What Is Zero Trust?
Zero Trust is a modern cybersecurity model that requires all users and devices to be authenticated, authorized, and always validated for their security status before they can access an organization’s network, no matter if they are inside or outside the network perimeter.
The concept of zero trust is based on the idea – “never trust, always verify.” It implies that organizations shouldn’t trust any device or user by default. Instead, they must always verify every entity trying to access their network and its resources.
The credit for coining the term “Zero Trust” goes to Stephan Paul in 1994 when he was doing his thesis on computation security at the University of Stirling. John Kindervag, a Forrester analyst, further popularized it.
This security model uses advanced technologies such as multifactor authentication, identity and access management (IAM), endpoint security, etc., to verify user identities and enforce solid security from online threats.
Principles of Zero Trust
Zero Trust is developed based on these principles:
The Zero Trust model enables the organizations to assume that attackers can be everywhere, inside and outside their network. Hence, every single user and device must go through strict and continuous validation to ensure they are safe for the network.
The technologies using the Zero Trust model verify their identity, security posture, and privileges before allowing them to enter the network. In addition, the technologies are in place to continuously monitor every activity to detect any suspicion and ensure the security is maintained.
In addition, there is a provision to time out connections and logins periodically so that devices and users are verified again.
Device Access Controls
The Zero Trust model requires you to control user and device access. The systems must monitor all the devices accessing or trying to access an organization’s network and make sure they are authorized and not compromised. It helps reduce the attack surface and allows only the necessary, authenticated devices to access the network.
The least privilege access means providing users the right amount of privilege to accomplish their roles, not less, not more. They must have the privilege to access limited resources on the network based on their roles in the organization. It requires you to manage user permissions carefully. This principle limits users’ exposure to the network containing sensitive information that further helps reduce cyber risks.
Zero Trust systems use microsegmentation, a process of dividing a security perimeter into smaller zones with separate access requirements. If a person can access one zone after verification, they won’t be able to access another zone without separate verification.
It requires you to continuously monitor and manage users, devices, and data on all the zones to ensure security. It also gives you more control over your network by limiting access privileges and offering security from attacks. Even if one zone is compromised, the others will still be safe.
Lateral movement refers to the incident when a cyber attacker moves to other parts of a network after managing to break into it. It is challenging to track lateral movements even though you have detected the entry point because they can move anywhere.
Zero Trust systems help contain these attackers to prevent lateral movement by enforcing re-verification, segmentation, connection time-outs, etc.
If you detect the attacker, you can quarantine the compromised part of the network, such as devices or accounts. It will not be given access anymore.
The Zero Trust model adopts advanced preventive measures to provide security to a network, strengthen users, devices, applications, and the network as a whole.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and identity and access management (IAM) are two excellent techniques to enforce security and verify identity. MFA asks security questions, sends confirmation messages, etc., to establish whether the entity trying to access the network is safe or not. Similarly, IAM works on their identity and provides access to only those with correct credentials. These technologies make a network resilient to attacks.
How to Implement Zero Trust?
Implementing the Zero Trust model could vary from organization to organization as their requirements, business scale, and sizes differ. However, they all need security in their network perimeter. Hence, the standard method of Zero Trust implementation is as follows.
Understand Your Network
Before you jump into Zero Trust directly, you must understand your entire network, including the resources, services, users, devices, data. Build an inventory of all your organizational assets to visualize them easily, ensuring nothing is left out. Determine the existing gaps in your security infrastructure and tools you use that might be vulnerable.
It will help you implement Zero Trust effectively as you will be aware of your requirements, challenges, and risks.
Create User and Device Identity
You must know all the users accessing your network and that they are verified before accessing the network. Create a single directory with users and their account information.
Next, you must create privileges based on their roles in the organization and how much access they actually need to perform their duties well. It not only gives you granular access controls but also helps you determine the user responsible when an attack happens.
Apart from users, you should also be able to identify each device entering your network. You can also create a directory with information on devices to know which device was used to access what.
Use the Zero Trust systems to establish user and device identity, ensuring each one of them is safe with proper authorization. It helps reduce the probability of attacks and keeps you informed of everything going on in your network.
Secure Your Sensitive Information
Knowing all your sensitive data and its flow in your organization is crucial to determine your security model. So, first classify your data into three categories – public, internal, and confidential.
You must provide the highest level of protection to the most sensitive data to ensure its safety, as you can’t afford to lose it. And determine the rest based on their sensitivity levels, leaving out no one. You can also segment data or network based on these criteria to ensure the whole network is not compromised even if a part does.
Leverage Advanced Security Technologies
If you want to implement the Zero Trust model, leverage the advanced security technologies such as multifactor authentication, identity and access management (IAM), data encryption, and enforce policies such as least privilege access. Using modern security technologies provides an additional layer of security to your network with multiple touchdown points for verification.
These technologies will safeguard you from online threats such as credential stuffing, unauthorized access, and others originating from within or outside your organization. You can use Zero Trust solutions to monitor the network, detect user and device behavior, and authenticate each request continuously. These tools will help automate the authentication process so you can better utilize the Zero Trust security model while reducing human errors and saving time.
All the above steps explained how you could introduce the Zero Trust model into your network and use the systems to make the most out of it. But this is not it; you need to continuously monitor your network to ensure the attackers stand no chance.
You must have a system to monitor your data, apps, systems, users, and devices to detect any suspicious activity continuously. And if you find any, you must tackle it immediately. In addition, you must regularly check the health of all the services, solutions, and devices you use in the network in real-time to ensure they work optimally.
Benefits of Zero Trust Model
Implementing the Zero Trust model can be rewarding for your organization. Here are some of the benefits of Zero Trust:
Advanced Threat Protection
With sturdy security policies and sophisticated security technologies, you can enable advanced threat protection in your network. It will help prevent threats, both external and internal, to protect your network. As a result, your data, apps, resources, and network remain safe.
You can better control your data, network, users, and devices with the help of the Zero Trust model. It will ensure that devices and users have limited accessibility to network resources based on their roles, preventing extra exposure to the network. Hence, your sensitive information is secure.
You can implement solutions to perform continuous monitoring of your network as a part of your Zero Trust model. It will help you provide greater visibility into all your resources, data, users, devices, and who access what.
Staying compliant with regulations like GDPR and HIPAA is not a choice anymore; it’s a need. Enabling the Zero Trust model ensures the privacy of your organizational and customer data. It also helps in audits.
Zero Trust aims to offer security to your entire network, including your data, users, devices, services, and other resources. Thus, implement Zero Trust solutions and enjoy data protection, compliance, safety from threats, and greater control on your network.