What Is Network Access Control (NAC)?
Network Access Control (NAC), also known as network admission control, is the process of preventing unauthorized users and devices from accessing a corporate or private network. NAC ensures that only authenticated users and authorized devices complying with security policies can enter the network.
As organizations experience a proliferation of endpoints, often driven by bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies and the increased use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, there is a growing need for more control. Manual configuration of all these devices is impractical for even the largest IT organizations. The automated features of NAC solutions prove beneficial, reducing the time and associated costs of authenticating and authorizing users while ensuring device compliance.
Furthermore, cybercriminals are well aware of the rise in endpoint usage and continuously devise sophisticated campaigns to exploit vulnerabilities in corporate networks. With an increased attack surface due to more endpoints, there are more opportunities for fraudsters to gain access. NAC solutions can be configured to detect unusual or suspicious network activity and respond promptly, such as isolating the device to prevent the potential spread of an attack.
Although IoT and BYOD have brought changes to NAC solutions, NAC also functions as a continual inventory of users, devices, and their access levels. It serves as an active discovery tool, identifying previously unknown devices that may have gained network access, necessitating adjustments to security policies by IT administrators.
Additionally, organizations have the flexibility to choose how NAC authenticates users attempting to gain network access. IT administrators can opt for multi-factor authentication (MFA), providing an additional layer of security beyond username and password combinations.
The restriction of network access also implies control over applications and data within the network, which are typically the targets of cybercriminals. The stronger the network controls, the more challenging it becomes for any cyberattack to infiltrate the network.
What Are the Advantages of Network Access Control?
Network access control offers several advantages for organizations:
- Regulate the entry of users into the corporate network.
- Manage access to the applications and resources that users intend to reach.
- Permit contractors, partners, and guests to enter the network as required but limit their access.
- Categorize employees into groups according to their job functions and establish role-based access policies.
- Safeguard against cyberattacks by implementing systems and controls that identify unusual or suspicious activity.
- Automate incident response procedures.
- Produce reports and insights on attempted access throughout the organization.
What Are the Common Use Cases for Network Access Control?
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
As remote work policies become more prevalent, employees increasingly use their personal devices for work-related tasks. BYOD, which allows employees to use their own devices for work, enhances efficiency and reduces overall costs. Employees often find greater productivity using devices of their choice compared to those provided by the company.
NAC policies can be expanded to cover BYOD scenarios, ensuring both the device and its owner undergo authentication and authorization processes before gaining access to the network.
Internet-of-Things (IoT) Devices
Examples of IoT devices include security cameras, check-in kiosks, and building sensors. While these devices expand an organization’s network capabilities, they also enlarge its potential attack surface. Moreover, IoT devices may remain unmonitored or in sleep mode for extended periods. NAC can mitigate risks associated with these endpoints by implementing defined profiling measures and enforcing access policies tailored to different categories of IoT devices.
Network Access for Non-Employees
NAC proves valuable in providing temporary access to non-employees, such as contractors, consultants, and partners. It enables seamless network connection for these users without requiring direct involvement from the IT team. Naturally, the policies for non-employees must differ from those applied to regular employees.
What Are the Capabilities of Network Access Control?
- Policy Life-cycle Management: NAC enforces policies for all users and devices throughout the organization, adapting these policies as individuals, endpoints, and business dynamics evolve.
- Profiling and Visibility: NAC authenticates, authorizes, and profiles both users and devices, also denying access to unauthorized users and devices.
- Guest Networking Access: NAC empowers an organization to oversee and authenticate temporary users and devices via a self-service portal.
- Security Posture Check: It assesses and categorizes security-policy compliance based on user, device, location, operating system, and other criteria.
- Incidence Response: NAC diminishes the occurrence of cyber threats by formulating and enforcing policies that obstruct suspicious activity and isolate devices without the need for IT resource intervention.
- Bi-directional Integration: NAC has the capability to integrate with other security point products and network solutions using an open/RESTful application programming interface (API).
What Are the Types of Network Access Control?
Network access control before granting access is known as pre-admission. When a user seeks entry into the network, they submit a request. Pre-admission network control evaluates the request and allows access if the device or user can authenticate their identity.
Post-admission network access control involves authorizing an authenticated device or user attempting to access a new or different area of the network, for which they haven’t received prior authorization. To gain authorization, the user or device must reverify their identity.
What is the Importance of Network Access Control?
NAC enhances security by overseeing all devices in use across the organization, authenticating users and devices as soon as they enter the network. The ability to monitor network activity and promptly respond to unauthorized or unusual behavior reduces the occurrence of malware threats and other cyberattacks.
Automated tracking and protection of devices at scale result in cost savings for organizations, as fewer IT resources are required. Blocking unauthorized access or suspected malware attacks prevents potential financial losses that may occur if these activities go unchecked.
With the increasing number and variety of devices used by organizations, manual verification of users and their endpoints’ security policies during network entry becomes impractical. NAC’s automation features significantly improve the efficiency of authenticating users and devices and authorizing access.
Enhanced IT Experiences
Seamless access ensures a frictionless user experience when connecting to the network. The presence of background controls gives users confidence that their IT experience is secure without requiring any active effort on their part.
Ease of Control
NAC’s visibility features effectively function as a continuous inventory of all endpoints authorized by the organization, aiding IT in determining which endpoints or users have network access. This proves beneficial not only for immediate access management but also for life-cycle management when devices need to be phased out or replaced.
What is Network Access Control (NAC)?
NAC, also known as network admission control, is the process of preventing unauthorized users and devices from accessing a corporate or private network. It ensures that only authenticated users and authorized devices complying with security policies can enter the network.
Why is NAC important for organizations?
NAC enhances security by overseeing all devices in use, authenticating users and devices upon network entry. It also helps reduce the occurrence of malware threats and other cyberattacks.
What are the advantages of Network Access Control?
NAC offers advantages such as regulating user entry, managing access to applications, allowing controlled access for contractors and guests, categorizing employees based on job functions, safeguarding against cyberattacks, automating incident response, and generating reports on attempted access.
How does NAC handle Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scenarios?
NAC policies can be extended to BYOD scenarios, ensuring both the device and its owner undergo authentication and authorization processes before gaining access to the network.
What are the common use cases for NAC?
Common use cases include addressing BYOD challenges, managing IoT device risks, and providing network access for non-employees like contractors and partners.
What capabilities does NAC offer?
NAC provides capabilities such as policy life-cycle management, profiling and visibility, guest networking access, security posture checks, incidence response automation, and bi-directional integration with other security solutions.
What are the types of Network Access Control?
NAC includes pre-admission control, which evaluates access requests before granting entry, and post-admission control, which authorizes authenticated devices or users attempting to access new areas of the network.
How does NAC contribute to improved security?
NAC enhances security by authenticating users and devices as they enter the network, promptly responding to unauthorized or unusual behavior, and reducing the occurrence of malware threats and cyberattacks.
How does NAC contribute to cost savings for organizations?
Automated tracking and protection of devices result in cost savings by reducing the need for extensive IT resources. Blocking unauthorized access and potential malware attacks prevents financial losses.
How does NAC handle the increasing variety of devices used by organizations?
NAC’s automation features improve the efficiency of authenticating users and devices, ensuring security policies are adhered to during network entry, even with the growing diversity of devices.
What role does NAC play in network access for non-employees?
NAC proves valuable in providing temporary access to non-employees, such as contractors and partners, ensuring seamless network connection without direct involvement from the IT team.
How does NAC assist in ease of control for organizations?
NAC’s visibility features serve as a continuous inventory of all endpoints, aiding in immediate access management and life-cycle management when devices need to be phased out or replaced.
Network Access Control (NAC) plays a vital role in fortifying organizational cybersecurity amid the evolving digital landscape. Its robust capabilities, from pre-admission controls to automation, offer essential tools for adapting to dynamic network environments. NAC not only enhances security but also contributes to cost savings, showcasing its versatility in addressing cybersecurity challenges. As a vigilant guardian, NAC provides the flexibility and control needed to safeguard against evolving digital threats.