Examining the Shortcomings of Fortinet NAC (FortiNAC)

What are the shortcomings of Fortinet NAC?

Fortinet Network Access Control (NAC) is a network security solution designed to control and manage access to your organization's network. While it offers several benefits, it also has some shortcomings that you should be aware of:

  • Complexity and Deployment Challenges: Implementing Fortinet NAC can be complex, especially in larger network environments. Configuring and deploying the solution may require expertise and careful planning.
  • Integration Issues: Fortinet NAC may not seamlessly integrate with all existing network infrastructure and security tools. This can result in interoperability problems, requiring additional effort to ensure everything works together effectively.
  • Resource Intensive: NAC solutions can be resource-intensive, which means they might require additional hardware and software resources to operate efficiently. This can increase the cost and complexity of deployment.
  • False Positives and Negatives: Like many NAC solutions, Fortinet NAC may sometimes generate false positives and false negatives. This can lead to either blocking legitimate users or allowing unauthorized access, potentially impacting network usability and security.
  • Scalability: Fortinet NAC may have limitations in terms of scalability, particularly in very large or rapidly expanding networks. Organizations need to carefully evaluate whether the solution can meet their scalability requirements.
  • Limited Support for Non-Windows Environments: Fortinet NAC may have better support for Windows-based systems compared to other operating systems, potentially leading to challenges when managing and controlling access for a diverse range of devices.
  • Overhead and Latency: NAC solutions can introduce some network overhead and latency due to the inspection and authentication processes. This could affect network performance, especially in high-demand environments.
  • Cost: Fortinet NAC is a commercial solution, and the cost can be a significant factor for many organizations, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. Licensing, hardware, and ongoing maintenance expenses can add up.
  • Ongoing Maintenance: Like any security solution, Fortinet NAC requires regular updates and maintenance to remain effective. This ongoing maintenance can be time-consuming and may require dedicated personnel.
  • Evolving Threat Landscape: As the threat landscape continually evolves, NAC solutions may struggle to keep up with new attack vectors and sophisticated threats. Organizations need to complement NAC with other security measures to address emerging risks.

What makes Fortinet NAC complex to deploy?

The complexity of deploying Fortinet Network Access Control (NAC) can arise from several factors, including the configuration requirements, the size and complexity of your network, and the need to integrate it with existing network infrastructure and security systems. Here are some reasons why Fortinet NAC deployment can be complex:

  • Network Configuration: Fortinet NAC requires a deep understanding of your network infrastructure. Configuring the solution to work correctly with your specific network topology, switches, routers, and VLANs can be a complex task.
  • Policy Definition: Developing access control policies that align with your organization's security requirements can be intricate. You need to define who should have access to what resources and under what conditions, which may involve setting up numerous policies based on user roles, devices, and network segments.
  • User Authentication: Implementing user authentication methods, such as integrating with Active Directory or LDAP, can be challenging, especially if your network uses diverse authentication mechanisms.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: For organizations with an existing network infrastructure and security tools, integrating Fortinet NAC with these systems can be complex. Ensuring that the NAC solution works seamlessly with other security solutions like firewalls, IDS/IPS, and SIEM systems is crucial but can require customization.
  • Customization: Customizing Fortinet NAC to meet your organization's specific needs can add complexity. You may need to develop custom scripts, rules, or workflows to tailor the NAC solution to your unique requirements.
  • User Education: Deploying NAC often requires educating users about new access control measures, which can be challenging. Users may experience disruptions during the implementation, and it's important to communicate the changes effectively.
  • Scaling for Large Networks: In larger or complex networks, scaling Fortinet NAC to accommodate a significant number of devices, users, and access control policies can be a complex undertaking. Planning for scalability and ensuring efficient performance are important but can be intricate.
  • Monitoring and Management: Configuring monitoring and management features to effectively track network access, security events, and user behavior requires a certain level of expertise and can be a complex aspect of the deployment.
  • Troubleshooting and Maintenance: Troubleshooting issues, diagnosing problems, and maintaining Fortinet NAC can be complex, particularly when dealing with access control problems, false positives, or false negatives.
  • Change Management: Implementing NAC often requires changes in network configuration and policies, which can be complex to manage and coordinate across the organization, especially in larger enterprises.
  • Compliance and Reporting: Configuring and managing the reporting and compliance features of Fortinet NAC, which are crucial for demonstrating regulatory compliance and tracking security incidents, can be intricate.

To mitigate the complexities associated with Fortinet NAC deployment, organizations often engage with experienced IT professionals or consulting services to ensure a smooth implementation. Thorough planning, careful documentation, and ongoing training for IT staff can also help simplify the process and ensure the solution operates effectively within your network.

What makes Fortinet NAC resource intensive?

Fortinet Network Access Control (NAC) can be resource-intensive for several reasons, which can impact the hardware and software requirements for its deployment. Here are factors that contribute to its resource-intensive nature:

  • Network Traffic Inspection: Fortinet NAC inspects network traffic to enforce access control policies. This inspection involves analyzing packets, payloads, and other network data to identify devices, users, and their compliance with security policies. Performing these deep packet inspections demands computational resources.
  • Authentication and Authorization: Fortinet NAC often requires authentication and authorization of users and devices as they connect to the network. This process involves complex cryptographic operations and database lookups, which can consume CPU and memory resources.
  • Policy Enforcement: Enforcing access control policies, such as isolating non-compliant devices, requires real-time decision-making based on a set of rules and conditions. These policy enforcement actions can have an impact on CPU and memory resources, especially in high-traffic environments.
  • Scalability: In larger networks with numerous devices and users, the scalability demands of Fortinet NAC can lead to resource intensiveness. To handle the increased load, the NAC solution may require more powerful hardware components.
  • Logging and Reporting: Logging security events and generating reports for compliance and auditing purposes can be resource-intensive. This includes writing data to logs, managing log storage, and generating reports on network access and security incidents.
  • Integration with Other Systems: When Fortinet NAC is integrated with other security systems, it may require additional resources to support this integration. For example, if it communicates with a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system or interacts with firewalls, these integrations can consume resources.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Fortinet NAC continuously monitors network access and user behavior. This real-time monitoring requires constant processing of network data and events, which can strain resources.
  • Policy Complexity: The complexity of access control policies can impact resource utilization. If you have numerous policies based on user roles, device types, and network segments, the NAC system may require more resources to manage and enforce these policies effectively.
  • SSL/TLS Decryption: If SSL/TLS decryption is employed for inspecting encrypted traffic, this adds an extra layer of computational overhead. Decrypting and re-encrypting traffic requires substantial processing power, particularly in high-throughput environments.
  • Regular Updates and Maintenance: Like many security solutions, Fortinet NAC requires regular updates, maintenance, and patches. These maintenance activities can temporarily consume resources during the update process.

To address the resource-intensive nature of Fortinet NAC, organizations typically need to invest in adequate hardware resources, such as servers with sufficient CPU, memory, and storage capacity, to ensure optimal performance. Scalability should also be considered to accommodate growing network requirements. Properly sizing the hardware and monitoring resource utilization is essential to ensure that the NAC solution operates effectively and doesn't introduce performance bottlenecks into the network.

Why is policy configuration complex in Fortinet NAC?

Policy configuration in Fortinet Network Access Control (NAC) can be complex due to the following reasons:

  • Diverse Network Environments: Organizations have varied network environments with different types of devices, users, and network segments. Configuring access control policies in a way that accommodates these diverse components can be challenging.
  • Granularity: Fortinet NAC allows for highly granular access control policies. You can create policies based on user roles, device types, location, time of day, and a range of other factors. While this flexibility is beneficial, it can also complicate policy configuration, especially when there are many criteria to consider.
  • Compliance Requirements: Many organizations use NAC solutions to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Ensuring that access control policies align with specific compliance standards can add complexity to the policy configuration.
  • Conditional Access: Fortinet NAC allows you to set up conditional access policies, which means that access to network resources can change based on real-time conditions. For example, a device's compliance status or user behavior can affect policy enforcement, making policy configuration more intricate.
  • User Authentication: Fortinet NAC often requires user authentication, and the configuration of authentication methods and integration with identity providers, such as Active Directory or LDAP, can be complex.
  • Device Profiling: Profiling network devices to identify their characteristics and compliance status is an integral part of NAC. Creating and maintaining device profiles, and configuring policies based on this profiling, can be intricate.
  • Network Segmentation: In complex networks, implementing segmentation and setting up policies for different segments can be challenging. You may need to define policies for LANs, VLANs, or other network segments separately.
  • Enforcement Actions: Fortinet NAC allows you to define various enforcement actions, such as isolating non-compliant devices, redirecting users to a captive portal, or limiting access. Configuring these actions and their triggers can be complex.
  • Log and Alert Configuration: Setting up logging and alerting for policy violations and security events is crucial for monitoring and compliance. However, configuring these aspects effectively requires careful consideration.
  • Policy Conflict Resolution: When you have multiple policies in place, resolving conflicts and ensuring that policies are applied in the desired order can be complex. Policy evaluation and precedence rules need to be clearly defined.
  • Testing and Validation: Properly configuring policies also involves testing and validation to ensure that they work as intended without causing disruptions to the network. This testing phase can be time-consuming.
  • Documentation: Maintaining clear and up-to-date documentation for access control policies is essential for compliance and troubleshooting but can be a labor-intensive task.

To simplify policy configuration in Fortinet NAC, organizations can follow best practices, create well-defined policies, and thoroughly plan their access control requirements. It's often recommended to start with a clear policy design, test policies in a controlled environment, and gradually implement them in the production network. Engaging with experienced network and security administrators who are familiar with Fortinet NAC can also be beneficial in setting up effective policies.