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Network Access Control Definition & Meaning

Network access control is a comprehensive approach to securing all of the places in a network that users can enter. Network access control (or NAC) focuses on managing users' access to a company's private network to prevent attackers from reaching sensitive data. A few methods of managing network access include:

Securing endpoints—as teams shift to remote work and employees connect to more devices, endpoint technology becomes more challenging to manage. Companies should set policies for having passwords on company devices and perhaps implement a virtual private network for just work devices if the employee has other unsecured IoT devices in their home. Attackers can access a company network through a smart device that's connected to another device on the network.

Requiring authenticationmulti-factor authentication policies are one of the best methods of controlling users' network access. When logging into company accounts that contain important data, employees should provide verification.

Using private or encrypted Wi-Fi connections—public Wi-Fi is unacceptable for accessing a business network; attackers can easily eavesdrop and hack an Internet session. Employees should be required to use a private Wi-Fi connection at the very least.

Implementing network access control

Network access control involves a thorough analysis of each company access point. Organizations must be proactive and prepare for attacks, setting precautions based on the existing vulnerabilities in the network. An organization might also implement behavior analytics and machine learning in company platforms to detect a breach and respond accordingly. Company bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies help businesses mitigate some of the risk of connecting personal devices to the company network.

A zero trust approach to network security is one of the best ways a company can control network access: it requires authentication for multiple segments of the network, not just initial entry. This reduces the risk of an attacker breaching the perimeter of the network and then having access to everything within it. If every account and application requires credentials, too, then an attacker's access to sensitive information is reduced.

Network access control is best for:

  • Large organizations with many employees and devices
  • Companies with a large number of remote workers; endpoints spread over distances need to be monitored
  • Businesses that handle a lot of sensitive information; implementing NAC may help them meet compliance regulations such as GDPR and CCPA

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