Network Access Control (NAC)

Security for networks with IoT

What is Network Access Control (NAC)?

Network access control, or NAC, is a zero-trust network access solution that provides users with enhanced visibility into the Internet of Things (IoT) devices on their corporate networks. 

This technology has been around for nearly two decades, but a new generation of its solutions is helping organizations keep up with today’s ever-expanding attack surface, delivering not only visibility of the network environment, but also enforcement and dynamic policy control.  Whether devices are connecting from inside or outside the network, it can automatically respond to compromised devices or anomalous activity.

Modern solutions also provide a clear view into network assets to support regulatory certifications and security best practices that require organizations to establish and maintain an accurate inventory of all connected devices—even in virtual environments where assets are constantly connecting and disconnecting from the network. The monitoring and response capabilities are especially critical since many devices open users to additional risk via compromised, poorly written and un-patchable software, unadvertised back doors hardwired into firmware, and other factors.

NAC is an important part of a Zero Trust Network Access model for security, in which trust is no longer implicit for users, applications, or devices attempting to access the network, and for which IT teams can easily know who and what are accessing the network, as well as how to protect corporate assets both on and off the network.

How NAC Secures Your Network

NAC provides visibility over everything connected to the network, as well as the ability to control those devices and users, including dynamic, automated responses. It plays a role in strengthening overall network security infrastructure.

A properly functioning solution can deny access to noncompliant users or devices, place them in quarantine, or restrict access to a small number of network resources, separated from the rest of the network. NAC generally supports the following:

    1. Authentication and authorization of users and devices
    2. User and device profiling
    3. Denial of unsecured devices
    4. Quarantine of unsecured devices
    5. Restricting access to unsecured devices
    6. Policy lifecycle management
    7. Overall security posture assessment
    8. Incident response through policy enforcement
    9. Guest networking access

Network Access Control Benefits and Use Cases

IoT and BYOD

The adoption of IoT devices is growing exponentially, especially in high-risk markets such as healthcare and retail where even a few years ago there were far fewer network-connected devices. Converging with this trend is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which over more than a decade has brought an influx of new mobile devices connecting to corporate networks. Both create substantial new security risks and open new threat vectors, and unsecured devices dramatically increase the risk of intrusion, breach, and a catastrophic cyberattack. The right NAC solutions ensure compliance for all devices connecting to networks, checking that proper controls are in place before corporate network resources are accessible.

There are now billions of non-traditional compute, IP-enabled devices that are connecting to networks. (This means basically everything on the network that isn’t a laptop or mobile phone, from IP cameras, to VoIP phones, printers, HVAC controls, temperature sensors, badge readers, digital displays, bluetooth sensors, and many more examples.)

 

Incident Response

The role of NAC in incident response is often significant. Solutions can be configured to automatically enforce security policies, share contextual information, and isolate unsecure devices from accessing other parts of a network.

 

Contractors

Contractors, partner employees, and other guest workers need specialized access only to those parts of the corporate network that enable a good user experience and allow them to do their jobs. NAC plays a key role in maintaining access privileges while ensuring guest users have smooth connectivity and a good overall experience.

 

Medicine

Healthcare is an industry rapidly embracing the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and now many new networked devices are coming online to support advances in medicine and medical care. But as more medical devices access the corporate network, it is critical to employ NAC solutions that can help protect devices and massive troves of sensitive personal data, including medical records. This can help improve healthcare security overall and keep medical facilities and other healthcare institutions safe from ransomware and other prevalent threats.

 

Compliance

Regulatory compliance isn’t optional, and organizations can receive serious fines and create myriad other problems if access controls aren’t implemented or aren’t demonstrably effective. NAC solutions have long been thought of as risk mitigation technology—which they certainly are—but the right ones can also help enforce compliance controls under regulations such as HIPAA, SOX, or PCI-DSS, and ensure smooth compliance audits.

FortiNAC: Network Access Security Solution

FortiNAC is the Fortinet network access control solution. It enhances the overall Fortinet Security Fabric with visibility, control, and automated response for everything that connects to the network. It provides protection against IoT threats, extends control to third-party devices, and orchestrates automatic responses to a wide range of networking events.

FortiNAC enables three key capabilities to secure IoT devices:

    • Network visibility to see every device and user as they join the network
    • Network control to limit where devices can go on the network
    • Automated response to speed reaction time to events from days to seconds

The FortiNAC solution protects both wireless and wired networks with a centralized architecture that enables distributed deployments with automated responsiveness.

FortiNAC is an ideal solution for any stage or maturity level of a security strategy. Using FortiNAC, organizations can:

    • Deliver agent and agentless scanning of the network for detection and classification of devices
    • Create an inventory of all devices on the network and assess the risk of every endpoint connected to the network
    • Use a centralized architecture for easy deployment and management
    • Leverage extensive support for third-party network devices to ensure overall effectiveness
    • Enforce dynamic access control
    • Prepare for incident response and reduce containment time to seconds, sometimes from as long as days or weeks
    • Integrate with SIEM solutions to provide detailed contextual data and reduce investigation time
    • Automate the onboarding and permissions process for large numbers of endpoint devices, users, and guests
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