What is the Zero Trust Model in Comparison to a VPN?

December 13, 2022

Today, perimeter security is a secondary concern as companies replace on-premise resources with cloud-hosted solutions. In addition, on-demand workforces and B2B collaboration require granting access to non-employees. Moreover, BYOD policies are increasing in popularity, giving system administrators less control over connected devices. As a result, VPN technology has reached a critical point. The biggest drawback is that it is not scalable. Adding additional gateways is a costly fix and increases the maintenance burden. Read on to learn more about What is the Zero Trust Model in Comparison to a VPN?.


The Zero Trust Network Architecture (ZTNA) uses granular, adaptive, and context-aware rules to provide seamless, safe Zero Trust access to private apps and data. These rules are based on a user’s identity, location, the type of service, and device security posture.

ZTNA addresses the major challenges associated with traditional VPNs. It provides a more user-friendly interface, allows for faster onboarding, and enforces application-specific policies. It eliminates complex management and configuration, and automatically creates secure connections on demand.

ZTNA also helps prevent credential stuffing attacks. By leveraging the principle of least privilege, it gives users granular access based on defined permissions and roles. During the global pandemic, 88% of companies have moved employees to remote work locations. As a result, VPN usage has increased. By 2027, the market for VPNs expected to grow to $107.5 billion.

Despite its advantages, ZTNA is not a perfect solution for all situations. Companies that have legacy systems or corporate networks might find it difficult to transition to a zero-trust environment. Nonetheless, ZTNA provides a starting point for organisations to move towards a more secure infrastructure. Instead of relying on the network perimeter, it focuses on network and application access.

ZTNA also offers flexibility. Traditional VPNs require that specific devices configured for the connections to function. However, ZTNA does not require the installation of any software on users’ devices. This makes it easier for external partners to connect. It also supports multiple protocols.

Zero Trust Network Access is a growing trend for organizations. This model provides secure access and enables zero trust access to applications. Its advantages include the ability to segment networks according to user roles, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities and zero-day attacks. Zero Trust Network Access also allows organizations to migrate quickly from their existing data centers to the cloud while minimizing user impact. This makes it possible for IT teams to streamline their security policies and reduce the amount of work needed to support the migration.

ZTNA provides a better security model than a traditional VPN. Unlike a VPN, ZTNA does not offer inline inspection of user traffic. This limits the potential security risks associated with credential stuffing attacks. In addition, it requires tighter security controls, ensuring that users cannot gain access to corporate data unless they’re authenticated by their identities.


SDP is a type of secure protocol that works by encrypting data at both ends of a network connection. This prevents unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information. It also limits lateral movement if a threat actor penetrates the network. This technology also checks the security of each device before connecting.

SDP reduces the attack surface, which means better protection for cloud applications and users. It also gives business owners greater centralized control and visibility into all authorized connections. This helps reduce the cost of ownership of network infrastructure. This technology also enables automatic redirection of user traffic, allowing greater consolidation of the inbound stack.

SDP also eliminates the need for Firewalls and ACLs. SDP routes users to the application, rather than to a remote location. With its centralized policy engine, SDP also allows for least-privilege access policies to enforced. It also removes the position of advantage granted by an IP address, which allows for implicit trust.

While traditional VPNs are an essential part of a network infrastructure, SDP and ZTNA technologies offer more innovative ways to secure the network. The newer zero-trust security approach designed to plug the gaps left by traditional approaches. By enforcing zero-trust principles, SDP offers more secure remote access compared to a VPN.

However, while VPNs are still an important security solution for corporate networks, SDP offers a better user experience. If the network modernized, the benefits of new technologies will realize. VPNs will remain a useful tool, but SDP will enhance the access experience and fully leverage the mobile workforce.

Another advantage of SDP is that it can provide multi-cloud connectivity. VPNs are not easily scalable for this. In addition to connecting to different resources, users must switch between VPN clients. SDP architecture also supports multi-app multi-cloud connectivity, allowing users to open concurrent encrypted tunnels across multiple public clouds.

ZTNA is a more stringent approach to network security. It focuses on trust rather than privilege. Zero-trust network access minimizes the risk of data breaches and cyber threats. It also protects against network vulnerabilities.


While the RDP zero-trust model may be convenient, it can be a security risk. It lacks the control and monitoring that VPNs offer, and it allows third parties access to an organization’s network. However, the security risks not limited to VPNs. Third-party access solutions may also be superior to VPNs and RDP software.

Zero-trust network access (ZTP) combines a zero-trust approach to security with adaptive access based on assessments. It allows administrators to grant only those users or devices who need access to internal applications, minimizing risks related to data breaches and cyber threats. While this model is not as intuitive as VPNs, more zero-trust projects are expected to pop up as more organizations begin addressing these risks.

Another important difference between the two approaches is how users access the network. A VPN uses a central gateway to secure its connections, while a zero-trust model lets users access the network only from their own devices. This means that the RDP zero-trust model may be more appropriate for small businesses.

While ZTNA is a great alternative to traditional VPNs, it lacks the granular security and seamless user experience that VPNs provide. It also offers the added benefits of greater security controls during an RDP session. RDP is vulnerable to attacks due to its exposed default ports, lack of support for multi-factor authentication, and broad network access. Attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to access resources and pretend to be a trusted RDP user.

Zero-trust models can implement gradually to protect sensitive resources. A business can start with less critical resources, build up the infrastructure, and then use lessons learned to protect more sensitive resources. The Secure perimeter model originally developed when companies maintained a fixed perimeter and fewer employees worked remotely.

Zero-trust architectures can reduce the risk of security breaches, cyber attacks, and insider threats. A recent IBM report found that a cyber security breach costs an average of $4 million. However, a zero-trust network is not a band-aid. Rather, it is a strategy aimed at tackling the security gaps left by traditional security models.

Zero Trust Model and VPN

When it comes to securing your network, the zero-trust model can help companies better meet their needs. While traditional VPNs authenticate users once, then leave them on the network, zero-trust solutions continuously validate users, and only allow access to applications that authorized by the user. Zero-trust model and VPN also require users to create profiles. This is important for multiple reasons. For instance, mobile developers may need different authentication and access levels than finance users, and vice versa.

The zero-trust model differs from a traditional VPN model in many ways. While traditional VPNs grant total trust to users who enter the network perimeter, zero-trust VPNs perform continuous authorization checks on users and devices. This helps identify and prevent anomalous behavior. Zero-trust VPNs also prevent complete network access for unauthorized users, limiting access to only applications and content required by their job role.

Zero-trust networks are increasingly becoming the preferred choice for secure networking. They provide more protection from malware, data leaks, and other attacks than traditional VPNs. However, they do not guarantee the same level of security. To make the most of zero-trust networks, businesses should be aware of the security and privacy risks associated with them. By utilizing both zero-trust and VPN tools simultaneously, companies can reap the benefits of both.

VPNs originally created as an internet-based wide-area networking solution. They were more cost-effective than leased line services and created an encrypted tunnel between two locations. Over time, the VPN gateway evolved into a path for employees in remote locations to access the company network. They also allow organizations to use different authentication methods on each device.

Besides ensuring that users don’t share passwords with each other, zero-trust models are also more secure because they limit the attack surface. Zero-trust VPNs also use multi-factor authentication, which makes it harder for scammers to gain access to the network. If a VPN can provide such a high level of security, it can greatly reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.

Although there are many advantages of using a VPN, it has several drawbacks. One of the major drawbacks is that it requires more complex and expensive network infrastructure. It also has limited scalability and deployability.

Ammar Fakhruddin


Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.

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