NAC, SDP, ZTNA & The Future of Access Control

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The Future of Access Control

For over a decade, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been providing businesses with secure access for remote workers and end users. As cyberthreats become more rampant and dangerous, communication and network requirements are continuously changing in response. VPNs have begun to show their limited capabilities as they fail to address various security concerns in this ever-changing landscape.  

The current VPN technology in use today may not be able to modernize and adapt to the evolving security threats of today. As a result, Software-Defined Perimeters (SDP), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and Network Access Control (NAC) come into play. Their collective purpose is like a VPN, but they serve as more comprehensive network security solutions.  

Network Access Control (NAC)

NAC is a technology designed to provide endpoint authentication and network access controls to ensure only authorized devices are granted access to a network. 

Research has demonstrated that NAC and SDP have become essential elements in the development of Zero Trust Networks as they enable monitoring, visibility, and control at the network access layer. Therefore, NAC is a critical foundation for cybersecurity resilience at the access layer. 

Moreover, NAC is a technology that utilizes other core technologies in achieving ZTNA. As a result, NAC vendors should provide easy deployment options and software integration. Although network infrastructure evolvement is rapidly changing, many organizations keep hybrid or legacy environments. NAC can be deployed through both on-prem or virtual appliances.  

Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP)

SDP solutions are designed to apply the principle of least privilege (POLP), and are software-centric rather than hardware based. It is made to conceal network infrastructure so as not to be seen by external parties and attackers. Once the device and the user are authenticated, SDP builds a one-to-one connection between the server and the device. 

To understand how the SDP solution works, think of a door that is always kept locked. Because it is locked, no one can enter the door or even look inside unless the person inside verifies who the person is and what they are doing. When the visitor centers, the person in the house locks the door again. 

Zero Trust Networks Access (ZTNA)

ZTNA is a security solution that provides secure remote access to data and services based on defined access control policies. ZTNA is different from VPN as it only grants authenticated users access to the resources needed to perform their job. and helps to eradicate gaps in other secure remote access methods and technologies. In this way, ZTNA works similarly to SDP as they utilize the concept of a dark cloud to stop users from seeing network resources that they are not authorized to access.  

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