Jason GarbisMarch 11, 2019
It’s Time for a VPN Alternative
We must all accept it: the time has come to replace your VPN approach to network security. Appgate Chief Product Officer Jason Garbis explains why Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the Zero Trust security-focused solution every enterprise needs as a VPN alternative.
Today’s network landscape is one of incredible complexity, with distributed applications, people and data. Companies have taken the standard method of protection, the trusted private network, and applied hundreds or thousands of VPN and firewall rules with complex topologies to manage the chaos.
Expanding cloud and mobile ecosystems have made the perimeter porous and irrelevant. In the meantime, our networks are infested with unsanctioned, insecure devices. To complicate matters, in an increasingly distributed work environment, cyberthreats are just as likely to come from inside the organization as they are from the outside.
To use VPN technology to secure how we work today simply defies progress. It's time to consider the benefits of Zero Trust Network Access as the modern VPN alternative. But why?
Securing the digital battlefield
The need for a more robust VPN alternative like ZTNA has never been more important. Cybercrime is a high stakes game with big rewards and little risk for threat actors, but successful breaches represent monetary and reputational repercussions for their victims around the world.
Yes, there are plenty technical factors that complicate cyber defenses, but the most challenging factor is that people are people and inevitably they will:
- Set weak passwords
- Click on the wrong thing
- Misconfigure environments
In fact, a 2021 study determined that 84% of serious cybersecurity incidents are caused by human error. While no technology can fully overcome the mistakes people make, a good first step is to eliminate the highly insecure "connect then verify" approach of legacy solutions with the proven "verify then connect" principle of ZTNA as a trusted VPN alternative.
So, what are today’s top cyberthreats and how can you defend against them? This whitepaper explains how ZTNA provides effective risk mitigation and enables you to combat ransomware, DDoS and man-in-the middle attacks and insider threats. Ultimately, it's all about granting access to your network and scattered resources in the right way and throwing out the old "trust then verify" models of legacy VPNs.
Why it's time for a VPN alternative: critical VPN flaws
Using static, perimeter-centric VPNs is critically flawed and can’t provide protection for hybrid workforces when so many users and their devices connect to the network and distributed resources from outside the perimeter. Here’s why you should think about a VPN alternative:
- VPNs authenticate to everything: Once authorized, users typically have unrestricted access to the entire network.
- VPNs are too simplistic: In a world where the physical perimeter is no longer relevant, VPNs can't keep up
- VPNs provide static, perimeter-based security: This is ineffective when user context, user location and security threats are ever-changing
- VPNs are a siloed solution: Ultimately, VPNs are only useful for remote access by remote users. They don’t help organizations secure on-premises users or on-premises networks
- Routing inefficiencies abound in VPNs: VPN infrastructure is designed as a hub and spoke model where all traffic needs to go through the main corporate network to get to its destination. With more workers remote and data storage/processing in the cloud, however, this creates extra steps that slow down performance for both networks and applications.
- VPNs create software vulnerabilities: With more people working outside the office during the pandemic, unfortunately VPNs became a go-to for attempting to secure remote access. However, this also makes VPNs a popular target for cybercriminals. In fact, taking advantage of unpatched software vulnerabilities is one of the most common ways threat actors infect organizations with ransomware.
Zero Trust Network Access: The better VPN alternative
Forward-thinking security and IT teams will continue to shift from traditional network security tools like VPNs to more modern Zero Trust Network Access solutions, which deliver comprehensive secure access with simple, fast, secure user connections from anywhere to apps in the cloud, on-premises or on legacy systems. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2024, at least 40% of all remote access usage will predominantly go through ZTNA, up from less than 5% at the end of 2020.
ZTNA, also known as a software-defined perimeter, is a network security model that dynamically creates a 1:1 network connection between users and the data they access. It reduces the attack surface by creating a discrete, encrypted network segment of one, making everything else in network systems invisible and therefore inaccessible. A network segment of one is an individualized, micro-segmented network tailored for each individual user, device and session.
Further, Zero Trust Network Access is holistic, providing a single secure access control platform for both remote and on-premise users accessing remote and on-premise resources. ZTNA is designed around the user and addresses VPN shortcomings because:
It’s user-centric: ZTNA ensures we know as much about a user as we can before allowing them to make a connection to the network, such as:
- What is the user’s context?
- What device are they using?
- What is the device’s security posture?
- Where is the user located?
It’s adaptive and extensible: ZTNA manages access and adapts based on user context, device, and security conditions. It integrates with operational systems and provides an individualized perimeter for every user, granting specific access and visibility to only the network resources the user needs to do their job.
It adheres to the principles of Zero Trust: A central idea of Zero Trust is that access is never granted based on assumed trust. It requires that trust be earned through proactive device introspection, identity validation and contextual analysis that is continuously re-evaluated using a contextual, risk-based approach.
What about securing cloud access with a VPN alternative?
Traditional perimeter-based security solutions such as VPNs, next-gen firewalls and network access control (NAC) products no longer secure distributed, hybrid IT infrastructure. A Zero Trust architecture can be built into cloud offerings (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and provides a more robust option than legacy network security tools.
By extracting metadata from AWS, Azure or GCP, you can apply permissions to individual user identities to ensure that least privilege access is applied universally.
Using a Zero Trust Network Access solution with single packet authorization (SPA) cloaks an infrastructure so only authorized users can communicate with the system. This adds control to only open the door for specific users at specific times with specific permissions. And, SPA technology makes that door invisible to port scans, distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) and is cryptographically hashed as a further defense. Even if a hacker finds a way in, they won't get very far because SPA and micro-perimeters protect internal resources preventing lateral movement and insider threats.
The best thing about ZTNA as a VPN alternative for secure cloud access? It eliminates redundancies like separate VPNs for on-premises, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud settings.
With Appgate SDP, the industry's most comprehensive ZTNA solution, our patented multi-tunneling technology allows for simultaneous connections between users and assets and concurrent access to resources, which could be located in multiple on-premises sites and/or multi-cloud environments.
Serious about finding a VPN alternative? Explore Appgate SDP
When it comes to network security, organizations have a choice: keep deploying outdated, inherently vulnerable technology ... or come to the conclusion that it’s time to seek out a VPN alternative like Zero Trust Network Access built to secure hybrid enterprises and connections from their users located anywhere to their resources and applications located everywhere.
Choosing a VPN alternative may seem like an ambitious strategy, which is why working with an experienced, reputable partner is critical. Appgate has been recognized as a ZTNA Leader by Forrester, positioned highest for current offering and receiving a differentiated rating in deployment flexibility, non-web and legacy apps, ecosystem integration, client support, connector capabilities, and product vision.
We work with customers every day who are looking for a VPN alternative, and we're here to help you find the right solution for your needs. Explore our additional resources or register for one of the bi-weekly Wednesday live democasts of Appgate SDP to get started.
Additional VPN alternative resources
eBook: 5-step Guide to Simplify VPN to ZTNA Migration