Zscaler Cloud Protection Review and Alternatives

The modern workplace has transformed. The network infrastructure behind the modern workplace has become fluid, extending to the cloud—SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS.

Now it’s anywhere and everywhere. As organizations race to migrate to the cloud, and accommodate an increasingly remote workforce, security becomes critical. 

One of the main weaknesses of the traditional approach to security is its inability to provide adequate protection in today’s cloud-based landscape. It assumes that everything inside an organization’s network can be trusted. One implication of this assumption is that it keeps us blind to threats that get inside the network, which are then left to freely roam and attack the network wherever they choose. To overcome this deficiency, organizations must adopt a new approach to protect the modern network infrastructure and the increasing number of mobile or dispersed users. This new approach is called Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

What is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)?

Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange architecture

ZTNA is a shift in approach to security whereby access is denied unless it is explicitly granted and the right to have access is continuously verified. The idea behind ZTNA is that the network devices should not be trusted by default, even if they are connected to a corporate network or have been previously verified. The zero trust approach advocates checking the identity and integrity of devices irrespective of location and providing secure access to data, cloud apps, as well as app-to-app communications based on the confidence of device identity and device health combined with user authentication.

ZTNA works by bringing together various modern technologies that contribute one way or the other to fulfilling zero trust’s philosophy of “never trust, always verify”. The technologies include Identity and Access Management (IAM), risk-based multi-factor authentication, least privilege access, device access control, end-to-end encryption, continuous monitoring and verification, and technologies that verify the health of assets and endpoints before they connect to applications, among others. 

This is a complete departure from the traditional network security model, which relied on the “trust but verify” principle. This model became obsolete with the advent of cloud computing and the acceleration of a distributed work environment. ZTNA technology is often combined with Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), and Secure Web Gateway (SWG) to create a single, unified cloud-based solution called Security Service Edge (SSE).  One example of a ZTNA-based solution is Zscaler Cloud Protection (ZCP). In this article, we’re going to review the Zscaler Cloud Protection solution and possible alternatives. Hopefully, this will guide you in the process of choosing the right solution for your business. 

What is Zscaler Cloud Protection?

Zscaler Cloud Protection home page

Zscaler Cloud Protection (ZCP) simplifies protection for workloads on and between any cloud platform. It does this by providing tools designed to reduce risks associated with cloud misconfigurations, eliminate the threat of lateral movement, secure data and user access to cloud apps and app-to-app communications, and enforce security policies across an organization’s multi-cloud footprint. 

ZCP is built around zero trust, cloud security posture management (CSPM), and micro-segmentation, among others. Microsegmentation enables breaking up security perimeters into distinct security segments down to the individual workload level and then defining security controls and delivering services for each unique segment. ZCP utilizes this technique to ensure that a person or program with access to one of those segments will not access any of the other segments without separate authorization.

ZCP employs its ZTNA technology known as Zscaler zero trust Exchange to provide zero trust connectivity across multi-cloud and hybrid cloud infrastructure, securing workload-to-internet, workload-to-workload, and workload-to-data center communications. This eliminates the need for hubs, virtual firewalls, VPNs, and static network-based policies. Zscaler zero trust Exchange is part of Zscaler SSE which unifies SWG, CASB, and ZTNA in one solution. 

Zscaler was named a leader in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge. Zscaler services are conveniently packaged in bundles on an annual, per-user subscription basis. A custom Zscaler Cloud Protection demo and price quotes are available on request. 

What are the Four Elements of Zscaler Cloud Protection?

ZCP is composed of four key elements. These elements address the key security and operations challenges that must be overcome for secure cloud deployment:

  • Identifying workloads in the cloud and ensuring they have a strong security posture.
  • Ensuring safe application access for authorized users only.
  • Allowing workloads to securely access other clouds, data centers, and the internet as needed. 
  • Mitigating risk by restricting an attackerʼs lateral movement.

The four elements of ZCP are described as follows:

1. Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

Accidental misconfiguration of cloud applications leaves applications vulnerable to attacks. This is one of the most common causes of data exposure. ZCP provides tools designed to reduce risks associated with cloud misconfigurations. Cloud configuration security is part of the cloud-delivered data protection capabilities in the Zscaler zero trust Exchange in ZCP.

The ZCP Cloud Configuration Security simplifies cloud security posture management across cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. It proactively identifies misconfigurations in those platforms and remediates them to reduce risk and ensure compliance and sound security posture.

With Zscaler CSPM, organizations can:

  • Discover assets and pinpoint misconfigurations and compliance violations, making it easier to manage the attack surface and mitigate risk.
  • Fix the most critical security risks and violations with risk-based prioritization before they are exploited.
  • Automatically validate all configurations against pre-built mapped 2700+ industry best practices and 16 compliance frameworks such as GDPR, PCI, NIST, CIS, and the custom framework.
  • Integrate with current SecOps ecosystems such as ServiceNow, Zendesk, or Splunk so that the SecOps team can act immediately and effectively.

2. Secure user-to-app access

ZCP provides users with secure access to cloud applications without the need for a VPN service. ZCP does this by leveraging zero trust to provide direct access to cloud applications, instead of your network. It also inspects all transactions and applies advanced threat prevention and data loss prevention controls. 

This helps to limit potential data exfiltration, and other external threats without any of the management headaches, poor user experiences, or exposed attack surfaces that occur with traditional VPNs.

3. Secure app-to-app access for multi-cloud

This secures and simplifies workload communications to the internet, data centers, and across clouds (cloud-to-cloud, and cloud-to-internet), without the complexity, overhead, and cost of managing transit gateways, transit hubs, virtual firewalls, VPNs, routers, networking policies, and peers. 

The ZCP secure app-to-app access addresses application communication in the following key areas:

  • Application-to-internet communication ZCP allows cloud applications to securely access any internet or SaaS destination such as third-party APIs and software updates, by inspecting all transactions and applying advanced threat prevention and data loss prevention controls.
  • Application-to-application within environments ZCP provides secure app-app, or process-to-process communications within the same cloud platform without compromising security across servers and cloud workloads. 
  • Application-to-application across environments ZCP also makes it possible for workloads in one public cloud to securely communicate with any cloud (public or private), with support for communications across VPCs, zones, and regions on the same cloud, without requiring VPNs or the risk and complexity of bespoke cloud routing.

4. Workload segmentation

Zscaler workload segmentation simplifies workload protection by verifying the identity of cloud and data center workloads, applying for zero trust protection at the software level, and building policies based on the identity of applications, hosts, and services communicating in your cloud, not the network environment. Zscaler identity-based workload protection prevents lateral movement of malware and ransomware across servers, cloud workloads, and desktops.

Zscaler workload segmentation also measures your visible network attack surface, quantifies risk exposure based on the criticality of communicating apps, and uses machine learning to recommend the optimal number of zero-trust security policies that you need to apply to mitigate identified risk. 

When Should You Consider ZCP for Your Business?

You know your business is ripe for Zscaler Cloud Protection if the following scenarios apply to your organization:

  • Your organization has a central headquarter and multiple remote offices and employees not joined by an enterprise-owned physical network connection. And because these offices and employees are remote, your organizations use cloud resources and applications to connect teams.
  • Your organization hires outside help or gives third-party contractors, partners, and customers some level of access to corporate resources, internal applications, sensitive databases, services, or other protected assets.
  • Your organization has IoT-based systems with massive amounts of data constantly collected from data sources such as connected cars, vehicles, ships, factory floors, roadways, farmlands, railways, etc., and transmitted to your cloud network.
  • Your organization utilizes multiple cloud providers. It has a local network but uses two or more cloud service providers to host applications/services and data. And you are required to protect a network infrastructure that includes multi-cloud and cloud-to-cloud connections, hybrid, multi-identity, unmanaged devices, legacy systems, and SaaS apps.
  • Your organization needs to address a growing threat landscape that includes threats from malicious insiders, ransomware, and supply chain attacks, among others.

If your organization is at this crossroads, this may be an excellent time to consider Zscaler Cloud Protection for your organization. ZCP’s ability to accelerate awareness, prevent, detect, and respond to security events with minimal latency makes it the ideal security strategy to address those scenarios.

What are the Zscaler Cloud Protection Alternatives?

In recent times, most cloud protection platforms are offered as a single, unified cloud-based solution called Security Service Edge (comprising ZTNA, CASB, and SWG technologies). If you figure out that Zscaler Cloud Protection is not best suited for your environment and you’re considering a suitable alternative, we’ve put together a list of the ten best alternatives.

  1. Zscaler Cloud Security Platform The Zscaler Cloud Security Platform is a purpose-built fully cloud-delivered SSE solution designed for risk reduction, performance, and scalability. As a globally distributed platform, Zscaler ensures security is delivered across all users and locations for a fast user experience. An online demo is available on request. 
  2. Netskope Intelligent SSE Netskope Security Service Edge (SSE) is a data-centric, cloud-native, and fast security solution with adaptive access, advanced data, and threat protection for users anywhere, on any device. Netskope SSE protects against advanced and cloud-enabled threats and safeguards data across all vectors (any cloud, any app, any user). Netskope was named a Leader in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge. An online demo is available on request. 
  3. Skyhigh Security SSE (formerly McAfee Enterprise SSE) Provides extensive data and threat safeguards, promoting secure, direct-to-internet connections for distributed teams. This cloud-native security fabric ensures smooth integration with your workforce, WAN infrastructure, cloud services, and the web. Skyhigh Security was named a Leader in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge. A live online demo is available on request.
  4. Palo Alto Prisma Access The Palo Alto Prisma Access is the flagship SSE product that protects an organization’s hybrid workforce. All your users—at headquarters, office branches, and remote workforce—connect to Prisma Access to safely use the internet and cloud and data center applications. The Palo Alto Prisma SASE unifies SD-WAN and SSE capabilities in one product, thereby eliminating the need for multiple vendors. Palo Alto Networks was recognized as a challenger in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for SSE. A virtual test drive of the product is available on schedule. 
  5. Cisco Umbrella Cisco Umbrella is a cloud-delivered service that combines multiple security functions such as SWG, CASB, Firewall, DNS-layer security, Interactive threat intelligence, and SD‑WAN into a single cloud security service. Cisco was recognized as a challenger in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for SSE. A live demo is available on schedule. 
  6. Lookout SSE Lookout provides a cloud-delivered platform that converges SSE and endpoint security to protect users and data wherever they reside. Lookout SSE solution eliminates the guesswork by providing visibility into what’s happening, on both unmanaged and managed endpoints, analyzing behaviors to detect insider threats and file-less cyberattacks. 
  7. iboss SSE The iboss SSE is an all-in-one cloud-based network security as a service platform that provides all the security you need to enable work from anywhere. It includes services such as SWG, CASB, ZTNA, firewall, DNS, DLP, Remote Browser Isolation, and more in one unified solution. iboss also provides a unified network-as-a-service and network security-as-a-service into one SASE solution, thereby eliminating the need for multiple vendors. A demo of the product is available on request. 
  8. Perimeter 81 SASE Perimeter 81 is on a mission to transform traditional network security technology with one unified platform. Perimeter 81’s SASE platform unifies network and security functionalities into one network security service solution. A demo of the product is available on request. 
  9. Versa SASE Versa provides all the enterprise networking and security required to support a hybrid workforce. Versa SASE integrates SWG, CASB, ZTNA, next-gen firewall, RBI, SD‑WAN, and analytics within a single software operating system delivered via the cloud, on-premises, or as a blended combination of both. A demo is available on request. 
  10. Cloudflare One The Cloudflare One platform combines the key aspects of SSE (SWG, CASB, ZTNA) with other security capabilities such as firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) and remote browser isolation (RBI) into one single cloud-delivered solution. Cloudflare One supports SASE by combining its network-as-a-service capabilities with SSE on a purpose-built global network spread across 270 locations around the world.