Network based systems

What is a zero trust network and how does it protect your data?

VPNs are now an integral part of standard operating procedures for every business. VPNs effectively hide your identity during online activities; However, the use of these software applications nowadays has many drawbacks.

Over 1,000 VPN servers operated by Pulse Secure were hacked in 2020, leaving critical data like IP addresses and administration details exposed to the world. Given the situation, it is high time that businesses started to consider alternatives such as Zero Trust models, which offer many more features than a legacy VPN model.

Disadvantages of traditional VPN systems

VPNs date back to 1996, when the internet was a privilege and cybersecurity was naturally not as sophisticated. But there are many vulnerabilities that require advanced methods of data protection.

VPNs work by transporting users’ information through a data center and then connecting them to corporate resources. This data center becomes a treasure chest for hackers as it constantly receives sensitive user data and corporate data repositories.

Many VPN attacks target vulnerabilities in VPN data centers to hack layers of data, all at once.

This traditional software can disrupt a company’s workflow due to its poor performance. Depending on the VPN client you choose, you may see a significant increase in load times, due to increased network latency.

The cost of using a VPN client is on top of its existing list of disadvantages. VPNs have their own challenges when it comes to installing them on a network. The facility is manageable when employees work in well-kept company premises.

Related: Do You Need a VPN to Keep Your Internet Activity Private and Safe?

As working from home has become a new normal, installing VPNs in wide area networks has become a huge task in itself.

If you plan to scale your business, you need to invest in scaling every component of a VPN network to scale your business. This includes adding bandwidth, increasing security measures, investing in expensive VPN clients, and more.

What are Zero Trust Networks?

Zero Trust networks prioritize a company’s online security by eliminating the concept of a trusted user.

The network authenticates each incoming request for access to corporate resources and places them in a secure bubble by limiting access to the resources they really need. The Zero Trust approach ensures that the centralized data vault is protected at all times, even if a remote user is compromised.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) also hides all URLs and hides sensitive data in addition to the secure environment.

ZTNA finds patterns in user behavior to report any erratic action, especially when suspicious activity takes place. It combines essential user data, such as location and user behavior, with algorithms to record all the information needed for future use.

Related: 5 Times Brute Force Attacks Lead To Huge Security Breaches

ZTNA: an ideal replacement for VPNs?

VPNs use a one-dimensional approach to provide online protection to their customers. Zero Trust, on the other hand, uses a multidimensional approach by adding multiple layers of security.

Businesses are constantly moving towards cloud computing. Legacy security solutions cannot always cope with such evolving demands, and the use of a dynamic security solution like ZTNA becomes even more essential.

A software-defined perimeter (SDP) ensures that users gain confidential and secure remote access to corporate applications with the firewall in action. SDP acts as an intermediary between the user and corporate resources, and provides secure remote access to a user from any location.

While VPNs typically hand all access to every employee on the network, SDPs do not. The latter only gives users access to what they need.

Nothing changes in terms of user experience, but ZTNA makes sure everything remains invisible unless the user requests a particular resource.

ZTNA operates on the following principles:

1. Revisit all default access controls: ZTNA ensures that every connection request is carefully monitored, within the company and even outside the network perimeters.

2. Use of preventive techniques: Unlike legacy solutions, ZTNA adds measures such as multi-factor authentication, least privilege access, and user behavior monitoring.

3. Using real-time monitoring: Real-time monitoring is an essential part of the ZTNA model. It sends an alarm and reacts immediately to a first breach.

4. Safety at the heart of business practices: ZTNA offers a 360 degree approach to security strategies using multidimensional security standards.

While VPNs have quite a few downsides, you can’t throw them away completely. SDPs have a head start in ensuring online security, but they are often complex and difficult to manage.

Going forward, VPNs remain a great option for small businesses that can’t afford to invest in SDPs. VPNs dramatically reduce complexity and management overhead.

Benefits of SDPs

There are many advantages to using an SDP. Let’s take a look at some of its main offerings.

User centric

SDPs are designed to be user-centric and authorize each user before granting them internal access. They record every piece of information including user context, permissions, location, etc. These recorded data even make it possible to differentiate normal user behavior from erratic one.

Granularity

SDPs maintain high levels of granularity to create a secure one-to-one network segment. It helps keep any unauthorized requests out of company servers.

Adaptive

SDPs are dynamic and highly adaptable to changing network demands. They monitor changes in real time and adapt accordingly.

Extensible and scalable

SDPs are great for the cloud and cloud-based businesses. They can integrate with internal operational systems and implement security settings within the cloud-based network.

Implement Zero Trust Networks Within Your Organization

The hack on Pulse Secure VPN servers shows the need to regularly upgrade security systems. ZTNA enjoys an advantage over legacy solutions like VPNs, given its modernist approaches and multi-layered security settings.

The implementation of ZTNA requires skilled professionals, given its complexity and complicated nature. But VPNs aren’t a bad option for small businesses because they work with fewer network elements.


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