The security of remote ecosystems with a mix of traditional and IoT endpoints presents unique challenges for IT teams. Network access control solutions provide visibility into these devices and help ensure they’re secure.
NAC solutions also allow companies to prevent unauthorized users and devices from connecting to their networks. This helps reduce the threat of cyber-attacks that may contaminate networks.
Authentication is a core function of network access control, which ensures that users and devices have been properly authorized to enter an organization’s private or cloud-based network. In addition to preventing unauthorized entry, network access control helps meet compliance regulations by allowing organizations to track and protect endpoint devices efficiently.
Traditionally, organizations have relied on multiple tools to verify users and devices as they connect to a network. Network access control aims to unify these security technologies in a single solution to simplify securing the system and preventing cyber-attacks from penetrating like email security threats.
The most common use cases for network access control involve organizations with multiple remote ecosystems. The ability to secure these environments, whether offices, fulfillment centers, or schools, with consistent and granular role-based policies, is critical for many businesses.
Increasingly, employees work from home or on their devices, which is excellent for flexibility and productivity but can create expanded threat surfaces that must be addressed with robust cybersecurity solutions. NAC solutions help protect these workspaces by ensuring that BYOD systems are appropriately authenticated and logged while enabling limited network access based on the device’s security posture check and profile results. This can include restricting access to a particular application or blocking the entire network altogether.
Network access control (NAC) helps keep cyber criminals and other malware threats from unauthorized entry into organizational networks. Much like door locks and security badges keep intruders out of the physical workplace, NAC is an IT tool that keeps out unauthorized devices and users that try to connect to a networked system based on rules established by IT.
Typically, NAC works to verify the user and device that attempts to connect to the network by using access control lists in switches, routers, and other network middleboxes to verify credentials. It also demonstrates the security posture of the connecting device, ensuring it’s up to date on its antivirus and host intrusion prevention systems.
Additionally, NAC can detect and respond to vulnerabilities without interrupting business as usual (BAU). Deploying temporary solutions such as sandboxing or quarantining virtual local area networks (VLAN) for non-compliant devices can help protect the rest of the network from cross-contamination until the vulnerable system is remediated.
Depending on the vendor, NAC can work with agent software installed on endpoint devices or use scanning and network inventory techniques to discern their characteristics from remote locations. It can also be configured to perform discovery, visibility, and profiling on-demand or only when a device or user requests access. The NAC solution also establishes and enforces access policies throughout the organization — enabling them to adjust as people, devices, and the business changes.
The detection capabilities of network access control allow your organization to spot unauthorized behavior and suspicious activities before they can cause damage. NAC solutions use pre-admission and post-admission controls to evaluate users, devices, and applications and deny them access to your corporate networks if they don’t comply with security policies. This defense-in-depth approach prevents cyber-attacks from connecting to your network and enables you to stop them from launching malware threats in the first place, minimizing their impact.
All devices connected to your network are potential targets for malware threats and unauthorized access. NAC ensures that endpoint systems like computers, laptops, mobile devices, printers, IP phones, and virtual machines have been updated with the latest security patches and are malware-free before they can connect to your network. It also verifies that temporary users and their devices are authorized and profiled before allowing them to access the network.
Remote working and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies have become more common in recent years, and while that’s great for flexible work practices, it increases the risk of data breaches. Network access control helps organizations handle BYOD policies by logging each device that attempts to connect to the corporate network and authenticating only those approved by your team. It can also limit lateral movement by blocking unauthorized devices from moving further into your internal systems.
Network access control protects an organization’s networked resources from infiltration by unauthorized users, devices, and malware. The technology acts like a security gate that allows or denies entry to users and devices based on rules that InfoSec managers establish. This prevents intruders from gaining access to sensitive data and other organizational assets.
The technology also profiles device and user connectivity, assessing security posture, compliance, and other attributes to create a risk score or profile that informs a company’s endpoint policies. NAC solutions can block a non-compliant device or limit network access by application, reducing the overall attack surface.
This preventive function is precious for companies with work-from-home or other remote working policies that allow employees to connect to the corporate network using personal devices. NAC can automatically assess the devices used for such tasks and ensure they meet all security requirements.
Additionally, it can help organizations manage the many connected devices that are part of an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem or software-as-a-service applications. This is particularly important for regulated industries with privacy or data protection mandates, such as healthcare, financial services, and government. It is critical for meeting those regulations and protecting the most valuable data and systems in a network. Moreover, it helps minimize the risk of lateral movement within a network in a targeted cyber-attack.