Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

December 10, 2022

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a security technology that prevents users from using unauthorized network resources. It can be context-aware, considering factors such as the time of day or geographic location. This approach has some important implications. First, no user trusted – regardless of their role, workload, or session origin – because each new flow will evaluate afresh. In other words, the previous flow between User A and User B may have compromised or the policy may have changed.

Service-based ZTNA

Zero trust network access (ZTNA) is a security strategy that enforces granular and adaptive policies to limit network access for specific named entities. It protects applications and data by removing them from public view and limiting access to authorized entities. It reduces the attack surface of a network and prevents lateral movement of threats.

The ZTNA implementation process involves mapping information access pathways. It is important to decide which elements will be accessible to users, who will have access to them, and when they will be able to access them. Organizations may want to launch the initial ZTNA elements with a soft launch for IT administrators and selected user groups before branching out to other users.

The first step is to authenticate users. ZTNA uses role-based access controls to link a user’s identity to a set of roles. This ensures that only users with legitimate needs can access a network. By limiting network access to only users who have the right to access the network, organizations can minimize the risks of third-party attacks.

Increasing use of cloud-based applications and data means more organizations will need ZTNA services. These services provide faster and more secure access to sensitive data, and are easy to manage. Cloud-based privileged access management (PAM) systems can monitor login requests and alert IT administrators to suspicious activity. Cloud-based directories, such as JumpCloud, can also provide IT managers with a bird’s-eye view of activities on their networks.

Unlike traditional firewalls, ZTNA solutions only allow users access to the resources they need. These solutions also offer additional security benefits such as multi-factor authentication and single sign-on, which help to minimize the risks of cyberattacks. By implementing these technologies, organizations can create a secure perimeter and divide the corporate network into multiple micro-segments, each with its own set of permissions.

Service-based ZTNA implements a ‘dark cloud’ concept that protects the security of their network from direct access from unauthorized parties. A ZTNA service can installed on managed or unmanaged devices. These devices can then authenticate using a user’s identity management product. Once authenticated, the service establishes a connection to the network and any required applications. Service-based ZTNA is best suited for corporate and BYOD applications.

Identity-based access

Identity-based access is an integral part of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). ZTA leverages business-defined policies to enforce access controls. Identity-based access enables enterprises to grant appropriate access to specific users and resources based on their identity. Its underlying principle is to link identity to context, which contributes new layers of validation to user identification. Identity-based access solutions offer a flexible and scalable way to authenticate users and grant access to their resources.

Identity-based access helps enterprises improve security and reduce risks. The concept of identity-based Zero Trust leverages advanced technologies to verify user identity and system access, and ensures the hygiene of assets. In addition, it reduces the load on security operations center analysts, enabling organizations to implement Zero Trust network access faster and in phases.

Initially, Zero Trust solutions implemented primarily at the network layer. The networking infrastructure re-engineered to break it into multiple microperimeters to eliminate implicit trust. In the next stage, Identity-based Zero Trust will focus on the identity layer and evaluate the user’s trust to access enterprise resources. Identity-based zero trust is critical to achieving Zero Trust.

Identity-based zero trust networks use network segmentation rules and risk-based authentication policies to enforce access control. They can offer more granularity and risk detection than traditional models. Users’ identity assumed to compromised until it proved otherwise. Once validated, a user’s identity considered trusted for a particular resource access only.

Zero Trust networks prioritize security and lockdown access until an entity verifies the identity of the user. This limits the potential damage from breaches. Furthermore, it helps organizations enhance their security posture. Zero Trust also improves productivity. It makes it easier to identify suspicious activity, as Zero Trust networks can perform risk analysis at each entry point or access request.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) enables organizations to implement location-based access control policies, and is a good alternative to IP-based access control. Its key advantage is that it allows organizations to implement location and device-specific access control policies, thereby eliminating the problem of unpatched devices. It can also reduce the complexity of managing BYOD remote users.

Least privileged controlled access

Implementing least privilege controls for network access can help reduce security threats by restricting user access based on their role. This method uses strong authentication and segmentation to prevent unauthorized access and allow administrators to control the privileged access levels of individual users. Once users authenticated, their access requests can approve or denied.

Least privilege access limits network access to the minimal number of users that need access to the resources and services. This approach ensures that each user can only access the data they need. For example, Dave would not want Melissa to have access to his confidential documents, so he limits her access.

Zero trust frameworks designed to ensure the integrity of data and prevent unauthorized access to systems. This approach requires organizations to verify every connection. Zero trust solutions built on a cloud-native platform that combines access policy management, compliance assessment, and integration with existing IAM.

Zero trust requires strict policies for all accounts, including those used for programmatic access. Typically, service accounts should have very limited privileges and be known for certain behaviors. Overly-permitted service accounts allowed attackers to move around the network and use it for malicious purposes. Zero trust also limits the access paths of attackers.

Zero trust network access solutions must tightly integrate with identity management systems to implement least privilege consistently across an organization. They should identify and manage user identities, assign them to appropriate zones of control, and monitor them on and off the network. Zero trust network access solutions should also be able to identify and restrict resources according to user roles. This means that only the resources that are necessary to perform their jobs should be accessible to users.

Zero trust is like least privileged access in that both emphasize the need for control. It eliminates the need for implicit trust and allows users to gain the least privilege possible. Zero trust also helps reduce the attack surface, improve audit visibility, and reduce complexity and cost.

Ammar Fakhruddin

ABOUT AUTHOR

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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