In with ZTNA, Out with VPN

Category: News
Published: 27th November 2023

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ZTNA as an alternative to VPN in modern cyber security

Homeworking in the UK has increased across all industries, reaching 30.6% in 2022. A growing number of organisations (66% in 2023, versus 56% in 2022) now see flexibility as vital to attracting new talent.

Working from home is clearly here to stay and so adapting to new methods of employee working has become central to organisations’ security. As this has become the new norm, companies have moved away from on-site, local security controls. In turn, hackers have new opportunities to gain access to company data. Organisations now need to respond to this and stop relying on outdated technologies.


What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends your current network by creating an encrypted connection between your device and the server. This has been around since the 1990s and has many functions which have served useful for homeworking because they provide a secure working environment.

Traditional network security solutions like VPN rely on implicit trust, granting access to the entire network once a user is authenticated. This approach leaves them vulnerable to lateral movement attacks, where an attacker can gain access to critical resources by exploiting vulnerabilities in trusted systems.

What is ZTNA?

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) has emerged as a transformative approach to network security, adhering to the principles of the ‘zero trust’ model. Trust is never implicit, and access is granted only to the required resources. Granular policies determine what can be accessed, giving network and security managers far greater control over who can access what, when and where.


VPN versus ZTNA

Whilst VPNs were the preferred solution for many years, they have been unable to adapt to advancing security architectures. A VPN’s centralised infrastructure makes it difficult to integrate with other security solutions. It cannot regulate users’ access to individual elements, meaning that once a user is authenticated, they have admittance to everything. While this may seem convenient, it poses a significant security risk. Should a hacker infiltrate your system, they would have access to all your organisation’s information.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) emerges as a transformative approach to network security, adhering to the principle of “never trust, always verify.” Rather than granting blanket access to the entire network, ZTNA grants access to specific applications and resources based on user identity and device context. This granular control significantly reduces the attack surface and minimises the potential damage if a breach occurs.

As the holiday season nears, businesses grapple with maintaining productivity while securing remote access to company resources. Traditional VPNs struggle with remote employees, causing lags and hampering efficiency. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a game-changer. Unlike VPNs, ZTNA offers precise access control, limiting entry to necessary applications, reducing the attack surface, and curbing security risks. Moreover, it replaces the centralised VPN gateway, enhancing speed and minimising delays, ensuring seamless access to corporate resources, vital during peak times like Christmas.

Individual tunnels of network informationBroad access to the network
Multiple authentication pointsOne authentication point
Easy to set up and manageHard to set up and manage
Device complianceNo checks on individual security postures
Flexible and scalableNot flexible and scalable
Easy to use and integrate into existing infrastructureDifficult to use and integrate into existing infrastructure

In conclusion, ZTNA represents a significant advancement over traditional VPNs, offering enhanced security, improved performance, and simplified management. Its granular access control and cloud-based architecture make it an ideal solution for organizations embracing hybrid and remote work arrangements. As the new normal, ZTNA stands as the most effective and adaptable solution for secure remote access.

Find out more information about the ZTNA as a service that we offer or contact us today to arrange a review with one of our cyber security experts.