Zero trust implementation is critical for protecting enterprise WANs with third-party vendors and an expanding attack surface
Hotel managers don’t give guests a master key that grants access to every room in the building. So, why should network administrators give users access to every part of their network? Much like how a guest’s identity is verified via key card anytime they want to enter their room, the pool, or the gym, authenticating users first and providing access to only necessary resources can significantly minimize the risk of a data breach.
This limited-access approach to network security is known as zero trust — a security architecture built on the assumption that anyone trying to access a network is a bad actor. Zero trust principles improve network security by eliminating risky default access, reducing lateral movement, and connecting users to specific resources instead of broad network segments.
Although traditional Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) securely connect users with perimeter-based security, firewall policies may enable broad network access, meaning threat actors can move laterally once they enter the network. As businesses add 5G to their wide-area network (WAN) infrastructure and more users and resources exist outside the traditional network perimeter, VPN technology isn’t meeting enterprise expectations.
Let’s explore what zero trust implementation means for modern-day business and the various factors to consider before deploying a zero trust solution.
Explore Cradlepoint's Secure Connect webpage to discover how a VPN replacement can benefit your business and our ZTNA webpage to learn how adopting zero trust principles for remote access can improve network security.
Why is zero trust implementation important for enterprise organizations?
Enterprises are evolving and connecting new devices that haven't been on the network before. Wireless WANs with cellular technology make it possible to connect vehicles, remote branches, and IoT devices. These changes mean businesses must re-evaluate their security strategies to protect their data, devices, and corporate assets. Improving and simplifying network security enables IT teams to invest more time in other aspects of their job, including innovation.
The practice of replacing implicit trust with identity- and context-based trust is extremely powerful, which many enterprises already recognize. An estimated 60% of businesses will embrace zero trust as a starting point for security by 2025, according to Gartner.
Zero trust network infrastructure provides secure communication between sites, vehicles, devices, applications, users, and the cloud using site-to-site encryption and remote access functions. It also means administrators can build granular policies, eliminate risky default access, hide IP addresses, and allow isolated user-to-resource access to limit lateral movement.
Determining the scope and attributes of your zero trust network requires a closer look at what the future holds for your business — whether that means network expansion or adding IoT and mobile devices to your network.
What to consider when determining how zero trust networking fits your business
Many businesses are taking advantage of 5G’s agility by using cellular-enabled routers to deploy and connect more devices in stores, offices, vehicles, and IoT scenarios. And anytime more devices are added to a WAN, the attack surface grows.
This ongoing edge expansion means networks must be easy to configure, manage, and troubleshoot, but simplicity goes out the window if WAN and security management are housed on different platforms. Combining zero trust security with a 5G SD-WAN solution in a single, cloud-based management system improves scalability, enhances WAN resiliency, and allows for efficient traffic optimization.
User access from anywhere
Often IT users and third-party contractors need access to specific parts of a network, which can pose significant cybersecurity risks. For example, let’s say a third-party consultant needs access to monitor a smart city’s traffic cameras that operate on a large, shared network segment. If the consultant is given broad access to the city network, other segments of the network are now at risk.
Managing user-to-resource (or IoT) connections requires a ZTNA solution that extends certain parts of the network to third party contractors and IT users who needs access to specific resources, preventing them from accessing data on the main network — or explore the hotel, so to speak. In the smart city example, ZTNA would establish an isolated connection between the third-party consultant and the video cameras.
What steps should an enterprise take when choosing a zero trust system?
Define your use case
Narrowing down your use case portfolio and the challenges within it will help determine what type of solution your organization needs. For example, enterprises must distinguish between site-to-site or remote access use cases. This could be anything from connecting IoT devices, vehicles, kiosks, retail outlets, and more. Or it could mean providing secure remote access functions to internal or third-party users. Zeroing in on the use case will make a difference when looking for a solution to best fit the needs of your business.
Determine a solution for your specific use case
Using cellular and wired broadband connections, businesses are expanding across distributed sites. Simultaneously, data centers are being replaced by cloud-hosted applications. With all this change in network architecture, establishing and configuring a 5G zero trust environment is important, but minimizing complexity is critical. To simplify deployment and management, a solution should:
- Use a unified approach that combines next-gen zero trust principles with 5G optimized SD-WAN to improve Quality of Experience (QoE) over wireless and hybrid WANs.
- Build a secure end-to-end zero trust network through a single platform, replacing traditional cumbersome VPNs.
- Ensure features such as automation, intuitive orchestration, and name-based routing are included as part of the offering.
- Extend secure, isolated user-to-resource access to third party contractors and IT users.
- Provide lean IT staff with real-time visibility and control of user-based access policies and all WAN networking and security events through a single pane of glass.