What is network access control (NAC)?

Like many IT terms, network access control may seem to be a mouthful but is fundamentally descriptive: a NAC solution controls access to the network. NAC systems are put into place to make sure that anyone who enters the system, both in terms of users and devices, is authorized.
After being routed the efforts at connection, the network access control system confirms privileges using an Identity and Access Management (IAM). With the information from the IAM, along with a pre-established list of rules, the NAC is able to smartly accept or deny access requests.

How a NAC solution works

When you adopt a network access control solution, the first thing it will do is find all devices currently accessing the system; identify what kind of device they are; and determine whether to validate them and how to treat them using preestablished protocols designed by the company’s security personnel. A network access control system has rules related to a wide spectrum of devices, along with finely grained settings to help you determine permissions. A unified administrative system houses these rules and applies them as needed.

Many companies will utilize NAC as their staff grows and they have an increasing number of devices to manage. These solutions are also helpful for achieving data protection across a variety of different branch locations. The difficulty of securing an organization and managing access has become especially overwhelming in an era when widespread incorporation of IOT devices is becoming more common throughout business; NAC is the fix. The general issue with bring your own device (BYOD), though, is what drew many businesses to this service.

The road to network access control

Network access control systems were traditionally used to block unauthorized devices from a traditional data center network. As the digital era emerged, NAC systems became much more robust in order to meet the challenge of applying rules and policies that work across an ecosystem of BYOD, mobile hotspots, and cloud services. A particular concern today is that a network access control system simplifies access in an otherwise overwhelming Internet of Things (IoT) era.

While rogue laptops and desktops were the concern in the early days of NAC, today, BYOD and IOT are central. Businesses seeking NAC solutions are often most focused on a diverse array of tablets, smartphones, and laptops. In order to continue to deliver fully interoperable services, companies that provide NAC often work with mobile device management (MDM) providers and providers of IoT devices to allow for comprehensive protection that properly accounts for all endpoints.