What is Zero Trust Network Access?

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When it comes to network security, things can get complicated in our businesses.  After all, when we put more stringent methods in place, employees often end up complaining or getting quite upset by things like multi-factor authentication.  However, in the long term it is quite important for maintaining safety in the digital world.

You might be wondering what network security is in the first place, since it’s hard to understand a zero-trust system without that knowledge beforehand.  I would recommend some additional reading, such as this page, before getting too involved.  That being said, for more details on how this sort of process works, stick around!

The Basics: Network Security

If you didn’t know, most computer systems operate on a network and/or a server.  Inherently, they are not protected by anything other than perhaps a basic password or identification process, if you so create one.  When it comes to protecting them, there are a variety of rules, regulations, and procedures that we can implement.

What are we looking to prevent, though?  Largely, misuse, modifications, unauthorized access, and inability to get to certain resources within the network.  What we’re protecting with these measures is usually data, be that company or customer information that is sensitive.  It might include credit card numbers, or even personal identifying information.

Network Security

What is Involved

When it comes to cybersecurity, there are few methods we might employ.  One such is zero trust network access, though it is not the only one out there.  I’ll start with explaining more traditional techniques first, though they are not always as effective.

Unfortunately, as hackers and other threats to our virtual safety get more advanced, so must we.  When rising to the challenge across the years, the main purpose of a system like this is to prevent any unauthorized users from accessing your servers.  Thus, an authorization and authentication measure should be put in place.

Usually, the first step is to assign all users a username or ID of some sort, and then a password.  It’s best to let the users create their own password especially, though having some basic rules in place isn’t a bad idea either.  While you don’t want to make things too hard on employees or consumers, guidelines like requiring a variety of character types and numbers in a passcode can greatly increase their own levels of safety as well as your own.

Now, for two-factor authentication, there will be that username and password, but also another sort of proof or token that it’s really the correct user behind the screen.  This could be a phone application that a code is sent to, or an email address.  The methods vary, but all accomplish the same result –a higher level of safety.

Something else you can use is called a firewall, though you should note it is not a catch-all.  Some complex viruses like trojan horses can sneak through them if you are not careful, so it’s best to put multiple measures in place at once.  You can read more on that type of virus in this article: https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA465587.pdf.

An anti-virus program will be more efficient at catching those, of course.  Add on another type of detector like an anomaly-based intrusion one, and you’ll find even more and prevent any breaches.

What is Zero-Trust, then?

As the name suggests, it means that there is no implicit trust afforded to any user.  They must authenticate their identity at each step of the sign in process at the least.  Sometimes, additional verification is also required.  While it might seem like a hassle, it’s a way to protect yourself and your business from outside threats and internal ones. 

At its core, it this type of architecture in a network will assume that there is already a breach in security.  Thus, anyone looking to access must prove themselves accordingly.  This includes anyone who is nearby, as well, since that is no guarantee that they are not a risk.

The final thing I would like to touch upon here is that if a threat is able to breach into the network, a zero-trust system can lock them out and prevent them from wreaking further havoc.  This is done by limiting any access they might have. 

Why You Need to Care

It might not seem particularly relevant if you’ve already got some sort of security infrastructure but given recent executive orders and laws that have been put in place, it’s more worth it than ever to at least turn our attention to this type.  Hopefully, making a shift is not too difficult.

Really, it should not be.  Convincing personnel might be a challenge, but it will work out in the end.  The goal is the safety of all data that passes through our networks, so we should do whatever we can to maintain that.

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