Establishing Direct Access as a ZTNA Alternative

Any enterprise interested in reaping the benefits of a cloud (or hybrid) deployment should examine all available security models carefully. Almost everyone agrees that the cloud will continue to play an important role in our digital future. It enables seamless scaling, cost-effective management of resources, and provides access to business resources from almost anywhere.

Anyone who isn’t seriously considering installing any Line-of-Business (LOB) applications in the cloud is falling behind their competitors. One of the key challenges that your organization will have to overcome when moving to a hybrid deployment model is ensuring your data and network stays secure at all times.

Although most security analysts will tell you that there’s no such thing as a single solution to address all of your concerns, many will agree that a framework using the Zero Trust Access Model (ZTNA) is the best way to go. With this approach, companies can secure data and limit the risk of a specific breach from spreading to the entire network.

ZTNA has been around for years and works for most hybrid environments, including those where remote access is a critical part of business continuity. In this blog, we’ll look at what a ZTNA framework entails and where it works well. We’ll also give you some considerations for improved cloud security and how you can establish direct access as a ZTNA alternative to help ensure you protect your LOB application data.

What is a ZTNA Security Framework?

Cloud security is receiving a lot of attention lately due to some high-level data breaches over the last few years. In fact, if you’ve moved a hybrid deployment in the last two years and haven’t experienced a breach, you’ll be in the minority. One of the buzzwords flying around in the industry and often toted as a best-in-class solution is ZTNA. What this means is the company adopted a zero-trust access model for all their applications using a set of technologies and policies.

Using the most granular set of permissions and policies, companies can secure any internet-facing application on the user layer. Security professionals define ZTNA as a Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) because it creates a well-secured barrier between the company’s networks and each application housed in their environment.

How Does the ZTNA Model Work?

Most companies are used to network-centric security solutions like a Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Firewalls (FWs). ZTNA takes a fundamentally different approach to system security. The primary difference is by separating the IT environment’s network security from remote access requests. Protecting the entire network expands the security perimeter while having to deal with a wide variety of possible vulnerabilities. What makes ZTNA different is it creates a case-by-case access control framework for every application deployed in the environment.

To achieve this, ZTNA champions the following four principles:

  • Isolating application access from network access – ZTNA only grants access to specific applications based on the user’s exact credentials and applying granular permissions to every access request.
  • Hides the network from unauthorized users – By granting out-bound only connections, no unauthorized user will even know the network exists or have the ability to exploit it beyond the application involved. 
  • Requires native app segmentation – Grants access on a one-to-one basis, where only one user-to-application connection keeps the rest of the IT system secure and credentials allow access to only the application required.
  • Deemphasizes network security in lieu of application security – ZTNA leverages encrypted micro tunnels between the user and specific application, and as such doesn’t allow any compromised device to infect the rest of the network.

These four principles help create a secure, software barrier between the company’s networks and individual applications. If an employee uses a compromised device to access company systems, the infection cannot spread unless a hacker engineered it to overcome the software layer of protection.

Challenges Arising from ZTNA Security Models

Zero trust means just that, you don’t trust anything in your IT system. It includes people, devices, data, networks, and workloads. One of the key drawbacks to this approach is the level of effort required. To establish a ZTNA security framework, you’ll need to increase the control you exercise on every single application within your environment.

Some of the primary challenges with ZTNA includes:

  • Increased time and effort – Establishing a ZTNA model requires building the security framework from the ground up. There’s no such thing as group control or application pool security, so you’ll have to define every application’s access model and pair it with a specific user.
  • Managing more devices – Similarly, users may want to access their applications from any device, meaning security professionals need to adapt their solutions to accommodate these different types of access requests.
  • User and application-level control mean additional admin – To ensure only authorized users have access, the application landscape needs to be as granular as possible and managed at that level. Companies need to consider the workloads it will add to their security resources.
  • May require specialized skills – To ensure you are managing the security of every application, the organization may need to adopt a solution like containerization to achieve ZTNA. With containerization, every application is contained within its own bucket and data exchanges happen only on the server-side of the software.

Benefits of ZTNA Trust Models

Because ZTNA is a fundamentally different approach to the way most organizations deal with application security, it requires a shift in the mind-sets from your security professionals. That said, it does bring additional benefits to the company when implemented correctly.

With the smart segmentation of application layer data, you can reduce exposure to vulnerabilities, improve your security orchestration, and manage application access policies effectively. While the benefits of ZTNA are plenty, the additional effort required to implement, administer, and maintain ZTNA should be part of your assessment before opting to go with this framework.

For most organizations looking to speed up their hybrid and cloud adoption, a ZTNA alternative like Triofox could provide better results.

Enabling Secure Remote Access using Triofox Instead

Triofox streamlines your access model for both cloud and on-premises deployments. Whether you want a hybrid application implementation or just need to provide remote access to your own data center, Triofox is one of the few ZTNA and VPN alternatives available.

The way Triofox works doesn’t require a fundamental change to your security posture while enabling remote access to your LOB applications. You can maintain your current security frameworks and extend these to networks that your staff needs to access over the internet.

How Triofox Works and How It Compares to ZTNA Models

Triofox extends your existing security infrastructure whenever it routes a remote access request to an application within your system. The Triofox server integrates with your corporate network and current Active Directory (AD) configuration.

With integration to your current AD, you can also maintain your existing NTFS permissions. No additional configuration or extra admin effort will be required. Your security resources can go about their daily tasks while staff has the necessary remote access (at the right granular levels) to stay productive.

The key difference between Triofox and ZTNA models is that your current AD remains the central control panel for all your remote access needs. Once a user requests access, Triofox issues an authentication token based on the permissions you’ve previously defined in your AD. End-to-end encryption keeps your data secure in transit and staff do not have to deal with additional complexity when accessing LOB applications.

Consider a ZTNA Alternative with Triofox Secure Remote Access

Every organization can benefit from a cloud or hybrid deployment. The only thing holding you back is your security considerations. With Triofox, you don’t have to rebuild the wheel when it comes to network and application security. You can safely deploy your file servers on-premises or in the cloud and simply extend your existing security and establish direct access as a ZTNA alternative

To see how Triofox can provide you with elevated security while speeding up your cloud adoption, sign up for a free trial today.

How Triofox Protects Your Business with Built-In Ransomware Protection

Ransomware attacks are becoming an increasing threat to businesses, organizations, and municipalities worldwide. If your organization becomes the victim of one of these attacks, you may be forced to pay hundreds of thousands— if not millions— of dollars to regain access to your systems and data.

What is Ransomware – and How Does It Work?

A ransomware attack is a type of extortion initiated over the Internet—a cyberattack for profit. Most ransomware attackers work for criminal organizations or foreign nations that are in it purely for the money. They threaten to hold an infected system and its data hostage until a hefty ransom is paid.

Who Do Attackers Target?

Any type of organization can be the victim of a ransomware attack. Some attackers focus their attention on a single business or government entity. Others cast a wider net, sending ransomware to a large number of targets, assuming that at least a few recipients will click on a link and release the virus onto their computers.

How Does Ransomware Infect Your System?

A ransomware attack is typically triggered by a phishing attempt on an employee somewhere in the targeted organization. When an unsuspecting victim clicks a link in the phishing email and subsequently enters their username and password, the attacker gets access to the user’s system and plants the ransomware. Another common approach is to send the victim an email with an ordinary-looking attachment. When the user opens the attachment, the ransomware infects the host system.

Some ransomware attackers launch their attacks immediately on the initial infection. Others wait patiently for the ransomware to spread across large computer systems. In some cases, a ransomware attack can happen weeks or months after the initial infection.

What Does Ransomware Do to Your System?

Once the cyber extortionist initiates the attack, the ransomware goes to work. The malicious software encrypts data across the infected system so that it cannot be accessed. Some ransomware also encrypts the operating system of the infected computers, rendering them completely unusable. The most sophisticated ransomware is also capable of infecting data backups, making it virtually impossible for the targeted organization to restore data from a previous date. Users at the targeted entity are frozen out of the entire computer system.

The cyber extortionists, who have taken great care to cover their tracks online, then send the victim a ransom notice. This notice may automatically appear on the screens of infected computers or it may arrive in an email message. The message notifies the victim that their computers and data are encrypted and provides information on how to satisfy the attacker’s demands. This typically involves making a payment, usually in Bitcoin, to an untraceable online bank account. Ransom demands range from several thousand dollars to several million. At this point the victim has two choices: they can pay the ransom or take the hit.

What Happens After a Ransomware Attack?

If a company or organization chooses not to pay the ransom, it can attempt to restore affected data from a previous data backup. This may or may not work, depending on whether the ransomware has also frozen the backup. If the entire computer system is locked up, the organization may need to purchase new computers and servers. The cost to proceed without paying the ransom may exceed the price of the ransom itself.

Paying the ransom as demanded isn’t without risk. There is always the chance that the cyber extortionist may take the money and run, leaving the infected systems inoperable. Even if the cyber extortionist provides the key to decrypt the locked data, the victim might still encounter problems. Not all affected data is always recoverable, and some damage to files or systems may be irreparable.

If your organization is attacked, you’ll probably be offline for days or weeks. You’ll also pay the cost of downtime and the expense of bringing the system back online.

Anatomy of a Ransomware Attack?

Most ransomware attacks take place over six distinct stages.

1: Campaign

The initial state of the attack typically involves the distribution of phishing emails. The campaign may target a specific organization or distribute en masse to a large number of potential victims.

2: Infection

After a victim clicks the link in the phishing email, the malicious code is downloaded to the victim’s computer and executed. At this point, the host system is officially infected – although no files have yet been encrypted. If the infection can be identified at this stage, it can be removed before any damage is done.

3: Staging

In this stage, the malicious code establishes a connection to the attacker’s command and control server. The attacker can now send commands to the infected system.

4: Scanning

The attacker now scans the infected system to determine which files to encrypt. This may take hours, days, or even weeks, during which time the malicious software hides undetected on the victim’s system. There is still time, at this stage, for the infection to be detected and deleted without any damage to the host system.

5: Encryption

This is the stage where the damage occurs. At the attacker’s command, the ransomware encrypts all or selected files on the victim’s system.

6: Payday

During this final stage, the victim’s system becomes inoperable and the attacker sends the victim an electronic ransom note. The note demands payment, typically in Bitcoin, to decrypt the affected files and return the infected system to normal.

The Very Real Costs of Ransomware

Ransomware is one of the most serious cybersecurity threats faced by organizations today. The FBI reports that more than 4,000 ransomware attacks take place every day. Ransomware attacks entities of every size, from small businesses to large hospital systems to entire school systems and city governments.

Ransomware attacks are increasingly costly. Sophos’ The State of Ransomware 2020 report details that organizations that choose not to pay the ransom spend just over $732,000 to return their systems to working conditions. Organizations that choose to pay the ransom are out the cost of the ransom and additional remediation costs, for an average of $1.45 million per attack. That’s in addition to the average 19 days of downtime organizations experience after an attack.

Knowing all this, can your company afford to be a victim of ransomware?

How to Detect a Ransomware Infection – Before It’s Activated

The most obvious sign that you are a victim of a ransomware attack is that your systems freeze up, your data files become inaccessible, and you receive a ransom note from the attackers. By this time, however, it’s much too late to do anything about it other than respond to the attacker’s demands.

It is essential to detect an infection before the ransomware is activated. You need to employ measures that actively seek out ransomware infections in your system.

The process of proactively proving your system for ransomware and other cyber threats is called threat hunting. Threat hunters evaluate network traffic and activity to look for signs the system has been compromised.

One of the most common signs of compromise is the presence of a persistence mechanism. Malware inserted into a system needs to endure when the system is rebooted, or else the attackers have to keep reinserting the malware again and again. To maintain an infection, the malware must have some sort of persistence mechanism. Threat hunters look especially for signs of a persistence mechanism, which they can then analyze and track to discover the malicious software itself.

How to Protect Against Ransomware

There is no single solution that completely protects against ransomware attacks. You need to employ a multi-faceted security program to protect against, detect, alleviate, and recover from ransomware attacks.

Protection Starts with Your Employees

Since most ransomware intrusions start with a phishing attack, it’s important to beef up your phishing defenses. This includes strengthening anti-phishing education for all your employees and stressing – over and over again – not to click links or open attachments in unsolicited email and text messages.

Employees should also be trained not to download files from unknown websites or accept media and USB drives from untrusted sources.

Cybersecurity Defenses

Naturally, your IT staff should play a significant role in your defense against ransomware. Staff needs to make sure that all operating system and software are fully updated and install all of the following:

  • Anti-malware software
  • Web filters
  • Email security filters
  • Robust firewalls

It’s also important to implement measures that ensure ransomware removal in the event of an infection.

Back-Up Your System Just in Case

In addition, you need to take precautions in case your organization is the victim of a ransomware attack. You need to frequently make multiple backup copies of all important files, documents, and software and store some of these backups offsite or in the cloud. You need to be able to restore your system if your system or files are wiped by an attacker.

How Triofox Can Protect Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

Triofox is a file server enhancement solution that provides secure file sharing for your on-premises and remote workforce. Triofox can also help your organization protect against ransomware attacks with its robust ransomware protection.

Triofox continuously monitors all Triofox clients and takes proactive action if it sees any unusual activity from any device. If an attack is detected, the software disables access for the affected device and sends an alert to the system administrator. To enable your team to recover from ransomware and other attacks, Triofox also includes offsite file server backup.

Triofox also provides an easy-to-access version control history that simplifies recovery from Cyber-Attacks including ransomware and malware.

Contact us today to learn more about Triofox’s ransomware protection.