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By Gabrielle Morris on April 09, 2021

What is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)? How does ZTNA Work?

With the cost of a data breach averaging $3.86 million as of 2020, it's no surprise that more organizations than ever are increasing their cybersecurity budget. While there are hundreds of things your organization can do to limit your exposure, what you really need is a robust and comprehensive plan to lock down your network. 

 

What is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)? 

 

Zero Trust Network Access, or ZTNA, is a form of strict network security that requires identity-based authentication for all users, including those already inside the network perimeter. Traditionally, security models automatically trust users within the network perimeter and only require authentication from outside users. This can lead to security problems if a cybercriminal hacks into the network as they would have access to everything without further barriers. 

ZTNA runs off the assumption that it should have "zero trust" in any user unless they have explicitly been granted access into the network. This is not a single security setting or approach that should be taken, but a combination of several principles including: 

Multifactor Authentication 

The practice of requiring users logging into the network to have more than just their username and password. This additional verification factor typically comes in the form of a PIN sent to your smartphone or through an app, like Google Authenticator. It can also come in the form of biometrics such as fingerprint, face ID, or voice recognition, personal knowledge such as answers to security questions, and more. This helps enhance your organizations security as traditional login credentials can be vulnerable to brute force attacks or leaked by other sources.

Least User Privileges

The principle of least privilege, or PoLP, is the concept of giving users just as much access as needed for them to complete their job responsibilities. For example, your IT director may have access to view and change everything within the network as their job requires them to maintain the integrity of the IT infrastructure, but your organization's administrative assistant doesn’t need to have these same rights to complete their job. This helps to reduce the surface for cyberattack and can stop the spread of malware moving laterally through the network.  

Access Controls

Access Controls run off of policies that specify the level of access that is granted based on the location or device used.  This helps tighten up network security by allowing users to access less when on devices that have fewer security settings or when logging in from a suspicious or unusual location.  

 

Zero Trust Network Access vs. VPN

 

VPNs are virtual private networks used by enterprises often for connecting remote employees. However, VPNs can’t answer all of the complex and agile needs modern businesses have today. Zero Trust networks can complement or replace VPNs to provide secure access and business agility.

Compared to Zero Trust Network Access, VPNs are resource intensive, time consuming, and not secure. However, when combined with ZTNA solutions, a secure VPN connection can provide an extra layer of security if hackers can access to the network. 

 

VPN vs. ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access)

 

How does Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)  work ? 

As mentioned previously, Zero Trust Access Network runs off of a set of strict security policies that requires authentication for all users both inside and outside the network perimeter. 

ZTNA typically has 3 steps to granting access to users: 

 -Verify users

-Validate devices  

-Provision encrypted tunnel 


To verify users identity, MFA or 2-Factor Authentication is used, requiring users to enter an access code or another form of verification. For devices, Network Access Control (NAC) is used to ensure the user's identity matches with the device identity.

Once verified, the device matches their identity and grants the lowest level of access the user requires. The ZTNA service will create an encrypted tunnel after authentication is approved for an additional layer of protection. 

 

Benefits of Zero Trust Network Access

 

With ZTNA, the main benefit is increased security. Running your organization's network off a no trust policy helps to ensure that all users are who they say they are and verifies devices security posture prior to allowing them access to the network.

Additionally, this strict approach to security provides a clearer image of your organization's infrastructure. Each user, their devices, and what data they can access are all important parts of maintaining a zero trust network.

This holistic security program not only verifies users and their devices, but includes a multitude of other security settings such as MFA, least user privileges, and more. These security settings work together to create a strict environment that minimizes the risks of a cyber attack. 

 

How to get started on Zero Trust Network Access?

 

If you are interested in implementing a ZTNA solution for your network, you have a few different options to get started. If your IT team has the right tools, they can set up ZTNA internally without the need of additional resources or assistance.

Otherwise, ZTNA is offered as-a-service through several different networking vendors. These solutions are typically offered via an infrastructure-as-a-service model, giving users the tools to set up their ZTNA requirements on-demand.

If your organization does not want to handle any of the set up or monitoring of your Zero Trust Network, you can enlist a managed service provider, like Datalink Networks,  to take care of it for you. To get started contact Datalink Networks today to see if ZTNA is right for your organization. 

Published by Gabrielle Morris April 9, 2021