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Zero Trust vs. VPN – Which is Best to Secure Businesses

Zero Trust

Ever since the pandemic, remote working has seen a massive boost. As per the Gartner survey, 88% of organizations have required or encouraged employees to opt for remote working. With remote working, the use of the VPN has skyrocketed, as it provides remote employees secure access to the corporate network. However, the pandemic has also triggered a new wave of cyberattacks. As per Security Magazine, there is a cyberattack every 39 seconds.

Owing to emerging data security concerns, businesses are looking for more secure alternatives. Zero Trust has emerged as a new effective way to provide secure network access and increase data security. So, which is best for businesses, Zero Trust or VPN? Let's find out in this blog.

What is Zero Trust?

As the name implies, Zero Trust is based on the "Zero Trust Network Access" principle, which focuses on the "trust no one" framework. It is basically a never-trust and always-verified approach where all employees and devices are considered untrustworthy. Moreover, it leverages the least privilege principle so that employees have limited and controlled access to the network, applications, and other company resources as per their specific roles. Overall, Zero Trust provides an extra security layer and helps prevent cyberattacks related to remote access, cloud services, etc.

What is VPN?

Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides a secure, encrypted tunnel through which employees can access the company's resources and applications. It involves user authentication measures to provide secure access to the network. However, its security approach is such that everything outside is a threat, while everything inside can be trusted. Owing to that, it does not address internal threats effectively.

Zero Trust vs. VPN – The Differences

Now that we know what Zero Trust and VPN are all about, below are the key differences that will help us pick the right technology:

  • Attack Surface: Zero Trust has reduced attack surface, as it implements access control at the individual level with limited internal resources access. VPN has a larger attack surface due to poor internal network control. So, once users are inside the network, they can easily access other network resources.
  • Security Approach: Zero Trust has a comprehensive security approach that rejects employees' access to the network or application unless they are approved. VPN follows the network-level security approach where users just have to pass the authentication to access the full system.
  • Visibility of User Activities: Zero Trust follows the least privileged access, so once users are provided access to specific apps/services, all the user activities are visible. VPN has no structured monitoring of internal network activities, so the visibility is minimal.
  • Latency: Zero Trust provides faster access to the company resources because it eradicates the need to route all the traffic from a single-entry point. VPN can increase the latency due to encrypting and decrypting traffic.
  • Cost: Zero Trust demands some extra financial resources at the beginning, but can be cost-effective with the passage of time due to enhanced security and fewer management costs. VPN is less costly at the beginning, but the cost can increase with a growing number of users and devices.
  • Scalability: Zero Trust is easy to scale, as it can easily adapt to changing network conditions. VPN is much more difficult to scale, especially if the network topology varies often.

In short, Zero Trust and VPN offer completely different approaches to secure corporate network resources. Zero Trust's strength is in its top-notch individual-level protection of applications, devices, and networks with smart granular access control. On the other hand, VPN's focus is to provide secure remote access to the internal network with user authentication security measures.

Wrapping Up – Which is the Best Choice for Businesses in 2024

To sum up the discussion, we can say that both Zero Trust and VPN have their own strengths and weaknesses. So, picking between ZTNA vs VPN mainly depends on your specific needs and resources. If we talk specifically about 2024, then the growing shift towards cloud applications and remote working gives Zero Trust the upper hand, as it offers enhanced security that is needed today. Regardless of what approach you pick, make your data and network security practices up-to-date with emerging cyber threats to significantly minimize the chances of breaches.


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