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Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) basics

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Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) Basics


As part of our Basics in Cybersecurity Series, this article delves into the Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) model, a cornerstone of contemporary cybersecurity strategy. Following our discussions on topics ranging from Firewall Basics to Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) Basics, we now explore ZTNA’s role in transforming network security paradigms for the digital age.

Defining ZTNA:

Zero Trust Network Access revolutionizes traditional network security models. It establishes a secure communication session between user devices and network resources, adhering to the principle of “never trust, always verify.” This paradigm is vital in today’s era of cloud computing and mobile workforces, where perimeter-based security proves inadequate.

Technical Architecture of ZTNA:

  1. Core Elements: At its foundation, ZTNA involves a client on the user’s end and an access proxy, often integrated within a firewall. This proxy is crucial for hiding network applications’ locations and enforcing strict user authentication and policy compliance.
  2. Least Privilege Access: ZTNA operates on the principle of providing users only the necessary resources, ensuring heightened security and reduced exposure to threats.

Authenticating and Securing with ZTNA:

  1. User Authentication: Utilizing platforms like IDaaS or on-premises servers, ZTNA enforces stringent authentication, with policies tailored to user roles, geolocation, and device health.
  2. Policy Server Functions: The ZTNA policy server plays a pivotal role in application-specific access control, factoring in user credentials, device status, and contextual data.
  3. Advanced Firewall Integration: Firewalls and access proxies form the backbone of ZTNA, offering a multi-layered security approach to application access.

ZTNA Versus Traditional VPN Solutions:

ZTNA differs significantly from IP VPNs, often being vendor-specific. For instance, Fortinet’s ZTNA showcases the interaction between various components, emphasizing dynamic rule application and network telemetry for robust security.

Exploring Fortinet’s ZTNA Implementation:

  1. Device Identification: Devices are authenticated using certificates, with the ZTNA Access Proxy applying rules based on the device’s status.
  2. User Verification: User credentials are authenticated through interfaces with servers like Active Directory, ensuring secure access.
  3. Granting Application Access: Following successful verification, access to network applications is granted, aligning with policy requirements.

Other Notable ZTNA Products:

  1. Palo Alto Networks’ Prisma Access: A cloud-native ZTNA service, offering a comprehensive security solution across various environments.
  2. Zscaler Private Access: A scalable, cloud-first ZTNA solution, eliminating traditional VPN requirements and enhancing user experience.
  3. Cisco‘s Duo Beyond: Focuses on multi-factor authentication and device health, integrating seamlessly with Cisco’s security ecosystem.

Comparative Analysis of ZTNA Solutions:

  • Deployment Models: Variations in deployment, with Fortinet focusing on appliance-based solutions and others like Palo Alto and Zscaler emphasizing cloud-oriented services.
  • User Experience Optimization: Zscaler and Cisco’s Duo Beyond prioritize streamlined user experiences, particularly for cloud-based applications.
  • Integration Capabilities: Fortinet’s deep integration within its own product suite contrasts with Cisco’s broader ecosystem compatibility.


Zero Trust Network Access signifies a paradigm shift in network security, evolving from traditional defenses to a context-aware, dynamic model. Its synergy with other cybersecurity technologies, as discussed in our Basics in Cybersecurity Series, is crucial for organizations combating today’s sophisticated digital threats.

Cogeanu Marius
Cogeanu Marius
Marius Cogeanu is a distinguished IT consultant and cybersecurity virtuoso based in Prague, Czechia. With a rich 20-year journey in the IT realm, Marius has carved a niche in network security and technological solutions, adeptly harmonizing tech with business requirements. His experience spans from Kyndryl to IBM, and as a valued independent consultant, where he's renowned for his innovative approaches in enhancing business operations with cutting-edge tech.Marius's forte lies in demystifying complex IT concepts, ensuring clarity and alignment for stakeholders at all levels. His commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends and seeking innovative solutions cements his status as a go-to expert in cybersecurity. Driven by a fervent passion for technology and its potential to revolutionize businesses, Marius thrives on tackling challenging ventures, applying his prowess in network design, IT service management, and strategic planning.Currently, Marius is focused on leading-edge IT project management, infrastructure design, and fortifying cybersecurity, guiding clients through the intricate digital landscape with unmatched expertise and insight.Discover more on


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