Network security is top of mind as organizations begin navigating plans for if and how they return to work. While some offices are joyfully returning to work full time, other organizations are adopting a full-time work from home or even a hybrid workforce model, which means that organizations are going to continue to support a higher number of endpoints than they did at this time two years ago.
Endpoint security acts as an indicator of overall network security health. If your endpoints are managed well, you significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a malicious or even accidental attack. Many organizations are looking to Zero Trust Access to navigate the often-muddy waters of endpoint security. By implementing a product or service that effectively layers on endpoint protections, they can continue on with whatever workforce model they choose, knowing their endpoints are secure.
To some, this may sound a lot like multi-factor authentication (MFA), but there are some distinct differences that may make one better for your overall network security than the other. We’re going to break down the difference between MFA and Zero Trust Access and explain when you might use one or the other.
What is Zero Trust Access?
Zero Trust Network Access is defined by Gartner as a product or service that implements an identity- or context-based, logical access boundary around an application or multiple applications.
Whether you’ve experienced a breach before, are concerned about insider threats or just want to make sure you’re utilizing the best access policies based on your security needs, Zero Trust Access may be a good option to maximize your peace of mind. It helps you easily monitor your network for abnormal behavior or suspicious external occurrences.
Zero Trust Access works because applications are hidden from discovery and users’ access is restricted to a set of named entities. These entities must not only have their identities verified but also the context within which they are accessing the application. Additionally, organizational access policies are also considered by the trust broker that also verifies the context and identities of the users. This allows the trust broker to allow access only where access is permitted and prohibit lateral movement throughout the network.
If you’re trying to remove application assets from public visibility and reduce the surface area for an attack, this might be a good option for your organization to consider.
How Does this Differ from Multi-Factor Authentication?
Did you know that 90% of passwords can be cracked in less than two hours and two-thirds of people admit to using the same password for all logins? If you suspect these people may be among your employees (and statistically this is very likely), you need to consider adding Multi-Factor Authentication to your network security policies, if you haven’t done so already.
Multi-factor authentication is another network security option often adopted into a business’s IT stack. While this option is sometimes considered an outdated method of security, it is a highly-effective, low cost tactic to protect your endpoints.
Whenever you’re trying to access an application and you’re asked to answer a security question, enter a PIN, or respond to a push notification, you’re experiencing an application’s multi-factor authentication. Organizations will likely leverage multi-factor authentication to achieve Zero Trust Access, but much of what constitutes Zero Trust Access will happen behind the scenes—the end user may not even know it’s happening, but their application experience will be more secure than ever.
When to Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Think of this like keeping your company’s public flyers in a combination safe right along with employees’ social security information. You’d need a huge safe as time goes on, and really, the hassle of getting into the safe isn’t worth the reward of getting to look over the previous flyers.
While multi-factor authentication is a key element of zero trust access, there are times where you may only need to use this element on its own. Look at the types of data you’re storing on your network and where you’re storing them.
Here are a few use cases that might justify multi-factor authentication:
- Publicly available information: If you’re storing information that’s publicly available, like a whitepaper, certain reports, or other low-risk materials, it may make sense for your organization to implement multi-factor authentication.
- Low-risk materials: If you’re looking at risk versus cost, storing your lower-risk materials in a less-expensive environment makes sense for many organizations.
- Cost-sensitivity: Some organizations, especially as they recover from the pandemic, may not be in a position to afford the systems required for Zero Trust Access. The next best option is to have a robust multi-factor authentication system.
When to Use Zero Trust Access
Are you already using multi-factor authentication, but are concerned about your classified information and what it could mean, were that information to be breached, leaked or stolen? It may be time to level up.
Zero Trust Access is great for when the risks outweigh the cost. Does your IT infrastructure store protected information per your industry’s compliance certifications? Do you deal with PHI, payment details or personal information of customers or employees that could be disastrous if breached? Adding extra layers of security like Zero Trust Access will help you rest assured, knowing it is nearly impossible for unauthorized individuals to gain access to these parts of your network.
Here are a few common use cases for Zero Trust Access:
- Globally distributed teams: It can be pretty obvious that something seems off when you have a completely US-based workforce and an in-office employee tries logging in from France. But if you’ve got a workforce located all over the world, you may want to invest in Zero Trust Access to make sure your data stays secure across the miles.
- Third Party Contractor or Vendor Involvement: In the gig economy, many organizations bring in consultants, contractors or other third parties who aren’t official employees. These semi-insiders can be a great way to expand your workforce’s knowledge base but can also pose huge risks to your IT infrastructure. By implementing Zero Trust Access, you can make sure they aren’t off exploring other corners of the company network.
- IoT Devices: If you’re an organization with IoT deployments, Zero Trust Access offers two critical benefits. The context part of Zero Trust Access gives you increased visibility into where those devices are logging in from, keeping you safe from device theft and manipulation. Additionally, Zero Trust Access can enable employees to build and maintain an inventory of devices that include IoT sensors.
If any of these resemble your organization, it may be time to start having conversations about your current access policies.
No Matter What Security Challenges You Face, LightEdge Can Help You Tackle Them
Our always up, always available network is the foundation of our offerings at LightEdge. LightEdge boasts not only unparalleled network infrastructure that can be scaled to meet your organization’s complex needs, but also a team of expert staff who are constantly looking for ways to stay one step ahead of threat actors, keeping your data safe, especially as your team develops innovative new tech strategies and environments.
If you’re looking for ways to go above and beyond with your security practices, find a more reliable network or just see how your security stacks up against the competition, schedule a call to chat with our experts who are ready to talk about all the ways you can keep pace with the most current network security trends.