Zero Trust Security: The Guide to Zero Trust Strategies
Blog Article Published: 02/27/2023
Originally published by Titaniam.
Companies today face more and more security risks. Ransomware is on the rise, and cybercriminals are beginning to breach critical infrastructure with new techniques. In an effort to reduce the frequency and severity of these attacks, the United States government previously released a mandate to improve cybersecurity nationwide through a Zero Trust security strategy. More recently, The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has also released its own Zero Trust security plan going forward. Countries like Australia are also beginning to exact heavy tolls on companies that fall victim to data breaches. It’s time for companies to consider newer security strategies, such as Zero Trust.
Zero Trust has one tenet: ‘Never Trust, Always Verify.’ By implementing Zero Trust, companies can begin the process of shutting out cybercriminals and taking back control of their data.
Historically, cybersecurity strategies have depended on preventative measures against malware and phishing attacks. For example, regular software updates, patching internal vulnerabilities, and deploying antivirus software. With computers and network systems originally being digitally segmented from one another, preventative measures were the best defense against malicious attackers. These tactics, however, are not built for modern-day cyberattacks. Today’s computer systems are more interconnected than ever, with remote and hybrid workstations being more commonplace. Employees themselves are more connected with organizational networks and databases. This means that one stolen or abused credential could have catastrophic impacts on a company and its reputation.
Zero Trust security strategies don’t rely on the benefit of the doubt. With employees having more access to sensitive information, the potential for data breaches and leaks is high. Companies looking to safeguard sensitive data among interconnected networks must now authenticate every employee using their systems in order to verify and protect digital assets.
In essence, Zero Trust security relies on authorization and authentication processes that happen continuously. Employees aren’t tied to a specific location in order to access necessary information. Instead, Zero Trust security provides user access based on assigned identities and roles. This helps to prevent insider threats and malicious attackers from compromising accounts by narrowing down which employees have access to what sensitive information.
Zero Trust was introduced by analyst John Kindervag and has been continuously updated to match security threats ever since.
By implementing Zero Trust strategies, companies and organizations can stay ahead of cyberattackers and add a crucial layer to their security strategies. Some of the main benefits of Zero Trust include:
Broadened Understanding of User And Network Activity
With Zero Trust, company leaders and security experts will have a clearer picture of which employees require what permissions. This means you can determine allocated resources internally. Furthermore, Zero Trust authentication processes include an in-depth look at every access request, including the time, location, and involvement of applications. Suspicious activity can be better identified and stopped with a holistic view of everyday activities with Zero Trust.
Security Among A Remote Workforce
With over half of the workforce seeing at least one remote day a week, security strategies must begin accommodating a distributed workforce. Zero Trust applies user identity to individuals, their devices, and the applications necessary to their work.
Compliance For The Future
Security requirements are constantly updating and evolving to meet the needs of today’s modern threats. As soon as 2027, Zero Trust will even be implemented by the United States DoD. Zero Trust provides an easy audit trail that enables governance processes to be executed efficiently. By beginning the changes necessary now, companies can ensure security compliance among multiple industries and their regulations.
Companies looking to begin utilizing Zero Trust architectures should also keep in mind that it is not a perfect defense, and Zero Trust should be built as part of the overall defense strategy. Some points to keep in mind when deciding if Zero Trust is a good fit:
Switching Security Gears
It can be difficult to implement Zero Trust with existing policies and networks in place, and it can be said that Zero Trust is a mindset above all. There comes the physical challenge of ensuring current processes continue to work throughout the transition and mentally switching gears to begin thinking about how to best use this new strategy to its full potential.
Authentication Isn’t Foolproof
Human error and emotion are still a reality within any security strategy. Zero Trust is built to ensure companies have a better understanding of their internal happenings and to prevent criminals from gaining easy access. However, if there is intent to cause harm internally, insider threats can still abuse their own credentials and authentication. Zero Trust assumes this risk and takes precautionary measures to minimize potential damage.
Zero Trust inherently requires administrators to continuously update employee authentication. Employees are only given access to the core applications and processes they need to complete their jobs. However, what employees need to effectively achieve this can change from day to day or month to month. Without proper systems in place to both provide and retract employee access, companies could see a larger security risk further down the road.
Zero Trust is designed to provide administrators with a holistic view of each application and process within a company, making it difficult for criminals to steal data or breach secured networks. But more than that, Zero Trust also works to bolster company compliance with data privacy and security laws such as HIPAA.
In order to build a Zero Trust architecture, companies will need to review the seven cores of Zero Trust:
- Data: Zero Trust begins by securing sensitive data first, then creating security layers surrounding it. Even if a malicious attacker enters your networks, Zero Trust strategies have already placed rules to identify and respond to irregularities, thus limiting an attacker’s access.
- Networks: Sensitive data isn’t just stored in a singular location, it’s stored across multiple databases within a network. By segmenting devices and users between these resources with Zero Trust, attackers will have a difficult time navigating internal systems to steal the desired data.
- Users: Zero Trust understands that human error and emotion are a factor in all security efforts. By using authentication and access control policies, companies can identify users trying to connect and grant the specific access they require to lessen the damage in cases of insider threats or victims of scams.
- Workloads: This refers to the applications, processes and IT resources a company utilizes for everyday processes. A complete Zero Trust strategy will keep in mind that attackers often target customer-facing applications and secure each application.
- Devices: With remote work exploding, the concept of securing every individual device connected to your company network is crucial to a proper Zero Trust strategy. Everything from smartphones to Internet of Things (IoT) devices should be segmented, controlled and secured to reduce potential attacker entry points.
- Visibility and Analytics: When it comes to enforcing Zero Trust security, IT teams should have complete control over and visibility into a company’s IT environment. Automation can be used to aid in detecting abnormal behavior, but all processes revolving around access control, segmentation encryption and application should be closely monitored within a true Zero Trust architecture.
- Automation and Orchestration: Automation can help ensure Zero Trust systems are running as they should. The sheer volume of data being ingested into the company network is too large for human employees to monitor, which can pose a problem for Zero Trust strategies. Artificial Intelligence automation can be used to supplement by monitoring and detecting perceived threats.
Zero Trust can be beneficial for any organization, but certain companies may see more of an immediate use.
Company Infrastructures That Could Benefit From Zero Trust
- Multi-cloud, hybrid, or multi-identity infrastructure
- Unmanaged Devices
- Legacy Systems
Companies Looking To Defend Against Rising Security Threats
- Supply chain attacks
- Insider threats
Companies Must Consider These Challenges
- Challenges in Security Operations Center (SOC) or analyst expertise
- User experience
- Compliance requirements
- Cyber insurance
Companies all have their own challenges to overcome, but Zero Trust implemented correctly can help to meet each specific security need. Especially in light of the last year’s increase in cyberattacks, companies looking to enhance their cybersecurity strategies should look into Zero Trust strategy implementation.
Implementing a Zero Trust strategy can seem daunting, but companies that make the switch can reference its three core principles.
- Limit Access: Because Zero Trust removes the benefit of the doubt, Zero Trust provides only the access needed as it is necessary. This can look like providing access within a limited length of time, granting access on a need-to-know basis, and narrowing employee access to exactly what they need.
- Continual Identification: Zero Trust requires a constant routine of authenticating and verifying every process and user within a network because this strategy assumes no one and nothing is trustworthy.
- Impact Minimization: Zero Trust assumes that a breach or cyberattack is inevitable, if not already occurring. Therefore, Zero Trust strategies must also review and minimize the impact of any potential data breach. This can look like verifying all security controls to ensure damage stops at the source.
Companies looking to implement Zero Trust can get a serious boost by utilizing innovative and rich data protection platforms.
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