Zero Trust Network Access is a security framework that requires all users and devices to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data.
This approach emerged in response to innovations that have made network perimeters less relevant as organizations move toward Cloud resources, web applications, and work-from-anywhere models.
1. User Authentication
User authentication ensures that users are who they say they are and are authorized to access information. It is a crucial step in keeping cybercriminals from gaining access to sensitive information on your network.
Traditional networks typically allow users to connect directly to servers and systems without much restriction. The zero-trust network access model is designed to remove this granting of free reign by requiring users to authenticate and authorize access to every system before they can establish a connection.
To authenticate users, security teams often use multi-factor authentication (MFA) processes that require users to supply more than just a password to confirm their identity and authorization. This can be done through tokens, one-time passcodes, biometric data, or other methods of proving their identity.
This is especially important in environments where users are working remotely and BYOD. It also helps mitigate the risk of stolen credentials that can be used to gain unauthorized access to corporate resources.
The zero trust model relies on segmentation by least privilege to ensure that users only have access to the information and applications they need to perform their jobs. It can be achieved through application-layer or network-layer segmentation. Usually, both approaches are used together in an integrated way to provide the best protection and visibility for your organization’s infrastructure.
2. Device Authentication
Security is crucial for business success in today’s cloud-first, mobile and distributed environments. This is especially true for enterprises with a large remote workforce, as productivity depends on secure, reliable access to applications, services and data from any device.
Passwords are the most common authentication method, but they’re prone to phishing and theft, requiring strong encryption. Device authentication can be based on biometrics such as fingerprints, retinal scans and face recognition to strengthen passwords and reduce attack surfaces.
Microsegmentation is another core element of Zero Trust, separating various workloads within the network to limit their direct access. This ensures that users can only access the necessary resources without exposing the network to unwanted traffic.
Device Authentication is also essential for Zero Trust networks, as it prevents unauthorized devices from connecting to the network and gaining access to sensitive information. It requires strict controls on device access and activity monitoring to assess whether the device is authorized or has been compromised.
As more employees bring their own devices (BYOD) to the workplace, identity authentication becomes more complex, creating a larger attack surface and increasing risk. Zero Trust approaches can mitigate this risk by blending multiple technologies, including Multi-Factor Authentication, Identity and Access Management, orchestration, analytics, encryption, scoring, file system permissions, and more.
3. Network Segmentation
Network segmentation is a critical element of any Zero-Trust network. It logically separates network data, applications, assets, and services so that you can implement the security policies necessary to protect each micro-segment.
Unlike traditional perimeter-based segmentation, network segmentation allows for much more specific and fine-grained security policies. For example, it limits access to only resources that should be accessible to a user or application. It also lets you control user permissions for sensitive data by storing it within a segment so only authorized users can access it.
However, network segmentation can be complex to manage. You need to ensure that it doesn’t negatively impact your overall network performance, and you need to monitor and audit the security of your network as your business evolves.
For a successful network segmentation plan, you need tools that will automate parts of the process and provide visibility into your networks. As with any network security strategy, it’s important to remember that the best protection against unauthorized traffic is a well-defined and adequately implemented security policy. To keep your network protected, you must continually monitor and audit the security of your network to identify any gaps in the architecture that could be exploited.
4. End-to-End Encryption
End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) is a form of encryption that protects data as it moves across the network. It enables users to securely send emails, messages, files, documents, and more without risking the security of that information to others.
When sending an encrypted message, the user puts it in a secure wrapper that no one but the recipient can decrypt. This is akin to sending a letter in an envelope that is locked with a key that only the person who mailed it can open.
This is called end-to-end encryption because it prevents anyone from intercepting your data from device to device. For example, Apple encrypts data sent to someone else via their iPhone before it leaves the user’s device and only decodes that data once it arrives at the other person’s smartphone.
This ensures that if a hacker intercepts a message on its way to someone, they can only decrypt it or read it if they have the required private keys. Moreover, even if they do, it is impossible to tamper with that message. Because of this, end-to-end encryption is one of the most effective ways to protect your privacy. It is also a cost-effective way to ensure that your data is protected everywhere it goes.