Zero Trust Security is an IT concept that requires identity verification for everyone and everything trying to access resources on a private network, inside or outside the network perimeter.
In its natural state, IT network security assumes that everyone and everything on the network is trustworthy. Zero Trust Architecture in Security exists to build, from the ground up, the required barriers to ensure safety without harming business processes.
What Is A Zero Trust Security Framework?
Zero Trust Security Framework restricts all users’ access to applications and data, whether inside or outside the organization’s network. Every user must be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture. Zero Trust Security assumes that there is no conventional network edge. Therefore, networks can be local, cloud-based, or a mix of the two, with resources and workers located anywhere.
The Need for Zero Trust Security Framework
The castle-and-moat concept is used in traditional IT network security. Outside access is difficult to obtain in a castle-and-moat security system, but everyone inside the network gets default trust. The issue with this strategy is that once an attacker gains access to the network, they have complete control over everything inside.
Companies are no longer storing their data in a single location exacerbates this vulnerability in castle-and-moat security systems. Today, data is frequently dispersed among cloud vendors, making it more challenging to have a single security control for an entire network.
A Zero Trust Security framework is critical for securing infrastructure and data for today’s modern digital transformation. Zero Trust is the first product of its kind to address today’s business challenges, such as securing remote workers, hybrid cloud environments, and ransomware threats. According to studies, the average cost of a single data breach is more than $3 million. Given that figure, it’s no surprise that many businesses are now eager to implement a Zero Trust Security Policy.
Cornerstones of Zero Trust Security
While many vendors have attempted to define Zero Trust on their own, several best practices from reputable organizations can assist you in aligning Zero Trust with your business. Consider the following as the leading principles of Zero Trust Security.
Continuous Monitoring And Validation
A Zero Trust Network assumes that there are attackers inside and outside the network, so no users or machines should be trusted automatically. User identity and privileges and device identity and security are all verified by Zero Trust. Once the established logins and connections are timed out, users and devices will be required to be re-verified.
Minimal Or Least Privilege
Another zero-trust security principle is least privilege access. It entails only granting users the level of access they require, similar to an army general providing only the information that soldiers need. It limits the amount of time each user is exposed to network-sensitive areas. The use of least privilege necessitates careful management of user permissions. Unfortunately, because logging into a VPN gives a user access to the entire connected network, VPNs are not well-suited for least-privilege approaches to authorization.
Device Access Control
In addition to user access controls, a Zero Trust Security Framework necessitates strict device access controls. Zero Trust Systems must track how many devices attempt to connect to their network, verify that each one is authorized, and assess all devices to ensure they are not compromised, reducing the network’s attack surface even more.
Preventing Lateral Movement
“Lateral movement” in network security refers to an attacker moving within a network after gaining access to it. Even if the attacker’s entry point is discovered, lateral movement can be challenging to detect because the attacker will have compromised other parts of the network. Zero Trust keeps attackers in one place and prevents them from moving around. In addition, an attacker cannot move across the network’s microsegments because Zero Trust access is segmented and must be re-established regularly.
Once the attacker’s presence has been detected, the compromised device or user account can be quarantined, effectively cutting off the access. (In a castle-and-moat model, if the attacker can move laterally, quarantining the original compromised device or user has little to no effect because the attacker will have already gained access to other parts of the network).
Microsegmentation is the concept of dividing security perimeters into small zones to have separate access to different parts of the network. A network with files in a single data center that uses micro-segmentation, for example, could have dozens of distinct, secure zones. Without separate authorization, a person or program with access to one of those zones will not access any other zone.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Zero Trust Security also emphasizes multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA refers to the requirement of more than one piece of evidence to authenticate a user; simply entering a password is not sufficient. For example, the 2-factor authorization (2FA) used on online platforms like Facebook and Google is a common MFA application. Users who enable 2FA for these services must enter a code sent to another device, such as a mobile phone, in addition to a password, providing two pieces of evidence that they are who they say they are.
The Human Element Of Zero Trust
Security experts have long known that all it takes is a single weak link in a chain to bring a cyberdefense down. An errant line of code in a hastily developed API, insufficient penetration testing, or old, unpatched, exploitable code hidden deep within a legacy system can all contribute to this.
But, more often than not, cyberattacks happen due to the actions of a single person;
- One who clicks on a malware payload within a phishing email,
- Or one who allows an individual to access a workplace without being challenged, in person,
- Or one whose work-from-home office has an unsecured Wi-Fi router
So, as much as technological barriers are sophisticated (and expensive), the idea of zero trust extends to the workforce as well. Of course, when you talk about your people, “lack of trust” is a heavy-handed expression.
But think of this: assume that any person in your organization may be an unwilling accessory to a cyberattack for lack of proper cyber awareness. All it takes is a click on an unsuspecting malicious email that looks just like a legitimate vendor invoice, or falling for a sophisticated vishing scam from a well-trained social engineering scammer.
So, if you assume anyone can be a target, you take steps to quantify, assess and mitigate human risk. Cybersecurity training should be universal inside your organization and continuous reinforcement and measurement the norm.
Zero Trust Security means that no one can be trusted by default, whether inside or outside the network. Therefore, anyone attempting to gain access to network resources must first verify their identity.
Organizations should pursue the Zero Trust Model as part of their overall digital transformation strategy. Therefore, organizations must start implementing the technologies that can help them achieve Zero Trust Security.
Finally, the CISO, CIO, and others in the executive tier should be involved in Zero Trust to prioritize which parts of their environment they should move to this model and which can wait. This way, this framework will be far easier to implement while being predictive and proactive about ubiquitous security.