How to Enable Your Remote Workforce with Zero Trust-By-Design

Organizations have been depending on the use of VPNs, but VPNs provide a direct, trusted connection right past your perimeter defenses and allow access to your entire network infrastructure.

How to Enable Your Remote Workforce with Zero Trust-By-Design Instead of Traditional VPN

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The movement to enabling the remote workforce has now become pervasive with the present Covid-19 pandemic. According to a very recent report from Gartner, more than half of the HR managers surveyed said that 81% of their employees are now working remotely. The report goes on to say that 41% of employees will likely end up working remotely some of the time after the pandemic. This is up from 30% before the pandemic.[1]

Security Issues Created by Enabling Remote Access via the VPN

Increasingly, organizations have been depending on the use of VPNs to provide remote network access to their employees. However, VPNs provide a direct, trusted connection right past your perimeter defenses and allow access to your entire network infrastructure. As such, VPNs are simply not appropriate for gig-based workers and most contract workers. And because they are a great way past your defenses, threat actors are always looking for and finding new exploits. That means they need constant updates and maintenance. That is because VPN technology was never designed to provide widespread access or granular control. If you want to use a VPN as a tool for your many remote workers then you also need to implement an additional layer of PAM or Privileged Access Management. With so many employees and third parties requiring access, the VPN becomes difficult to manage.

Zero Trust Remote Access Is the Better Way

The better way to safely enable your COVID-19 remote workforce is to provide them the ability to remotely access, share, and collaborate from your own storage infrastructure via a platform that uses zero trust – FileFlex Enterprise.

What is a Zero Trust Architecture?

The traditional network architecture has been changing. More services are moving to the cloud. There is a surge in the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) and users are embracing flexible working on multiple devices in a variety of locations. As a result, the traditional network perimeter has been disappearing and with it the value of traditional perimeter defenses. Traditionally, we have been relying on anti-virus software, port/firewall lockdowns, and VPNs to secure a perimeter where people we trust are let in and everyone else is kept out. The problem is that once an attacker gains a foothold in a network – for example from a successful spear-phishing attack – they are now able to move laterally and put ransomware on your servers. That is because everyone on the network is trusted.   In a zero-trust architecture, inherent trust is removed from the network. The network is treated as hostile.

How the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines Zero Trust

  • Zero trust (ZT) is the term for an evolving set of cybersecurity paradigms that move network defenses from static, network-based perimeters to focus on users, assets, and resources.
  • A zero-trust architecture (ZTA) uses zero trust principles to plan enterprise infrastructure and workflows.
  • Zero trust assumes there is no implicit trust granted to assets or user accounts based solely on their physical or network location (i.e. local area networks versus the internet).
  • Authentication and authorization (both user and device) are discrete functions performed before a session to an enterprise resource is established.
  • Zero trust is a response to enterprise network trends that include remote users and cloud-based assets that are not located within an enterprise owned network boundary.
  • Zero trust focuses on protecting resources, not network segments, as the network location is no longer seen as the prime component to the security posture of the resource. [2]

VPN Access vs Zero Trust Access

Think of a VPN as a super-long ethernet cord giving remote workers access to the network infrastructure. VPNs trust blindly. Once a user’s device is authenticated, they gain access to everything on the network. With zero trust however, no one is trusted. Every request, by every user, is always authenticated. Think of it like a bank teller. If you want to withdraw money from the bank, you aren’t allowed to go into the vault and get it yourself. You have to go to the bank teller.   The teller will verify that you are who you say you are, will verify that you have the funds that you want, and verify that you have permission to withdraw the amount that you want. The teller then gets your money and gives it to you. That is why according to Gartner, by 2023, 60% of enterprises will phase out most of their remote access virtual private networks (VPNs) in favor of a zero-trust architecture.[3]

FileFlex Enterprise Zero Trust-by-Design


Zero Trust Remote Data Access Applied to the Entire IT Infrastructure

FileFlex Enterprise is the industry’s first platform that provides remote access and sharing to the entire hybrid-IT infrastructure used by today’s modern organization using a zero trust architecture. FileFlex Enterprise provides the cloud functionality of remote access and sharing to on-premises storage such as your servers, server-attached, network-attached, PC, remote office, corporate datacenter, and on-premises SharePoint storage and your Amazon, Azure, Google, and SharePoint online Infrastructure-as-a-Service storage.

Zero Trust by Design Platform

Before we built any features, FileFlex Enterprise was built from the ground up with a zero trust by design architecture that always authenticates and always verifies all transactions all the time with a “never trust, always verify” model. Once we had built the platform, we then developed the capabilities of the product such as remote access, file sharing, collaboration, and the ability to have virtual data rooms. By building zero trust first into the platform, it becomes inherent to all the capabilities of the platform, both present, and future. This is in contrast with traditional file sharing solutions that built their capabilities first and then bolted on security.

Zero Trust Secure Processes Over Data

FileFlex Enterprise uses a set of secure zero trust processes to access, secure, and transmit data. or Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA). Others focus either on zero trust in a network access platform (ZTNA) or on an application access platform (ZTAA). We employ zero trust every time someone attempts to access corporate data. These include processes for user authentication, secure data transmission, accessing information, protecting credentials, use of anonymous tokens, request management, and permission management. And it has a robust security set including AES 256 encrypted hybrid point-to-point communication, double encryption, two-factor authentication, device authentication, virus scanning, single sign-on (SSO), active directory integration, activity log and operation, and incident management. As a result, FileFlex Enterprise eliminates both unauthorized access to data and services and makes the access control enforcement as granular as possible.

Zero Trust Low-Cost Platform

Finally, FileFlex Enterprise is a low-cost, software-only solution that runs from a VM, does not require the purchase of any additional hardware or additional storage nor the hiring of any additional staff. And because there are no additional costs as you increase your usage, there is no cost creep. Contact us to arrange a free no-obligation trial today.

[1] Gartner HR Survey Reveals 41% of Employees Likely to Work Remotely at Least Some of the Time Post Coronavirus Pandemic

[2] Draft (2nd 1) NIST Special Publication 800-207 “Zero Trust Architecture”

[3] The VPN is dying, long live zero trust

Tom Ward is the VP of Marketing for Qnext Corp. He is an expert in the technology industry with a history of achievement. Tom holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.