How Network Access Control Can Save the Day
Who should have access to your network? And who shouldn’t? How can you ensure that only authorized users are on your network, while the bad guys are kept out?
When designing a wireless network, most companies first think about speed and coverage throughout their facilities. However if your users are heavily dependent on your WiFi, security and reliability need to be on the front burner too.
Network Access Control (NAC) is one of the most basic ways to get your WiFi security under control. Why? It ties together endpoint security with authentication and enforcement.
In this article, you’ll learn how NAC impacts the overall security of your network by controlling who has access. You’ll also get introduced to how NAC identifies, assigns, and enforces policies to manage network access better.
Improving Security with Network Access Control (NAC)
Back when computer networks were primarily accessed through twisted pair Ethernet cables, it was at least somewhat easier to control who had access to your network. Granted the first time your company added wide area networking links or connected to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you ratcheted up the risk factors. Then once you layer wireless networking on top of all of this, you introduced a whole new level of security vulnerabilities.
Network Access Control, when correctly deployed, mitigates many of these security risk factors by enforcing policies on devices that are accessing your network.
What’s the purpose of these policies? The goal with NAC is to give you better visibility into the happenings on your network while lowering your risk factors and overall improving security.
By limiting the availability of your network resources to authorized endpoint devices that comply with your security policies, your company protects itself. Plus your users enjoy a much greater level of WiFi performance, security, and availability.
Because its approach encompasses endpoint security, authentication, and security enforcement, NAC can be especially helpful for unifying your overall strategy into one holistic managed services plan.
The Basics of NAC Policies: Identification, Assignment, and Enforcement
If your company is like most, different users need access to different resources. For example, your sales team has its customer relationship management (CRM) system, your finance team has its accounting software, and your HR team has the software it uses to process bi-weekly payroll.
What happens if someone from your sales team is accidentally granted access to, or maliciously gains access to, your company’s payroll system?
NAC policies can control access to specific resources, roles, devices, and locations. So if the payroll system, for example, was located at company headquarters, a NAC policy could be implemented that restricts administrator access to only those physically found at the company headquarters location.
So at the most basic level, Network Access Control has three jobs:
- Identifies who a particular user is and what device this person is using. NAC should also know where this person is connecting from, as well as the time of day and day of the week.
- Assigns access permissions based on predefined policies. Once NAC has identified what it’s dealing with, a role can be assigned to a particular user and device combination -- often referred to as role-based access control (RBAC).
- Enforces access controls to prevent unauthorized access. Effective NAC provides precisely the level of access required: nothing more, nothing less. The end goal is almost always the same: controlling who accesses your network and how various network resources are being used.
NAC Use Cases for Preventing Disasters
Once upon a time, IT directors used to be able to dictate the specs of every single piece of hardware on their supported networks, as well as the operating systems, software applications, and maintenance version updates and patches. Those days are long gone -- in fact, so long gone, that it’s unusual to find many active conversations about BYOD (bring your own device) as most companies have had to concede to allowing personal devices in their workplaces.
However, this acquiescence doesn’t do much to lessen the associated risks.
So what can a company do with Network Access Control to better manage resources gain network privileges, taking into account the user, device, role, and location? And more specifically, what can be done to head off network disasters?
When a new device and user combination attempts to connect to your network, for the first time, your NAC policies can prevent access to any user and device combination that doesn’t meet your policy requirements. You might, for example, require a specific antivirus application and update recency, or a certain OS version with one particular hardened configuration.
So what happens if someone attempts to connect to your network and their device doesn’t have current antivirus software installed? Or worse yet, their antivirus software has flagged an active virus infection? It doesn’t matter what level of user access that person has -- even if that person is your CEO! If their device fails your NAC policy requirements at the time of identification, NAC will not assign a role to that person.
And just as importantly, your IT team can be alerted in real time so that it can take additional countermeasures to prevent the infected device from attaching to its network resources.
How WiFi as a Service Bolsters Your Defenses
Does your company have an on-site IT team with expertise in Network Access Control? Or do you depend on a third party company or consultant?
If you don’t have the luxury of round the clock IT staff monitoring your network, or you have concerns that the vendor you’ve hired doesn’t have this kind of expertise, you’re not alone. IT employees, with advanced knowledge on WiFi, NAC, and security are hard to recruit and expensive. And that’s the reason why SecureEdge WiFi as Service makes more sense for many kinds of companies.
With your WiFi as a Service subscription, you’ll get everything that you need: WiFi hardware, software, and managed services to keep your wireless network fast, reliable, and secure.
There’s no need to research or purchase access points and controllers, switches, or next-generation firewalls.
And you don’t have to worry about staying on top of how your WiFi network is performing because SecurEdge WiFi includes performance monitoring. No learning curve. No extra software license costs to worry about. It’s all included.
When there are problems, someone needs to be prepared to immediately address WiFi reliability, performance, or security at any time of the day or night, any day of the year. So if your internal team doesn’t have that capability, SecurEdge WiFi can fill that gap with included 24/7 monitoring, tier 2 level support, and monthly network health reports.
And the best part for cost-conscious companies working with limited budgets? SecurEdge WiFi provides your organization with predictable pricing, no upfront costs, and a scheduled network refresh (so you don’t have to worry about your WiFi hardware becoming obsolete and turning from an asset into a liability!). All for one monthly payment.
The Bottom Line on How Network Access Control Saves the Day
In a digital-first world, your company’s IT assets are now a mission-critical part of your operations. When your network goes down, regardless of the cause, your company loses sales and harms its reputation. Network Access Control is one of the most effective ways to make sure that your wireless network stays fast, reliable, and secure.
In this article, you’ve learned how NAC impacts your overall network security by controlling access. You’ve also been introduced to how NAC identifies, assigns, and enforces policies to manage network access better.
To find out how your company can cost-effectively implement professionally-managed Network Access Control, simply request a design.
Joshua Feinberg is President of the Data Center Sales & Marketing Institute where he finds revenue growth opportunities that companies are currently missing. This includes helping clients differentiate, get found earlier in the buyer's journey, achieve trusted advisor status, and command premium pricing power to drive sustained, profitable, revenue growth. He's been writing professionally for the IT services market since 1998 and is a former Microsoft Corporation content provider for its Small Business Server (SBS) product teams and small business channel partner teams. As a big fan of inbound marketing and inbound sales, Joshua holds 10 HubSpot Academy certifications. A New Jersey native and Rutgers grad, Joshua now lives in South Florida with his wife and two children.