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Unlocking Secure Access: A Guide to ZTNA, SRA, and RPAM

The key differences and specific ways each helps to fortify industrial cybersecurity postures.

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The industrial sector faces a convoluted landscape of acronyms when it comes to securing digital identities. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Secure Remote Access (SRA) and Remote Privileged Access Management (RPAM), for example, all play vital roles, but understanding their distinct strengths is crucial for securing OT environments – especially as OT networks require unique, extensive support.

For example, these environments are often filled with internet of things (IoT) devices, such as factory robots and sensors that are connected to the network and vulnerable to advanced cyberattacks. In fact, IoT expansion has led to a 30 percent rise in security incidents as of 2024.

With the manufacturing sector experiencing the highest number of cyberattacks globally for three years running, accounting for a staggering 25.7 percent of all attacks, implementing the right strategies and security solutions becomes crucial. This safeguards not only critical infrastructure, but also ensures the safety of employees who rely on connected devices in their daily work.

Let's explore the key differences between ZTNA, SRA and RPAM and highlight the specific ways each helps to fortify industrial cybersecurity postures.

Navigating the Alphabet Maze

Frameworks including ZTNA, SRA and RPAM fall under the umbrella of digital identity security, but are made up of unique capabilities that must be understood to help align with the needs of OT environments. As the manufacturing sector averages costs of $1 million per breach, integrating the right security framework is critical to financial growth and ROI. Here is a brief breakdown of a few common architectures:

  • ZTNA: Advocates a "never trust, always verify" approach. ZTNA enforces strict identity controls and provides least privilege access for all users and devices, minimizing the organizational attack surface and reducing the risk of lateral movement within the network. ZTNA fortifies OT security by implementing stringent access controls, continuous monitoring, and network segmentation. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized access while also limiting the amount of damage an attacker could cause even if they do gain access.
  • Modern SRA: This architecture provides real-time monitoring and alerting capabilities, allowing security teams to detect and respond to potential threats or anomalies as they occur. This proactive approach is vital for protecting OT systems from evolving cyber threats. This is achieved through robust encryption and strong authentication, ensuring data protection in transit and compliance with security standards. One key element for security leaders to note is to refrain from integrating traditional SRA solutions, such as ones that incorporate VPNs or jump boxes, as they do not provide the level of control that OT environments demand.
  • RPAM: Dedicates itself to safeguarding and managing privileged access for users with elevated permissions. RPAM offers granular controls and comprehensive monitoring to prevent and detect any misuse of these critical accounts. RPAM plays a vital role in preventing and uncovering any abuse of privileged accounts within OT environments. This is crucial, as compromised privileged credentials pose a significant threat.

Choosing a Framework that Works for You

Security leaders can select the ideal identity-based security solution by considering the specific needs of their organization. Here's a breakdown to help guide your decision-making process:

  • Identify Your Core Security Needs: If an enterprises’ sole focus is on preventing insider threats and unauthorized access, ZTNA's "never trust, always verify" approach excels. Organizations seeking to secure remote access for geographically dispersed systems or third-party vendors will greatly benefit from SRA, as its focus is on secure tunnels and access control. Companies searching for enhanced security around privileged accounts that comply with regulations will appreciate that RPAM offers granular control and monitoring specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Evaluate Your Operational Environment: Industrial organizations with fluctuating remote access needs or those experiencing growth can benefit from SRA's scalability. For those prioritizing real-time threat detection and response, SRA's continuous monitoring and alerts offer a significant advantage. Additionally, SRA seamlessly integrates with existing security tools like SIEM, IDS, and firewalls, further strengthening an organization's overall security posture. 

By analyzing their core security needs and operational environment, enterprises can identify the Identity and Access Management (IAM) framework that best aligns with their business objectives. While each framework offers unique benefits, organizations seeking a comprehensive approach to OT security will benefit from holistic solutions such as SRA – due to its scalability, real-time monitoring and integration capabilities for critical infrastructure environments.

The industrial sector, particularly critical infrastructure, faces unique challenges in securing its complex OT environments. Currently, 43 percent of manufacturing organizations are not effectively protecting their OT environments. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the IAM frameworks on the market and evaluating their specific needs and operational environment, organizations can identify the solutions that best align with their security posture.

Almog Apirion is the CEO and co-founder of Cyolo.

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