The main differences between VPN solutions and Zero Trust is that zero trust provides secure access and business agility, whereas VPNs are vulnerable to data breaches and slow users down. VPNs are private virtual networks used by enterprises often for connecting remote employees. However, VPNs can’t answer all of the complex and agile needs of today’s modern businesses. Solutions based on Zero Trust access can complement or fully replace VPNs to provide more secure access and greater business agility. This blog will explain why it’s time to adopt a connectivity solution that’s more secure and efficient than the VPN.
But first, let’s understand what VPNs are – and what they are not.
So, What are VPNs?
VPNs are private network connections that are based on virtual secure tunnels between points in the public network or in other networks. Only users who have access to the VPN can reach assets in the network or gain visibility into the network activity. In other words, the VPN is another perimeter, more closely managed than the network it is situated in.
VPNs enable organizations to manage access to their assets and resources by limiting who can connect to them. Businesses often use VPNs to connect remote employees and global business locations that are not connected to the main company network. Often, VPN traffic is also encrypted and the devices in the network are masked when accessing the external networks.
4 VPN Weaknesses
However, in today’s technologically complex and highly distributed world, enterprise VPNs are not sufficient to solve the connectivity challenges businesses face. Here are four reasons organizations should be wary of relying on VPNs for their network security needs.
1. VPNs Aren’t Agile
If your team is expanding or scaling up, or if new devices regularly need to be added to the network, configuring your VPN will not be a simple endeavor. Each user or device must be set up with a VPN client and integrated into the access control system. This process is cumbersome and doesn’t enable companies to easily satisfy their ever-evolving business needs. The problem has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant shift to remote work for huge numbers of employees. At companies who depend on a VPN, more users than ever require set-up and access, and this places a huge burden on the IT teams who must provide it.
2. VPNs Are Resource Intensive and Time Consuming
VPN networks are CPU intensive, they create a heavy server load, and the encryptions are “heavy” as well. This inefficiency becomes even worse when users are trying to connect to more resource intensive systems, like databases or design programs. Unless you’re willing to put up with high latency and no work getting done, you’ll need to invest heavily in DevOps and IT teams as well as infrastructure. These teams will be required to spend substantial amounts of time maintaining the networks, adding security systems and firewalls, and providing user support.
3. VPNs Aren’t Fit for Your Business Use Cases
While many enterprises use VPNs for remote work, VPNs were never intended to handle such heavy loads over an extended period of time. Using VPNs to connect global teams to corporate resources will result in slow and unstable connections, complex infrastructure and heavy costs. In addition, using VPNs to provide access to partners, 3rd parties and M&As is time consuming and costly as well as a potential security risk. VPNs are also very limited when used with cloud-based applications.
4. VPNs Aren’t Secure
VPNs rely on the castle-and-moat security approach, meaning that anyone inside the perimeter can access all the systems, assets and crown jewels. While a VPN is more secure than the public network, it is still vulnerable to cyber attackers. If an attacker manages to breach your VPN, the assets in your network will be immediately exposed. Adding more security solutions to overcome this obstacle will also make the network more complex and costly to uphold.
Zero Trust and Continuous Identity Verification
Zero Trust is a security framework that provides organizations with identity-based access for their users. Rather than inherently trusting users because of their location (ie. inside the corporate network or connected to a VPN), every user and device is verified and validated before being granted access to any app, system, or asset.
The benefits of this approach include:
- Agility: IT Managers and DevOps can easily add or remove security policies and user authorization based on their immediate business needs. ABAC (attribute based access control) and RBAC (role based) make life much easier when granting access to specific applications.
- Cost-effectiveness: Easy implementation – just add the ZTA connector – and simple management
- Broad use-case fit: Implement for remote work, PAMs, 3rd party access, M&As, and more.
- Security: Above all, zero trust architecture provides real granular security that protects networks, externally and internally. No inherent trust is ever granted, severely limiting the ability of bad actors to gain access.
Zero Trust can also be used in combination with a VPN connection, especially if used for a specific network segment. In such cases, Zero Trust can strengthen the company perimeter through micro segmentation and provide an extra layer of security if hackers succeed to access to the VPN.
VPN vs. Zero Trust Comparison