What Are the Top Use Cases for ZTNA?


By: Mary Jander

The importance of security has significantly increased as enterprises and network providers adopt software-defined network functions and a diverse set of end-user applications. These trends extend the security surface area, necessitating advanced architectures or models to maintain the network's integrity. To cope, a growing number of communication service providers and enterprises are embracing the Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) approach to proactively identify and thwart malicious activities prior to their entry into the network.

Let’s review the basics of ZTNA and its use cases.

What Is ZTNA?

ZTNA is a security model that requires strict identity verification and access control protocols for every user, device, and application, regardless of whether they are within or outside the network perimeter. The ZTNA model operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” It assumes that no user, device, or application can be granted access to resources until they have been verified, authenticated, and authorized.

In a ZTNA model, access to resources is granted based on a user's identity, device, location, and other contextual factors, rather than simply via a password and/or network location. ZTNA uses a variety of technologies such as multifactor authentication, encryption, micro-segmentation, and least privilege access control to enforce access policies.

The ZTNA model is designed to protect against modern cyber threats such as insider attacks, advanced persistent threats, and data exfiltration. By adopting a ZTNA model, organizations can significantly reduce their attack surface, improve their security posture, and achieve better visibility and control over network access.

ZTNA is a highly effective security model that provides a comprehensive and proactive approach to network security, making it a popular choice for many organizations looking to strengthen their security posture.

Use Cases Supported by ZTNA

1. Remote Access

    The security of remote employees became a significant concern in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Security administrators realized that their edge security products do not provide any benefit to remote workers who access public and private cloud resources directly via the Internet. Additionally, traditional solutions such as virtual private networks (VPNs) or virtual desktop infrastructure technologies can be inefficient and burdensome for remote workers. And available bandwidth and latency can be a frequently overlooked issue.

    In this context, ZTNA is a compelling alternative as it does not mandate users to connect to the corporate network before accessing services. And the ZTNA approach enables a remote workforce to securely access only the necessary applications and data required for productivity, providing IT teams with the assurance of secure operations.

    2. Multicloud Environments

    Leveraging multiple private, public, and hybrid clouds for enterprise applications can effectively reduce expenses, enhance agility, and expedite digital transformation. However, adopting a multicloud approach also brings complexity and increased management overhead, potentially exposing organizations to vulnerabilities and risks.

    ZTNA can help to ensure secure access to applications and services that are distributed across multiple cloud environments, regardless of where the user or resource is located. Thus, it can help to improve security and reduce the risk of data breaches while also enabling greater flexibility and agility for organizations that are leveraging a multicloud strategy.

    3. VPN Replacement

    VPNs were traditionally used for remote employee access to applications located behind a company's firewall. However, with the rise of remote work, companies are seeking solutions better suited for widespread, distributed remote access.

    ZTNA offers several advantages over VPNs, the foremost being improved scalability. As the number of remote users increases, VPN traffic is backhauled, resulting in latency and suboptimal user experience. Since many VPN solutions are appliance-based, increasing resources can be time-consuming and can add to IT management workloads.

    ZTNA is also more secure than VPNs. A user with VPN access gains access to the entire network, whereas ZTNA allows the user access only to specific applications based on the user's role, location, device, and/or other factors. This prevents overprovisioning of privileges and access, reducing overall security risks. ZTNA can also apply data loss prevention (DLP) and real-time malware scanning of data in motion to and from private web applications.

    4. SaaS Applications

    Security of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications can be ensured with ZTNA methodologies in different ways. First, ZTNA solutions allow users to access SaaS applications only after successful authentication and authorization. This helps prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to sensitive data.

    Second, ZTNA solutions can provide granular access controls that limit user access to specific SaaS applications or data based on factors such as user role, location, or device. This helps prevent overprovisioning of privileges and access, reducing the risk of data breaches.

    Third, as with data from private web apps, ZTNA can apply DLP and real-time malware scanning of data in motion to and from SaaS applications, ensuring that sensitive data is protected and not exposed to cyber threats.