Organizations implementing zero trust network access (ZTNA) are reaping the benefits of empowering remote employees to access resources everywhere using any device, allowing them to stay productive no matter where they work. At the same time, these organizations are boosting their security posture by applying zero trust principles to protect their environments.
Organizations with a hybrid work strategy are bringing some workers back to the office, at least part of the time. According to Gartner, “by 2026, 75% of workers will continue to split time between home and traditional office locations.”* It is time to re-evaluate employee access at a broader scope.
In the legacy on-premises world, access was governed by IP addresses. When employees were physically connected on the corporate network, access controls were accomplished with VLAN, WLAN, ports, switches, and firewall rules. Some implemented network admission control (NAC) as a way to limit or block unmanaged devices from communicating with anything on the local network.
Legacy remote access VPN simply extends the concept by virtually placing the employees’ devices onto the corporate network. Because VPN sessions supply remote devices with IP addresses in the local network, the above controls apply here, too. But whether devices are local or remote, IP-based access control lacks the granularity many companies increasingly expect. Broad network access presents a potentially large attack surface.
When the pandemic first hit, organizations quickly realized that remote access VPNs couldn’t easily scale to accommodate the remote access needs of entire workforces that were going remote. Worse, as a public-facing service, VPN concentrators suffered attacks ranging from exploits, DDoS, and intrusion. As a result, organizations started to use cloud-based ZTNA to augment remote access VPN. As they gained familiarity with the tool, they realized improved scalability, flexibility, and security benefits, and began to replace remote access VPNs with ZTNA. Often, ZTNA projects can be the first implementation of an overall zero trust strategy.
Challenges of the hybrid work era
Now, fast forward to the modern hybrid work era, when employees are splitting time between home office (branch of one) and campus locations.
Infrastructure and security teams are discovering that it is not optimal to pay for and manage two sets of access control mechanisms, usually some combination ofZTNA for remote, and various network-based types for local. Multiple sets of policies with dissimilar formats make it challenging, if not impossible, to ensure a consistent enforcement and access experience. Additionally, a multitude of hardware appliances generating reams of logs and reports impedes visibility, making incident investigation difficult.
The security concern of too much access
The bigger worry is that on-premises users now potentially have too much access when they are on site. This poses a significant security concern, especially with coarsely segmented networks.
Our customers began asking, “What if we ditch the traditional network access methods, skip complex network segmentation projects, and leapfrog to ZTNA?” Sending all traffic to the ZTNA solution, even local traffic, confers several advantages. There is only one service to maintain, with uniform policy enforcement, consistent user experience, and the security benefit of application-specific access, eliminating unauthorized lateral movement.
Sending all of your users’ private application traffic through ZTNA is great if your branch offices are “cafe-style” locations with only internet connectivity. However, what about workers at the headquarters, or major campus locations, where you already have local connectivity to the private data centers, or even direct link to the cloud service providers. Users on campus enjoy significant performance benefits that would be hard to ignore.
We already know that harpinning remote users’ traffic through the data center and then back out to the internet for SaaS and web access is a bad idea. In the same way, reverse hairpinning local users’ traffic through the ZTNA provider’s nearest POP and then back the the campus-adjacent data centers is also cumbersome.
Fortunately, there is a better solution.
Introducing ZTNA Anywhere
We are pleased to introduce ZTNA Anywhere with Netskope Private Access. With new campus ZTNA capabilities, customers may deploy Netskope Private Access (NPA) local brokers in their data centers or campus locations. As an integral component of NPA, the local brokers are connected to the Netskope Security Cloud for centralized management, policy enforcement, and reporting. The goal is to keep local traffic local, while enjoying the same flexibility and security benefits a ZTNA solution provides.
As users move between the campus and other remote locations, NPA automatically steers the users’ traffic through the most optimum route.
Benefits of ZTNA Anywhere include:
- Consistent and superior user experience
- Uniform policy enforcement
- Strong security control with enhanced visibility
- Simplified operation with consolidated solution that is easy to deploy, manage and maintain
Legacy access methods and subsequent access control were IP-based. Think about the evolution of telephones, which used to be a “location-based” connectivity technology with fixed phone numbers. If you look at your contacts, there are still fields for home phone numbers, and office numbers.Now, all of these devices have converged into just one smartphone, and the rise of internet-based messaging and communication apps has almost rendered the need for multiple different phone numbers superfluous. ZTNA Anywhere marks a similar evolution from legacy access methods. With ZTNA Anywhere, old, location-based connectivity is a thing of the past.
Hybrid work has converged IT requirements and zero trust strategies to empower successful digital transformation. Now, Netskope marks the next step in ZTNA Anywhere, which delivers the performance, scalability, availability, and resilience that infrastructure teams demand, as well as the visibility, data protection and risk reduction that are priority for the security team.
*Gartner, Top Network Practices to Support Hybrid Work, April 2022 Karen Brown, Andrew Lerner, Mike Toussaint