Zero Trust is a security model that assumes that all networks and devices, including those within an organization, cannot be trusted and must be verified before access is granted. This approach is necessary in today’s digital age, where data is spread across a vast number of services, devices, applications, and people, and traditional methods of security, such as establishing a strong perimeter or using passwords and firewalls, are no longer sufficient to protect against sophisticated cyber threats. Zero Trust requires a holistic, strategic approach to security that ensures that every actor and device granted access is authenticated and authorized. Adopting a Zero Trust philosophy is essential for any business or entity with an online presence in the age of digital transformation.
How Zero Trust security works
The main focus of Zero Trust is the protection of valuable data, including personally identifiable information, protected health information, payment card information, and intellectual property. To ensure the security of this data, Zero Trust places a strong emphasis on monitoring activity related to it.
In order to create a strong Zero Trust security strategy, businesses should focus on:
Data: In a Zero Trust model, data security is the top priority and extra security measures are put in place to protect it. If an attacker were to breach perimeter controls, exploit a misconfiguration, or manipulate an insider, they would only have limited access to valuable data due to rules that detect and respond to unusual access activity before a major breach can occur.
Networks: To prevent data theft, a Zero Trust network employs various security measures such as segmentation, isolation, and next-generation firewalls to limit access and make it harder for hackers and cybercriminals to navigate the network. These techniques help to increase resistance to attacks and protect against unauthorized access.
Users: Users can sometimes be the weakest point in a security plan, which is why it is essential to control and track access to resources on both internal and external networks. By verifying all user activity before granting access and monitoring users to prevent errors or malicious actions, you can implement a Zero Trust approach to protect against threats such as phishing attacks or malicious insiders. Ensuring that users are subject to appropriate controls and monitoring is crucial in maintaining the security of your network.
Workloads: Workloads refer to the stack of applications and software that allow customers to interact with a business. Unpatched customer-facing applications are often targeted by attackers, so it is important to treat the entire workload, from storage to the front-end web interface, as a potential threat and protect it with Zero Trust controls. This includes ensuring that all applications and software are up-to-date and secure.
Devices: To establish a secure network environment that does not automatically trust any device or user, it is necessary to implement measures that protect against potential attacks. This includes securing and controlling every device on the network, including smartphones, PCs, and internet of things (IoT) devices. With the rapid increase in the number of devices that are connected to networks, it is essential to prioritize device security to prevent unauthorized access.
Visibility and analytics: Visibility and analytics: To ensure the effectiveness of your Zero Trust principles, it is important to give your security and incident response teams full visibility into your IT environment, including network and file activity. This can be achieved through the use of advanced threat detection and user behavior analytics tools. By monitoring for unusual activity in real-time, you can identify and respond to potential threats quickly and effectively.
Automation and orchestration: Automation is a crucial component of a successful Zero Trust security system. With the high volume of monitoring events required to enforce these policies, it is not practical for humans to handle all of the necessary tasks. By automating as much of your remediation, monitoring, and threat detection processes as possible, you can save your security and operations teams time and resources. This will allow them to focus on more important tasks, such as responding to and mitigating any identified threats.
The main principles of Zero Trust security include:
- Secure and authenticated access to all resources. This involves verifying the access of every user to specific resources such as file shares, applications, or cloud storage devices. To implement these controls, use measures like remote authentication and access protocols, perimeter security, and network access controls.
- Adopting a least-privilege model for access control. This means limiting a user’s access to only the resources and spaces necessary for their job. By restricting access to data, you create micro-perimeters around it and reduce the ability of cybercriminals to access sensitive information. To implement this, identify where you have sensitive data and where it is exposed to too many people or to people who don’t need access. Then, remediate over-permissive access by creating new groups, assigning data owners to manage them, and using them to implement least-privileged access.
- Inspecting and logging every network and file event. This involves monitoring and verifying everything for potential malicious activity, including logging every network call, file access activity, and email transmission. To do this effectively, you will need a combination of staffing and technology, including data security analytics tools that use individualized baselines per user account and detect abnormal behavior based on perimeter telemetry, data access, and user account activity.