Chapter 3. Network Agents

Imagine you’re in a security-conscious organization. Each employee is given a highly credentialed laptop to do their work. With today’s work and personal life blending together, some also want to view their email and calendar on their phone. In this hypothetical organization, the security team applies fine-grained policy decisions based on which device the user is using to access a particular resource.

For example, perhaps it is permissible to commit code from the employee’s company-issued laptop, but doing so from their phone would be quite a strange thing. Since source code access from a mobile device is decidedly riskier than from an enrolled laptop, the organization blocks such access.

The story described here is a fairly typical application of zero trust, in that multiple factors of authentication and authorization take place, concerning both the user and the device. In this example, however, it is clear that one factor has influenced the other—a user which might “normally” have source code access won’t enjoy such access from their mobile device. Additionally, this organization does not want authenticated users to commit code from just any trusted device—they expect users to use their own device.

This marriage of user and device is a new concept that zero trust introduces, which we are calling a network agent. In a zero trust network, it is insufficient to treat the user and device separately, because policy often needs to consider the two together ...

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