Zero trust network
access (ZTNA)
for remote
work security

Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

Remote work isn't likely to disappear soon. Verizon’s 2021 Mobile Security Index that surveyed nearly 900 IT and security leaders, revealed that 66% expect the term “remote work” to disappear within the next five years. While “work from anywhere” flexibility can be beneficial for employees, it can pose challenges.

A robust remote work infrastructure should require companies to ensure all the endpoints that connect to their network are secure. Too often, they lack visibility into the devices and applications that enter their network. One effective way your company can strengthen remote work security is to adopt zero trust network access (ZTNA).

With zero trust security, your organization can prevent malicious actors from gaining access to your network and sensitive data, and significantly reduce the chances of a cyber attack.

What is ZTNA (zero trust network access)?

Zero trust network access is an approach to network security that assumes every device, application or system that connects to your network potentially could be compromised.

Zero trust security brings together advanced networking and authentication technologies, thorough and clear security policies and effective IT/security governance. Rather than immediately granting access to a device or application trying to connect to your network, this multi-faceted approach involves granting authorized users access only to the applications they need to perform their jobs. It isolates specific applications, devices and systems to certain parts of your network and doesn't make your internal network visible to the internet, which could otherwise make it easier for hackers to infiltrate. Zero trust network access, if implemented correctly, can be an effective alternative to the traditional approach to network security, which typically involves using a virtual private network (VPN) to connect workers from remote locations and implicitly trusting these connections.

With remote work still a norm in workplaces across the country, many companies are managing a wider attack surface than ever before. Potential pitfalls include:

  • Weak password security
  • Stolen or shared user credentials
  • Unsecured home Wi-Fi networks
  • Employees using their personal devices for work
  • Sharing unencrypted files
  • Unintentionally clicking a phishing link
  • Downloading an unauthorized application and then connecting to your network

These all pose great risk in the era of remote and hybrid work. At the same time, your company likely doesn't have unlimited resources to address every single attack vector or protect your business from every single threat. A zero trust security approach can bolster endpoint, network and remote work security by minimizing your company's exposure. With this model, dozens or potentially hundreds of devices, applications and users would not have wide-ranging access to your network or your company's sensitive data—they can only access the systems and information to which they are authorized.

Balancing remote work security with employee experience

Though zero trust network access can make your company more resilient and strengthen your security posture, it's also important to balance this approach with delivering a user-friendly digital experience that helps remote employees remain productive. If employees can't easily access the applications and systems they need to do their work, they may not be as productive. However, your company also doesn't want to make it so easy to enter your network that it increases your security exposure.

It's a delicate balance, but you can deliver a frictionless remote work experience while also helping to keep your enterprise secure. For example, adopting two-step, multi-factor authentication—where employees have to enter a password and then a security code or PIN—is one method to strengthen security. Intelligent, analytics-driven identity access management solutions can also automate the process of determining when to grant a specific user access to certain applications. AI-driven threat detection solutions can also help your organization detect anomalies or suspicious user behavior and network activity and isolate these threats before a breach occurs. This way, employees don't have to deal with onerous authentication requirements; they aren't unintentionally blocked from accessing the systems they need to do their jobs and also aren't given unauthorized access to sensitive data.

As your company embraces remote and hybrid work, you'll need to develop a secure remote work infrastructure. A zero trust network access model can help you combat security threats while giving employees the flexibility to work from anywhere and on any device they choose—whether it's their desktop, tablet or phone. With an approach focused on verification rather than implicit trust, your company can establish a strong security perimeter, deliver a better employee experience and remain agile in an increasingly complex threat environment as you adapt to the future of work.

Learn more about how Verizon can help support remote work security.