Network access control helps to protect network resources from unauthorized users, devices and threats. It is especially important for organizations whose data could be compromised by malware attacks. With Bring-Your-Own-Device policies, remote workers and third-party devices, networks are becoming more complex to secure. NAC solutions can help you build a security fortress that unauthorized users, illegitimate devices and malicious threats cannot penetrate.
What Is NAC?
Network Access Control (NAC) is a set of technologies that ensures devices, users, and networks are up-to-date and compliant. It uses automated capabilities to verify a user and their endpoints as they try to connect, and it automatically resolves performance and security problems on the fly. A NAC solution can be agent-based or agentless, and both approaches have their strengths. The ideal technology combines both to ensure maximum flexibility and certainty of the device and user identification and authentication. A NAC tool should also include pre- and post-admission monitoring, depending on the use case.
NAC benefits organizations that rely on remote working, Bring-Your-Own-Device practices, and work-from-anywhere collaboration. NAC helps authenticate and authorize these temporary users and probes guest devices for compliance with internal policies before allowing them onto the network. Also, NAC effectively regulates and secures the growing number of Internet-of-Things devices in the enterprise, including building sensors, check-in kiosks, and automation equipment. These devices expand the organization’s attack surface and often depend on specialized communication protocols not supported by traditional authentication rules. A good network access control policy can identify and categorize these IoT devices and steer them to a VLAN, where they will be protected from external threats. NAC solutions can also help monitor and secure sensitive data flow through these devices.
What Is The Value Of NAC Solutions?
With cyberattacks a growing threat, it’s essential to strengthen your security infrastructure. NAC identifies and blocks unauthorized devices and users from accessing your network. NAC solutions also help you define and implement access policies based on role-based variables to prevent insecure machines from spreading malware throughout your networks. Also, NAC solutions identify IoT devices — such as printers, IP phones and building sensors — to help prevent them from entering your internal network. It is especially important in regulated industries such as healthcare, where IoT devices, like medical equipment and patient records, are constantly connected to the internet for updates.
NAC solutions can also deliver threat response data to third-party security point products so they can automatically block or quarantine potentially compromised devices without needing IT intervention. Adaptive NAC solutions can even help you manage guest and partner access to your network. These systems can route non-employee devices to register through a captive portal or provide throttled internet-only access to protect sensitive information. They can also probe guest devices to comply with your security policies. Finally, NAC solutions can monitor and update user identities, permissions and devices to reflect organizational changes over time. It helps lessen the number of customer complaints caused by devices not taken care of properly.
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How Does NAC Work?
Organizations must follow gold-standard security control standards to protect their data and prevent hackers from stealing it for ransom or selling it on the Dark Web. NAC solutions authenticate, authorize, and profile users and devices so only compliant ones can access the network. Depending on the contours of each organization’s network, there are different types of NAC solutions to fit specific needs. Many people begin by checking all the things that are connected to the network. It includes things like smart home devices, equipment from other companies, and computers that belong to the employees. These are mapped and cataloged, and policies are set accordingly.
The next step for most NAC applications is to manage identities. It includes ensuring existing directory systems verify user identities and categorize them into permission roles. It also involves determining the level of access required for each part to perform its job. This information is then imported into the NAC solution to automate and enforce network access rules. Many more advanced NAC solutions now include built-in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that can spot anomalous behavior in vast amounts of data faster than a human security analyst could. It enables them to take action before cyberattacks can do their damage, such as neutralizing affected endpoints or limiting the flow of sensitive data across networks by blocking lateral movement.
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What Are The Benefits Of NAC Solutions?
Network access control is a powerful tool for organizations that want to manage security risks on a large scale. NAC automates and simplifies device and user authentication and enforces policies across a network. It allows administrators to limit access by role, which ensures that users have the minimum set of privileges they need to do their jobs. NAC tools also can block or quarantine devices and users that don’t comply with a company’s security policies. NAC is designed to inspect and verify devices and users before allowing them onto a company’s network. It can enforce policies based on various criteria, including device health and location. These pre-admission systems can help thwart the spread of malware, for instance, by requiring two-factor authentication before an employee’s device is allowed onto the corporate network.
Other types of NAC, called post-admission solutions, apply their policies once a device is already on the company’s network. It can prevent lateral movement from a compromised user’s device by requiring it to re-authenticate every time it moves to a new part of the network. These systems can also help thwart ransomware attacks by blocking non-compliant devices from gaining access to company data. They can also be used to quarantine devices that have been compromised, allowing administrators to isolate and repair them without having to interact with the device’s users.
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Image by Mohamed Hassan and Gerd Altmann