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Zero Trust and AI: Better Together

Zero Trust and AI: Better Together

Blog Article Published: 08/24/2023

Written by Chris Hogan, Vice President, Enterprise Security Architecture and Innovation, Mastercard.

For the better part of 2023, the spotlight has been captured by the strides of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the increased availability of Generative AI (GenAI). Several organizations that were once devoted to modernizing their technology stacks for Zero Trust found themselves redirected toward the allure of the GenAI phenomenon. Yet, even as Zero Trust may have receded from its front-and-center status, its role in mitigating security risks remains pivotal. With the convergence of new AI possibilities, the nexus of Zero Trust and AI is expected to provide new opportunities for security maturity in the imminent future.

While the hype around the potential of AI continues to captivate attention, it's vital to recognize that Zero Trust's significance endures. And now, with the advent of AI-driven advancements, the path forward offers some intriguing prospects for new synergies between these two realms.

As the requirements of a mature Zero Trust environment come into sharper focus, organizations are presented with the opportunity to delineate precise strategies for elevating their security posture. A more advanced stance entails embracing leading-edge technologies that possess both agility and efficacy in discerning and mitigating risks promptly.

Anchored by the foundation of the CISA model, many modernization efforts for Zero Trust pivot around the evolution of Identity and Device spaces. It's within these domains where AI and Zero Trust intersect, unlocking key opportunities for maturity, including but not limited to:

  • Behavioral Analytics and Anomaly Detection: Empowered by AI, behavioral analytics meticulously scrutinizes user and entity actions to establish a baseline of 'normal' behavior. This real-time monitoring mechanism is primed to flag anomalies and potential threats, perpetually learning and adapting to emerging patterns. By serving as a sentinel for unauthorized access or compromised accounts, AI reinforces the very essence of Zero Trust.
  • Automated Threat Response and Remediation: For AI and threat detection, the script extends beyond identification alone. Here, AI takes the lead in automating response measures. This includes swift isolation of compromised devices, withdrawal of access privileges, or the seamless initiation of incident response protocols. By scripting AI into the incident response playbooks, organizations can expeditiously identify and neutralize threats, which is a prime function of the Zero Trust model.
  • Adaptive Access Control: AI technologies that are embedded in the fabric of access control systems can dynamically adjust privileges in response to real-time risk assessments. Enriched with context such as user location, device health, and behavior patterns, AI generates an informed narrative for granting or denying resource access. This nimble approach seamlessly aligns with a core tenet of Zero Trust — least privilege — a principle etched deep within its philosophy.

The start of many Zero Trust journeys may have been constrained by the limitations of available technologies in the past. However, the stage has dramatically shifted with the sudden proliferation of AI, unveiling a host of capabilities far exceeding expectations. Within this new but not-yet-defined landscape, it's plausible to envision many organizations attaining an optimal posture for Zero Trust. In the pursuit of this objective, the emerging partnership with AI is undeniable and should propel organizations closer to a state of holistic security maturity.

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