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Securing the Hybrid Office: Zero-Trust Network Access

by Lewis Morgan / March 29, 2024

In today's dynamic work environment, the hybrid office has become increasingly prevalent, blending the flexibility of remote work with the collaboration opportunities in-person work brings. The once-isolated corporate network that existed solely at the office has expanded to the worker's home. 

What does this mean? This means we access sensitive information much differently than before, which can cause network problems and cyber attacks.

Traditional Network Security

In the past, the basic network security involved setting a “perimeter” between the internal network and outside world. This perimeter usually involved firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and the use of a VPN to access the network. The main issue comes from what happens inside the perimeter. 

All users inside the network perimeter are implicitly trusted and thus have access to sensitive data. This increases the severity of insider attacks, which can be devastating for the company. This model already inherently has security flaws, but with the shift to hybrid work, the perimeter network is no longer secure by any means. This type of network cannot expand to accommodate each hybrid worker’s home, as this would pose an ever greater security risk. The only other solution is a new, more secure network.

Zero-Trust Security

To allow workers from home to access the network securely, there is a more advanced way that doesn't compromise the network to such extreme measures. Unlike the perimeter network, the Zero-Trust network does not give access to users just because they are inside the network. Instead, these networks use context-based policies - time of day, geolocation, type of device, and user identity and role, among others, to determine whether or not to give the user access to the network or applications. Strict and continuous verification is the key to ensuring that networks remain secure regardless of the employee's location.

Benefits of Zero-Trust

By implementing a Zero-Trust network architecture, organizations unlock a host of benefits uniquely suited to the demands of the hybrid work environment. Below are some examples.

Enhanced Security: Zero-Trust networks operate on the principle of "never trust, always verify," requiring continuous authentication and authorization for every user, device, and application attempting to access corporate resources. Since users in the internal network are still treated with suspicion under the Zero-Trust model, insider threats can be detected and prevented.

Flexibility: With the shift to remotely accessing company resources, the Zero-Trust model allows users to work from any location safely and securely compared to the traditional network model. This allows for flexibility in the hybrid work environment and allows users the option to work from different devices and locations.

Adaptability: Zero-trust networks can be tailored to meet the organization's specific needs. Policies to grant user access can be altered however the organization sees fit. You can limit the time of day accessed, edit role-specific access, and even limit location. You can set a strict policy where your baseline web traffic is measured, and if it deviates from the norm, an alert is prompted. Some Zero-Trust networks even show real-time insight to help detect abnormalities without delay. Whether you want a strict or more relaxed network, you can fine-tune the settings to suit your organization’s needs.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, the traditional network is out, and Zero-Trust is in. In terms of hybrid work and security, the Zero-Trust network is a must-have to handle the security, flexibility, and adaptability issues the traditional network fails to address. That being said, maintaining this type of network can be more costly due to the sophistication of the hardware and software used.

In addition, strict controls may impede user access and business function if not used properly. However, I would rather be safe than sorry. Zero-Trust is one viable option for today’s hybrid offices, but if it doesn’t seem like the right fit for your organization, other solutions exist for security issues hybrid work presents.

Government Hybrid Office Guide

Tags: Hybrid Office

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Lewis Morgan

Lewis Morgan

Lewis is a computer programmer and web developer with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He enjoys rugby, the beach, and hanging out with friends and family.