Network Access Control (NAC) solutions support organizations to manage endpoint and user access provision using a set of policies or protocols and authentication mechanisms to secure organizational networks and data. Organizations can control endpoints (otherwise known as nodes or devices) at the pre-and post-admission stages, implement security compliances, and create resource usage policies based on various factors such as location or user authority.

Wired networks generally have different kinds of security measures in place. However, with wireless networks, where endpoints are connected merely through the internet or via a common router, the security of data and devices becomes much more complex. The authentication of users in large organizations with wireless networks, especially with data increasingly being moved to the cloud, becomes a major concern since sensitive data must be protected at all costs. Traditionally, NAS (Network Access Server) was used to ensure that people without visibility rights would not be able to access resources by blocking off access based on the confirmation of login details. However, amidst the digital shift, NAS is no longer usable unless an organization maintains a rigid user environment.

This means that unless an organization has
1) a small number of employees, and
2) a fixed number of devices that can be monitored,
it most definitely needs more security than a log-in password. This is where NAC comes in to save the day.

NAC solutions are extremely important in situations where employees or guests are allowed to bring their own devices to the workplace, sign into the network, and access information from multiple devices simultaneously.
Nowadays, most organizations have moved to cloud-based storage, and allow their employees to access files remotely. With BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Remote-Access becoming more widely accepted as the norm, understanding, and adopting NAC becomes vital.

So, let us dive into what NAC is –

4 major concepts act as a foundation for NAC–

IDS/IPS (Intruder Detection Systems/Intruder Prevention Systems) – These are put in place to identify and contain breaches and attacks.

User Authentication – This involves the correct identification and verification of users/devices attempting to access a network.

Endpoint Security – Endpoints or devices need to remain secure once access has been granted. This is what is known as post-Admission security.

And finally, Network Security – This concept focuses on ensuring the security of the network environment.

We talk more about Identity and Access Management, User Authentication, Unified Endpoint Management, Zero-trust Network Security, and IDS/IPS in our other insights.

Coming back to Network Access Control Solutions, some of the most basic actions that they help organizations carry out are –

1) Create user profiles based on identity and role to detect trusted users. This method of identification steers away from IP address-based verification.
2) Restrict non-compliant, unverified users from utilizing the corporate network and accessing data.
3) Monitor user activity once admitted and control continuation of access provision.
4) Remove any unidentifiable or suspicious users, devices, or applications to prevent data misappropriation or malicious attacks.
5) Provide different levels of access to endpoints based on a profiling engine. This engine can discover, monitor, and/or quarantine endpoints based on user behavior or role in the organization.
6) Put firewalls, spyware detection, malware detection, anti-virus software, and intrusion detection systems into place.
7) Create a baseline for endpoint security and monitor all devices that request access for compliance/non-compliance.
8) Help administrators create and implement security policies based on user data, user roles, and network complexity to govern internal and external activity, as well as reduce security risks by controlling access for devices. This involves temporarily blocking or isolating devices until administrator intervention takes place.
9) Create and manage a guest network, which can be used to provide limited access to guest users. This involves the creation of a guest portal that is capable of authenticating, registering, and managing access for guest users.
10) Integrate with other access control tools and security applications to secure vulnerabilities, contain attacks, and restrict unprotected devices from contaminating other devices on the network.