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Zero Trust vs. VPN: Is One More Secure Than The Other For Remote Work?

Zero Trust vs. VPN: Is One More Secure Than The Other For Remote Work?

More and more information is being stored online, and cybercriminals are eager to strike. In fact, there have been several major attacks that have made the news this year like the ransomware attack that targeted Britain’s Royal Mail. What’s more, they are still experiencing repercussions over a month later. The continuous rise in successful attacks has caused several Individuals, businesses, and organizations to look for and use the most effective solutions for cybersecurity.  

One focus has been on network security - especially for those who work remotely. External users create more vectors for bad actors to infiltrate and steal confidential details from individuals and businesses. Furthermore, many have taken note of the changes to cybersecurity laws and the general need to combat rising cyber threats. This is why many are turning to zero trust or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for a solution. This article will explore both methods and help you make the decision between the two. 

What is Zero Trust? 

Zero trust employs a strategy that is implied in the name. Trust refers to access to network information, so in a zero trust network strategy, no trust is given until a user has been verified, and the amount of trust granted is limited. Rabiul Islam, from TechForing LTD, there are a few main components to every zero trust plan. 

  • User Authentication - Every single user that has access to the network must be verified before they are granted access. Since user accounts can become compromised, some systems require multi-factor authentication to verify users. This is where users must complete two steps. The first step usually involves entering something the user knows like a password. Then, users are given another task. Typically, this involves responding to a push notification on a user’s phone or entering a code sent to a user’s email. Authorization is given for a set amount of time, and once that time expires, the user must reidentify themselves.  

  • Limited Access - Each user is only granted a limited amount of access, and networks can be set up to only provide users entry to the data that is relevant to their position. 

  • Network Segmentation - The network is broken up into different levels of security, and accounts are given different amounts of security clearance. Rabiul Islam also mentions that segmentation is done via software rather than hardware, so cybersecurity measures can be quickly updated and configured. 

  • Network Monitoring - Activity is tracked and reviewed to look for suspicious pursuits. When strange behavior is detected; then, an alert can be set out and access can become restricted. 

  • Data Encryption - Encryption can be implemented during storage as well as during transit. Encryption is when data is transformed into a code and needs to be unscrambled in order to be read. Only users with the encryption key will be able to decipher the data.  

How these components are implemented varies from network to network. For instance, when Microsoft’s zero trust network verifies a user, they look at the device they are requesting access from, and the location of the device, and search for anomalies.   


  • Layered security approach 

  • Limited access to users also means limited access to compromised accounts. 

  • Data encryption prevents the information from being read without a key even if it is stolen.  


  • Several components to manage. 

  • Many areas where misconfiguration can occur. 

  • The workflow may be interrupted if users need to be authenticated multiple times. Additionally, zero trust may prevent user authorization if the network is skeptical of the user. This can be especially troubling for remote workers since they may choose to travel while they work, and if they try to log in from an unfamiliar location; then, it may be flagged as out of the ordinary preventing the user from account access or additional verification may be needed. 

What is a VPN? 

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This is a service many individuals, businesses, and organizations have begun to use as a way to protect their data through encryption. As mentioned above, encryption transforms information into an unreadable form. Encrypted data intercepted by bad actors are unable to be used or read unless they have the encryption key used to unscramble the data.  


  • An added layer of protection. 

  • Provides security for data in transit. 

  • Can be affordable depending on your budget/needs. 


  • Does not protect stored data, and is ineffective at providing protection from malware. 

  • Account information can become compromised which gives scammers the ability to decode encrypted info.  

  • Slower rates of data transition. 

Which is Best, Zero Trust or VPN? 

The choice between zero trust and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will depend on your unique situation, wants, and needs. Keep in mind, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns created the need as well as the opportunity for many employees to work remotely, and during the pandemic, freelancers contributed over $1.2 trillion to the US economy.  

Freelancers will have different needs than employees from large corporations. Regardless, everyone needs to adopt strong cybersecurity measures, and the choice between zero trust and a VPN is a difficult decision.   

The more robust option is the zero trust method as it has many fail-safes built into it, and it has the ability to detect and alert users of nefarious actions within the system. One downside is the time and energy it can take to renovate a system that is not zero trust.  

Any digital transformation strategy should involve effective and desirable tech, employee training, and changes in policy. All of these changes can add up quickly and can be even more costly if external help is required. Additionally, you will have to consider the size of your team. A small team may require that all members have access to all sensitive information while a massive team can easily be segregated into various levels of security clearance.  

On the other hand, VPNs are a great way to enhance the security of a small team and require minimal set-up. Depending on your needs, wants, and team size, VPNs can be affordable and are typically less than $100 per year. If you do choose this method; then, there are several features to look for in a VPN. They include compatibility with your system, a killswitch, AES 256-bit encryption, and transparent and reliable business practices.  


Irrespective of the method you choose, your cybersecurity plan should be multi-layered and should involve ongoing efforts to improve your current safety measures. GlobalSign provides its users with current events, resources, and services to help you protect your team from the ongoing and numerous cyber threats they encounter.  


Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign. 

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