What are Network Access Control Vendors?
Network Access Control Vendors Defined
Network Access Control vendors are technology companies that provide software, hardware or cloud-based solutions for Network Access Control (NAC).
Network Access Control software protects organizations from cyber threats by ensuring that only authorized users and devices can access a network. NAC technology also enforces security policy on connected devices, scanning and evaluating each endpoint and blocking access for non-compliant devices.
Solutions provided by Network Access Control vendors vary widely in features and capabilities. When evaluating NAC products, security teams may look for solutions that offer device visibility and profiling, access control, security posture checks, guest management and bidirectional integration with other security products.
How Does Network Access Control Work?
Network Access Control vendors began offering solutions in the mid- to late 2000s to manage endpoints seeking private network access. Today, Network Access Control solutions perform a variety of security functions that fall into two categories: authenticating users and devices and ensuring devices are compliant with security policies.
Products from Network Access Control vendors can:
- Authenticate users. NAC solutions identify users and verify their credentials using a variety of authentication techniques, including passwords, biometrics and One-Time Passwords (OTPs).
- Enforces security policies. NAC solutions identify instances where devices and resources are not compliant with security policies. In these instances, NAC software can block a device, quarantine it or grant access with limited privileges.
- Provide visibility. Network Access Control software delivers visibility into what types of devices are connected to the network, where they’re connecting and who’s using the devices.
- Inventory devices. NAC solutions can also provide a central inventory of devices on the network, including IoT devices. This capability enables security teams to enforce granular security policies based on types of devices, the roles of users, location of the device, time of day and other variables.
- Centralized policy management. NAC can enforce policies for all users and devices throughout the organization.
- Security posture checks. To allow only authorized compliant devices to access a network and IT resources, NAC solutions inspect devices and assess security posture as well as compliance with security policies.
- Incident response. Network Access Control vendors can share contextual information with third-party security services to accelerate incident response and automatically enforce policies that isolate compromised endpoints.
- Bidirectional integration. Superior Network Access Control vendors offer solutions that can integrate with other security products through the open/RESTful Application Programming Interface (API).
- Guest management. When guests, contractors or partners need access to the network, NAC solutions can limit their access to only what is needed to perform a specific task.
- IoT device management. Because IoT devices represent an additional entry point for attackers, NAC applies defined profiling and access policies for each device category.
- Access control. NAC products limit network access to specific users and devices and to specific areas of the network.
- Device visibility and profiling. NAC delivers comprehensive visibility into the devices connected to a network, profiling each device and user to inform endpoint security policies.
- Simplify compliance. NAC technology can simplify compliance with data privacy regulations by strictly limiting which users and devices can access regulated data.
What Products from Network Access Control Vendors Do
Products from Network Access Control vendors offer two types of authentication: pre-admission and post-admission. With pre-admission products, devices are scanned and policies enforced before access is granted to the network. This enables the NAC system to block devices that may not have the latest anti-malware or antivirus protections. Post-admission products focus on enforcing policy based on the behavior of users or devices. Post-admission NAC can prevent an attacker’s lateral movement through a network by re-authenticating users as they seek to access additional resources in another part of the segmented network.
Additionally, solutions for Network Access Control vendors offer agent-based or agentless technology. Agent-based systems require users to download software to their devices. The software, or agent, performs a variety of functions, including verifying the device’s identity, checking for security updates and ensuring the device is compliant with security policies. Agentless solutions do not require installation of software and devices, relying instead on network-level authentication protocols to authenticate devices and enforce security policies. Agentless NAC is easier to deploy and enables unmanaged, BYOD devices to access the network, but it may be less effective at enforcing security policies.
The best Network Access Control vendors offer solutions that help to:
- Improve security. NAC products enhance security by strictly controlling access to the network and continuously monitoring device and user behavior.
- Streamline access. NAC solutions should offer seamless access for users seeking to connect to a network.
- Enhance visibility. NAC provides a real-time inventory of all the endpoints connected to the network and authorized by the organization.
Integrating Zero Trust and NAC Software
While solutions from Network Access Control vendors have provided significant benefits, many organizations are looking to Zero Trust solutions to enhance or replace NAC software. Despite its value, some NAC technology can be complex and time-consuming to manage and costly to deploy, with additional hardware or software investments required. Regular maintenance and updates are required to keep NAC solutions effective and to ensure proper configuration.
Zero Trust solutions like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) are seeing rapid adoption as IT networks become more complex and as more employees are working outside of traditional corporate offices. The principles of Zero Trust dictate that no user or device should be implicitly trusted – access to IT resources is granted only after users and devices are authenticated and continuously validated.
Zero Trust also practices least-privilege access, where users and devices are given access to only the specific IT resources required to perform a task at the moment. Zero Trust Network Access products apply Zero Trust principles to remote access connections, allowing users and devices to securely access applications and services both on the cloud and within the network.
When compared to products from Network Access Control vendors, ZTNA solutions are faster to implement, easier to manage and offer highly scalable security.
Enhancing Network Access Control with Forcepoint ZTNA
Part of the cloud-native Forcepoint ONE security platform, Forcepoint ZTNA provides Zero Trust remote access to private web and non-web apps from anywhere, enabling advanced control over data in use across managed or unmanaged devices. Unlike other solutions, Forcepoint ZTNA also provides continuous, fine-grained controls, industry-best performance and built-in malware and data protection to ensure a great experience for users. For security teams interested in ZTNA and SASE products, Forcepoint provides Secure SD-WAN and security products that include a fully integrated Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and a Secure Web Gateway (SWG).
As one of the industry’s leading ZTNA providers, Forcepoint enables organizations to:
- Reduce risk with superior Network Access Control.
- Seamlessly extend Zero Trust to private applications in internal data centers and private clouds, limiting user access to only the apps and data they need.
- Enable frictionless access from any device with agentless deployment that extends security to both managed and unmanaged devices.
- Deliver remote access to on-premises tools with identity-based access control and high-speed performance to TCP-based applications.
- Extend access to private apps with industry-leading data security through 190+ pre-defined policies and malware scanning.
- Enjoy superior scalability and performance, thanks to a hyperscaler platform built on AWS that delivers 99.99% service uptime with no planned downtime.