compliance initiatives

Not only does Zero Trust Network Access make sure that your business is modernized, with Zero Trust Network Access, auditors and others are going to be able to get a clearer insight into what data flows the business has and they can see how workloads are protected.

Zero Trust Network Access will mitigate the number of places and ways that network communications can be exploited, which means that there will not be as many negative audit findings and remediation is simpler.

Furthermore, when zero trust segmentation is introduced, businesses have the capability of creating perimeters around certain kinds of sensitive data, for example, data backups or credit card data, using controls that are fine-grained and that ensure regulated data is kept apart from other kinds of non-regulated data.

When the time comes around for an audit, or should a data breach happen, a zero trust segmentation strategy offers better control and visibility over flat network architectures that offer over-privileged access.

Secure your remote workforce

Statistics show that there are currently more than 4.7 million people in the United States who work remotely at least half of the time. The remote work trend is one that was already gaining traction prior to the pandemic, but since Covid-19 and instructions to work from home, we’re now seeing more and more businesses embrace remote workers.

While remote work brings a lot of great benefits to businesses, including cost savings and flexibility, it does bring about a number of concerns and worries. In fact, 73 percent of security professionals and IT executives have stated that they are concerned about the new risks and vulnerabilities that have occurred due to the sudden shift to remote work.

With ZTNA, the perimeter is identity. Firewalls are no longer considered enough now that users are working from all corners of the world and data is being spread across the cloud. Identity is attached to the applications, devices, and users seeking access, so ZTNA provides robust protection for data and workers no matter where they are based.

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Provide a better user experience

Not all advantages need to be security-related when it comes to Zero Trust Network Access. Some zero trust security features can create a much-improved user experience. One of the most evident examples in this regard is Single Sign-On (SSO). If you enable this across all of your enterprise services, it can make the user experience a much easier and more enjoyable one.

This is because users will only need to input their credentials once, instead of doing it every time they wish to utilize a different application. This makes the system much more usable, as well as being more secure.

Simplify IT management

As Zero Trust Network Access rests on the pillars of continual analytics and monitoring, you can leverage automation to assess all access requests. If the access management system deems the request to be standard, based on the key identities, then access will be granted automatically. IT does not need to be involved in the approval of each access request. Instead, they will only need to operate in an admin capacity whenever the system flags that there has been a suspicious request.

This benefit is a considerable one, as a recent survey has shown that over half (53 percent) of businesses have reported a problematic cybersecurity skill shortage. The more safely you are able to automate, the fewer human resources you are going to need to dedicate to this area of IT. This means that your current team of IT professionals can spend their time on tasks that improve and innovate.

Lower the risk of a data breach

Of course, one of the main benefits associated with Zero Trust Network Access is that it can reduce the chances of a data breach. You only need to turn on the news or do a small search on the web to see information about cyberattacks that have happened in recent times.

From the large-scale breaches, such as those at Yahoo and Facebook, to the smaller hacks that have seen 60 percent of small businesses close within six months, data breaches can impact any business, and the consequences can be severe.

Not only do companies have the cost of getting to the bottom of the vulnerability and rectifying it, but they will also face finances and then they will have the great effort that comes with trying to repair their reputation. It can be an incredibly difficult thing to come back from. This is why it is critical to do everything in your power to make sure that your business does not become the next victim of a data breach. This is where Zero Trust Network Access comes in.

As the ZTNA model is focused on the workload, it is a lot simpler for security teams to find malicious data-based activity and prevent it from unfolding.

A Zero Trust Network Access approach is always going to verify workloads. If workloads are not verified, they will be prevented from communicating anywhere on the system, i.e. to and from command-and-control, and between applications, users, or hosts.

Any altered service or application, whether it is a result of adversarial activity, accident, or misuse, is automatically untrusted until a set of controls and policies can be used to verify it again. Even when verified and approved, communication will be restricted to a need-to-know basis, which means that secure access is locked down only to the services, hosts, and users that actually need it.

Collaborate effectively with other organizations and suppliers

By having fine-grained access controls in place for your data, this can enable you to collaborate more effectively with other organizations. Improved control over data access means that data can be granted access to certain data with the knowledge that only the intended audience is going to be able to view the exact documents that have been shared.

Enjoy access control over container and cloud environments

One of the biggest fears that security personnel has about moving to and using the cloud is a loss of access control and visibility. Despite the security of cloud service providers (CSPs) progressing, workload security is a shared responsibility between the organization using the cloud and the CSP. Having said that, there is only so much a business can impact inside someone else’s cloud.

With Zero Trust Network Access, security policies are centered on the identity of communicating workloads and are directly tied to the workload itself. In this manner, security remains as close as possible to the assets that need protection. Moreover, it is not impacted by network constructs, like IP protocols, ports, and addresses.

As a consequence, the protection will not only travel with the workload where it attempts to communicate but remains unchanged, even while the environment is changing.

Lower organizational and business risk

Last but not least, we cannot discuss Zero Trust Network Access without mentioning how it helps us to lower organizational and business risk. Zero trust assumes that all services and applications are malicious and that communication is not allowed until they can be verified positively by their identity attributes – immutable characteristics of the services or software themselves that need authorization and authentication requirements that have been pre-defined.

Zero trust, as a consequence, lowers the risk, as it uncovers what is on the network and the way in which these assets are communicating. Moreover, as baselines are generated, a Zero Trust Network Access model will lower risk by eradicating over-provisioned services and software, and continually checking the ‘credentials’ of each communicating asset.

Final words on Zero Trust Network Access

All things considered, there are many benefits that are associated with implementing Zero Trust Network Access at your business or organization.

From lowering organizational risk and giving access control over cloud environments, the benefits associated with Zero Trust Network Access are extensive. ZTNA can even help to bring about benefits that are not only security-related but relate to user experience as well.

However, in order to experience these benefits, you need to make sure that ZTNA is implemented successfully. This is why it makes sense to team up with an experienced security partner who can ensure your business implements the seven pillars of Zero Trust Network Access mentioned above.