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Zero Trust as the ideal VPN Replacement Solution

The VPN might be the go-to choice for a lot of companies and people at a given point of time. However, its golden days are long gone, and the concept of VPN is being replaced by Zero Trust, which is rapidly emerging as a stable, suitable VPN replacement solution.

Enterprises are moving to an agile, granular security framework, also known as Zero Trust, which is emerging as the preferred choice for organizations. VPNs are a part of the larger security strategy, which is loosely based on the concept of a network perimeter, and they operate within this radius.

In an ideal situation, the organization’s internal employees are on the inside while untrusted employees continue to remain on the other side of the perimeter. However, this model is no longer a feasible modern business setup, where different internal and external employees can access the organizational network from different locations, which are not limited to the internal network areas only.

Deciphering the downsides of the traditional VPN systems

In simple words, the VPN is not built to work in isolation and can’t be adjusted to meet the security needs of modern enterprises. Even though VPNs do a relatively good job of remote connectivity, they lack majorly on user experience and performance. These legacy systems have their own level of security challenges, which don’t restrict access to specific applications, as the case should be.

Add the cost of enabling VPN hardware and client software to the list of drawbacks, and you would begin to cringe from the mention of VPNs within the software world. They have their own set of challenges from a deployment perspective and new software installations can be a task in itself when VPNs are in play. Imagine having to do all these tasks in the current pandemic situation, wherein organizations have almost 80% of their staff working remotely.

Cost is an important factor for enterprises, and IT teams can’t be involved around the clock when it comes to monitoring the security of internal networks.

Welcome the new sheriff in town – Zero Trust Networks

As data breaches become the new age regularities, perimeter-based security models are becoming a thing of the past. Applications and users have become distributed, which is making the use of such security models more or less redundant.

The Zero Trust model is everything its name looks and sounds like – trust no one and verify everyone. Gone are the days when everything behind the corporate firewall was considered to be safe, and breaches were not that common. As the ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) is applied, every access request is scrutinized, authenticated and encrypted, before the access request is approved.

With the advent of Covid-19, all the drawbacks and shortcomings of the VPN model were exposed, thereby pushing more than 60% organizations worldwide towards the implementation of the ZTNA model.

Why is ZTNA an ideal replacement for the legacy models of VPNs?

Since the users are distributed, and the applications are no longer housed within one place only, we need to move the security perimeters with the users. With factors like mobile working, outsourcing, mergers and cloud applications coming into the picture, it’s time to move from old architectures to software-defined perimeters.

Software-Defined Perimeters or SDP is a technology, which provides confidential, secure remote access enterprise applications behind the corporate firewalls. This architecture acts as an intermediary between the user and the application, and grants secure remote access to any application, from any location. Earlier, since everything was concentrated on giving the users access to the data centre; however, with the paradigm shift, users only get access to what they need.

Instead of fixing the data centre in the middle, the user plays a pivotal role as it enables a software-defined perimeter which always follows the user’s device location always. For the user, it’s a “flat” network and it does not matter where the resources are located. With the implementation of the ZTNA, everything remains invisible, until the user requests access to a particular application in need.

This level of granularity isn’t overkill, as it might seem to be. This process needs to be followed to ensure data protection since the cloud migration and employee mobility makes the perimeter security a big challenge.

Even though VPNs might have joined the legacy bandwagon, they can’t be done away with completely. SDPs might have become an integral part of the security puzzle, but the VPN continues to remain a critical part of an enterprise’s structure. On the contrary, SDPs are extremely scalable, since they are a cloud-native platform. Additionally, these allow benefits to be leveraged across multiple platforms and applications, thereby reducing complexity and overhead management costs.

Benefits of SDPs, which make it a must-have security hack

There are four benefits of SDPs, which encapsulate the very essence of network security. 

  • User centricity: Since the SDP relies on the user entirely, it is designed to authenticate the user’s identity, before granting access. This means the network authorizer will know all possible details about the requestor like user’s context, permissions, location and device security.
  • Granularity: The granularity levels within the SDP create a secure one-to-one network segment, which keeps unauthorized people out of the immediate premises.
  • Adaptative: SDPs are widely known to be adaptable as they are designed to real-time changes and can adjust access permissions dynamically.
  • Extensible and scalable: SDPs are built like the cloud and for the cloud. It is designed to integrate with internal operational systems and applies security policies, within the cloud and on-premise applications.

 

Conclusion

While ZTNA has a one-up over VPNs, chances are there will be issues which can’t be solved in the near future. Some issues include providing easy access for multiple people in the same site, or connecting devices that can’t support a client. On the contrary, since network security is paramount, it is often regarded as the most important aspect and is given precedence over all the prevailing issues one might be facing on an enterprise level.

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