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Zero trust networking access (ZTNA) is a security solution that replaces VPNs for remote and hybrid work. It requires identity management, network segmentation, and the least privilege principle.
Implement Identity Management
Zero trust transformation requires a new approach to identity management. Traditional perimeter-based security solutions permit full network access to any user with valid login credentials, exposing sensitive data and enabling lateral movement of threats from compromised accounts or devices. Zero trust models enable access to specific applications only on a need-to-know basis, limiting the attack surface and reducing the chance of data exfiltration or malware infection.
As a result, the core components of a zero trust solution are identity and access management (IAM) and network access control. IAM verifies the identity of each connecting device, considers context like a session’s context, workforce identity, and the sensitivity of the accessed data, and helps establish security policy. Based on the assessed risk, it then provides security prompts and controls, such as additional authentication requirements or limiting available functionality.
IAM must also incorporate strong password policies to encourage good password hygiene, implementing SSO, MFA, and other mechanisms such as anti-keylogging and screen scraping. Additionally, IAM must be integrated with your existing security infrastructure and cloud workload technologies to collect context across the entire IT stack. To do this, look for a unified IAM and PAM platform that offers the right mix of functionality. Implementing a zero trust security architecture with the right technology partner can be relatively simple and cost-effective.
Implement Access Control
A zero trust network access assumes that active threats exist inside and outside a network perimeter, so nothing on the network is trusted by default — not users, devices, or applications. Instead, everything must be authenticated, authorized, verified, and continuously monitored. The goal is to limit the “blast radius” if a breach does occur by denying attackers the ability to move laterally within the organization after being granted access based on their authenticated status.
This approach is a significant departure from traditional security that follows a “trust, but verify” methodology and leaves the internal network open to attack by malicious insiders and compromised credentials taken over by threat actors. Zero trust can mitigate these attacks by ensuring that only the most secure on-ramp can reach critical resources, such as the database with credit card numbers.
Zero trust requires time and human resources to figure out how to segment the various parts of the system best. It can also be challenging to maintain this segmentation on an ongoing basis unless the solution is designed to integrate tightly with your environment and provide granular visibility into traffic flows and interdependencies.
Additionally, it’s essential to find a solution that doesn’t incentivize end users to circumvent security measures, like requiring multiple identity factors and re-authentication. That can create a significant barrier to adoption for remote workers and make the business more vulnerable.
Implement Network Segmentation
A zero trust architecture uses micro-segmentation and network isolation to prevent attackers from spreading laterally once they’ve gained access. Segmentation allows an organization to create policies that dictate who can connect to which assets and services within a specific segment based on the principle of least privilege. This requires granting users and devices access to the bare minimum required to carry out their work, reducing the “blast radius” of collateral damage in case of a breach.
A zero trust architecture also includes controls to ensure that only legitimate data flows between segments. This is accomplished by monitoring inter-segment communications through a segment gateway to verify that the identity, device, and context have been verified before a connection is granted. In addition, a segment gateway can block traffic to and from other parts of the enterprise, including the corporate data center, to further reduce lateral movement should a host be compromised.
This process requires implementing various security technologies, from next-generation firewalls to risk-based multi-factor authentication and robust cloud workload protection. These technologies must be able to combine information from all parts of the IT infrastructure, including the cloud, the network, and endpoints, to identify users and devices, assess their hygiene and risk, determine the correct level of access at that moment in time and then automatically enforce that decision.
Using ZTNA, you can monitor all activity across your applications and resources from a centralized dashboard. This visibility allows you to ensure that every user and device connects only to the most critical areas of your network, limiting any impact in the event of a breach.
In addition, a monitoring solution can detect anomalous behavior and take the appropriate action. This includes requiring additional verification (such as multi-factor authentication) or denying access to a specific user or device in the event of an attempt at brute force or other attacks.
Implementing a zero trust architecture requires a significant time commitment, both in terms of the initial setup and in the ongoing monitoring of your system. It also requires allocating human resources to ensure proper steps are taken to verify users and devices before they gain access to critical business systems.
The good news is that you can speed up the process using a zero trust solution built to work with your existing infrastructure. It should support both managed and unmanaged devices, including BYOD. It should also have the capability to revoke authorization mid-session automatically. This feature ensures your zero trust solution is dynamic and can keep up with your evolving business processes.