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ZTNA or VPN – Which is Better for you?

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For a long time now, most of us have been aware of the importance of staying safe online. But perhaps not so many of us are aware of the size of the problem that cyber crime represents.

On a global scale, it is said to be on its ways to cost $1 trillion a year. This isn’t just a problem for the sorts of big business who hit the headlines when they suffer a cyber attack. It also involves smaller ones too, who can least afford the cost and disruption that it inevitably involves.

In this context, it’s easy to see just how important it is to focus on cyber security if we’re to stand any chance at all of protecting ourselves against hackers and other criminals.

Across both business and individual online activity, it’s generally when they manage to present themselves as someone else entirely that they gain access to websites and other networks where they can carry out their illegal deeds.

So it is vital that all necessary steps are taken to prevent them from being able to access personal details. Because, if they can, then they are able to clear all of the necessary identity verification requirements to enter a site where they have no business to be.

Ironically, one specific sector that is often targeted by cyber criminals are the identity verification companies themselves, adding a whole extra level of peril.

The dangers of cybercrime for businesses

No business wants to be a victim of cyber crime, yet it’s estimated that around two thirds of them are in some way.

The consequences are serious and potentially far-reaching. First there is the financial impact that has the capacity to be very serious. This can be in the form of the ransom that hackers sometimes demand to put right what they have done. Or it can be from the lost business from simply not being able to operate for a period of time.

Service industries are also particularly vulnerable to losses as clients may well start to desert them once confidence in their cyber security measures has been shaken. In some cases, a serious cyber attack can even spell the end of a business altogether.

So, as you can see, taking all the necessary steps to keep unwanted hackers away from a network isn’t just important, it’s absolutely vital.

VPNs and ZTNAs

The rise of remote working has presented an additional headache for many businesses. Employees need to remain connected online but when they’re out of the corporate network it represents a point of vulnerability.

This is because it is potentially quite easy to see who is online and where they are visiting on the internet. For some time, a solution to this has been the use of Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. By using proxy servers these hide the original IP address of the user. They also encrypt all the data being transferred over them. Theoretically this means that it is impossible to intercept this information.

Now there is a new generation of protection called Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) that takes security up a level.

How they compare

The first thing to know about VPNs is that they assume that users and their devices can be trusted and are therefore allowed to communicate with all the other users and applications on that network.

On the other hand, as the name suggests, ZTNAs are based on a zero-trust principle. So whenever a user connects or makes a new request, they always need to authenticate their identity.

The other big difference relates to access. With VPNs there are certain controls that can be put in place to limit which areas of a network a user can visit. ZTNAs, on the other hand, work on an application level. This means users do not have full access to a network, just to the specific applications they are allowed to use. This makes them much more secure than VPNs as any hacker who did manage to trick their way in would find themselves severely limited in the damage they could do.

In addition, users of ZTNA will find a much more effective authentication system than a VPN includes. Instead of the standard username and password, the ZTNA user ‘s details are checked and double checked to ensure that they are who they say they are and are authorized to make the request they are making.

Even if this all checks out, a user can still be rejected if the system detects that the device they are using doesn’t have up-to-date security measures in place or is carrying malware.

There are also a number of advantages of ZTNA over using VPNs that might not be immediately apparent. The first of these is speed.

This is because it allows authorized users to connect directly to applications. However, with the VPN passing all data through a proxy server this can slow things down considerably.

The second advantage is ease of use. A VPN needs a connection to be made each time it’s used and if separate VPNs are used for different parts of a job this can be quite a hindrance. But ZTNA just needs one authentication that gives a user access to all the resources that they need.

So it all adds up to the fact that any business focused on efficiency and safety should make ZTNA its preferred choice, and one which has all the flexibility to meet all the demands made on it.

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