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USE CASE

Zero Trust Validation

Improving Visibility and
Enforcement of Zero Trust
Policies Across Agency
Environments

Forward Networks has created the first network digital twin based
on a mathematical model. The platform delivers visibility and
actionable insight that scales the complexity and size of agencies’
multi-vendor, multi-cloud environments.

Protecting federal IT systems is harder than ever. As threats
continue to escalate and the transition to hybrid and multi-cloud
environments accelerates, the boundaries are blurring and making it
hard to visualize and monitor systems as a whole. Federal agencies
– especially those with controlled unclassified information (CUI)
workflows and sensitive mission data – need to cut through the
noise of their complex and increasingly distributed architectures to
rapidly visualize security postures and verify compliance with zero
trust policies.

HOLISTIC MONITORING OF SYSTEMS PLAYS A 
CENTRAL ROLE IN ZERO TRUST GUIDANCE

As agencies lean into modern software-based services for
remote work and more agile, mission-ready services, it becomes
harder to understand if their systems meet the increasingly
stringent cybersecurity controls. The resulting urgency has led
to different zero trust models designed to guide agencies, such
as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Zero Trust Maturity Model, the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) Zero Trust Architecture (SP800-207),
the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Zero Trust Reference Architecture, and NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE). What is central to these models is that agency
networks – across cloud, on-premises, and virtual overlays –
ensure the right configurations and connectivity are being enforced
and that they continue to verify evolving network behaviors.

Zero trust requires a comprehensive understanding of agency
inter-zone connectivity and the intended zero trust architectures to
rapidly implement and enforce micro-segmentation and security
policies. Boundaries blur, and configurations constantly shift with
remote work and new application deployments, making it more
difficult to uncover risks and verify whether agency security policies
are performing as expected. Implicit trust is a thing of the past.
Misconfigurations and/or intentional circumvention of security
policies must be quickly identified and remediated before an
incident occurs. IT teams are stretched to their limits. They need a
new, more efficient approach to visualize and verify networks and
protect agency missions without the load from manual data calls
and inefficient processes.

A SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH FOR AGENCIES

Automated, always-on verification from Forward Networks allows
agencies to mature their security posture in ways that were
previously difficult to achieve. The solution offers an at-a-glance,
mathematically proven, system-wide assessment of security zone
connectivity and instant insight into connectivity at the individual
device level and security postures at L2 – L4 and the application
and user ID level (L7).

Forward Enterprise helps security teams mitigate vulnerabilities
by identifying and validating all the possible traffic paths. The
mathematical model from Forward Enterprise creates an always
current, comprehensive digital twin of an agency’s physical, virtual,
and cloud networks, including all major network hardware vendors,
end-points, and SDN deployments. With complete transparency
over distributed agency estates and a single source of truth,
Forward Networks helps security teams quickly visualize, verify,
search, and predict network behaviors. Using this information,
the team can create controls and continually verify policies are
behaving as desired and without unintended side-effects to deploy
and enforce zero trust faster.

Implement and Audit Zero Trust
Across Entire Networks with
Mathematical Certainty

Forward Networks provides intent-based verification and network
assurance that many agencies are using to mature their zero trust
architectures. Digital twins deliver the comprehensive view of
network behaviors that IT leaders need to visualize every possible
traffic path and uncover the potential for lateral movement after
a breach. Network, cloud, and security teams now have a tool to
instantly verify and continuously enforce zero trust across complex
environments at the speed and efficiency required for federal
agencies to meet escalating threats.

AGENCY BENEFITS OF FORWARD NETWORKS SOLUTIONS

Agencies can use a network digital twin to gain a comprehensive
view of physical, virtual, and cloud network behavior based on
configuration and state information for all devices.

A Forward Networks digital twin supports effective zero trust
policies in five key areas:

• Network visualization
• Always current security posture matrix that shows which zones
have full or partial connectivity or are fully isolated at a glance
• Always on audits for policy verification and validation and
compliance documentation
• Secure automated application deployment
• Blast radius and lateral movement identification

How Forward Networks Can Help
Agencies Succeed with Zero Trust

NETWORK VISUALIZATION

Forward Enterprise’s network digital twin allows agencies to gain
unified visibility across blended systems and legacy IT as well as
multi-cloud and cloud-native applications, providers, and security
tools. For stretched IT teams working to apply zero trust policies
across very different – often siloed – environments, this single
source of truth gives managers the ability to efficiently defend
sensitive CUI and mission data and improve performance without
new certifications and expertise.
Forward Enterprise delivers a topological map for a vendoragnostic,
single source of truth across on-premises, multi-cloud
(AWS, Azure, Google) estates. This view collapses complex
interactions and connectivity into an easy-to-understand
visualization for intuitive navigation with the ability to drill down
to detailed device configuration and state information with a few
clicks. Agencies can even visualize their high-side and low-side
networks together with the ability to prove isolation between
locations.

Using a mathematical model, every possible path a packet can
travel through the network is discoverable and searchable within
seconds to help operators find – and block – the unknown paths
traffic can traverse. The platform delivers a complete flow analysis
that combines infrastructure, security policy, and web application
flow in a single stream, making it easy for users to view how a
packet is processed at every hop.

This holistic view makes it easy to monitor connectivity as a whole
and intuitively navigate through vast distributed IT for a deeper
understanding of network behaviors and more centralized, efficient
management of zero trust policies in federal environments.

ZONE-TO-ZONE CONNECTIVITY MATRIX AND OUTCOMES

Enforcing zero trust, or least privileged access, to the myriad
of security zones common to many federal environments can
be time-intensive, especially for those agencies with classified
workloads or high-side networks and different security clearances.
Network and security teams need a fast way to understand and
prove connectivity and isolation across very complex, hybridized
environments.
Micro-segmentation is the foundation of a zero trust architecture.
Unfortunately, the policy matrix is rarely up-to-date or kept in a
single place. Forward Enterprise fills this gap by delivering a visual
zone-to-zone connectivity map delineating partial, full, or zero
connectivity. It’s now possible to prove at-a-glance that missioncritical
information and internet data are isolated from each other,
even when they cross the same physical links.

ALWAYS-ON AUDITS – POLICY VERIFICATION AND VALIDATION

Swiftly and efficiently validating compliance with zero trust policies
and other mandates like DISA Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) requirements is not an easy task. Given the size and
complexity of most federal environments, it’s nearly impossible
for IT teams to find configuration errors proactively as their
architectures continually evolve. Forward Enterprise enables
agencies to move from manual, time-consuming audits to regular,
automated intent checks, purpose-built for specific mission
requirements, that prove compliance or send real-time action alerts
if security violations or misconfigurations are found.
Forward Networks’ custom intent checks act as always-on audits
that prove security policies are behaving as intended without
network and security teams manually gathering data to prove
compliance. Using a digital twin to continuously validate security
postures and catch and remediate security violations in real-time
before bad actors can find and exploit vulnerabilities helps enforce
zero trust as a permanent posture. An intent check can prove, for
instance, that only a specific TCP port can reach applications from
a specific destination while also accounting for NAT, ACLs, and
load-balancing rules that occur along the path.

AUTOMATED SECURE APPLICATION DEPLOYMENT

Instant scalability of the cloud and faster application release
cycles are helping federal agencies meet the increasing demand
for agile IT services. However, faster application releases need to
be proactively secured, so they don’t cause unintended risks to the
network.

CERTIFYING NEW APPS

Without the visibility that Forward Networks provides, it is almost
impossible to understand where changes to the network are
creating new vulnerabilities. Developer, security, and network
teams need a more efficient way of working together to proactively
validate the impacts of updates.

BLAST RADIUS AND LATERAL MOVEMENT IDENTIFICATION

Federal agencies handling sensitive data to carry out their missions
can now gain greater visibility in real-time to stop attackers from
moving undetected through networks.
Once a compromised host has been identified, Forward Enterprise
makes it easy to determine the scope of impact, including a bad
actor’s ability to move horizontally and vertically through the
network. Using the blast radius button, security professionals can
document every destination, protocol, and L4 port that could be
impacted.

Achieving a Proactive
Cybersecurity Stance

Forward Enterprise enables stretched agency IT teams to move
from manual, time-consuming network processes to a single
source of truth. With automated analysis that cuts through the
noise and complexity of their vast estates, Forward Enterprise helps
IT teams visualize, search, verify, predict, and compare network
behaviors with game-changing speed and efficiency. Using a
digital twin, agencies can move from a reactive security stance to
a proactive one, saving time and resources and enabling agency
network and security engineers to:

VISUALIZE network layer 2 – 4 topology and all possible traffic
paths within a single-pane view for on-premises, cloud (AWS,
Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform), and virtualized
environments. Forward Enterprise has added path search capabilities at L7, delivering Layer 7 application connectivity
analysis, so administrators can construct more intelligent queries
that reveal unwanted connectivity.

SEARCH the network as simply as a database with complete
end-to-end path analyses. Search across the network for both on-premises and cloud infrastructure and identify configuration lines
that impact traffic flow or violate security policy in milliseconds.

VERIFY that network security controls are working as intended
using purpose-built intent checks. Continuously audit the network
and receive actionable alerts for noncompliance with zero trust
policies.

PREDICT the effect of proposed changes, so managers can deploy
updates without the fear of unintended connectivity changes by
using the network digital twin as a sandbox.

COMPARE network changes over time to understand impacts and
prevent the recurrence of incidents. The network collector scans
and saves snapshots of network configurations, topology, and
device state that form a searchable, historical, point-in-time record
of network behavior and compliance.

See for Yourself: Network
Verification of Zero Trust with
Forward Networks

Using Forward Enterprise, IT teams can take the holistic approach
required to enforce zero trust policies. Check out this video for a
quick demonstration of how Forward Networks makes it easy to
verify the zero trust policy in your agency network.

And if you want to learn more about how Forward Networks can
make zero trust verification and validation faster, simpler, and more
effective for your agency, go to forwardnetworks.com/networksecurity and reach out to us at forwardnetworks.com/federal.

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