Zero trust is a security concept that takes the proactive approach of continually verifying devices, services, and individuals, rather than trusting them. The zero trust model operates on a company’s assumption that everything connected to its system needs to be verified, whether it’s coming from someone, or something, inside or outside of the organization.
While traditional network security has focused on limiting access to identities outside of the network, zero trust security involves continuous monitoring of all identities to verify access and privileges. It is, ultimately, an important part of the digital transformation of companies looking to enhance their cyber resilience security.
As hackers have grown more sophisticated, security has needed to also adapt and improve. Zero trust is such an evolution, in that through constant monitoring it provides an additional layer of security if a hacker does penetrate the network.
So, exactly what is a zero trust network? Simply put, it is a network that functions on the philosophy that, because attackers can be found both within and without the network, no identity should be automatically granted access.
While each zero trust network can vary, there are a few key components of zero trust that are important to include:
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
A common security feature, multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires multiple ways of confirming an identity before granting access. Such confirmation may include security questions, email confirmation, text messages, and more.
Real-time monitoring constantly evaluates a network to detect intruders and limit the damage that can be done if a system is compromised.
Real-time monitoring is vital for mitigating damage when preventative measures have not worked. It allows networks to improve “breakout time” which refers to the time after a hacker penetrates a device and when he or she can move on to other systems and devices.
Another important aspect of zero trust that comes into play when a system has been penetrated is microsegmentation. This technique involves creating small segments of every part of the network.
By creating several different perimeters throughout the network, a hacker is unable to access the network beyond the small microsegment which has been penetrated.
Trust zones and auditing default access controls
Networks can be divided into security or trust zones as part of TIC 3.0 to allow users to share data within the zone. This further helps prevent intruders from accessing additional data.
Of course, trust zones are only effective if all requests to access systems and zones are encrypted and authorized as part of the default access.
Zero trust architecture can undoubtedly improve your company’s security, but there are some challenges to implementing the security concept. Below are just a few of the concerns some companies may face when making the switch to zero trust:
Some essential apps – such as HR systems – are necessary for the day-to-day function of a business but are typically left out of the zero trust security model. Older systems that are already in place are often unable to be protected by verification systems.
As such, legacy apps can present a weak link in the security system and diminish the advantage of switching to zero trust. When adopting zero trust solutions, legacy apps may need to be replaced or reworked, which could add to the costs of the transition.
High level of commitment required
Default controls and accessibility need to be regularly monitored and updated. This includes when users move on to new roles and require access to different parts of the network.
Companies need to have a comprehensive view of all identities and security requirements, and update changes immediately. Any delay in updating controls could leave sensitive data vulnerable to third parties.
Compliance and regulations
In sectors which are subject to audits, some companies may have difficulty proving compliance if they are unable to make data accessible. Regulations have been slow to change to account for zero trust, but it should only be a matter of time.
While there are certainly some challenges to making the switch to zero trust, it is advisable for any company placing a high priority on security to make the transition and keep its data safe.
Now that you know exactly what zero trust security is and have an idea of the benefits of such a robust approach to protecting your data, it’s time to get some ideas of how to implement zero trust – and avoid some of the aforementioned challenges.
Make it organizational
As you prepare to implement zero trust, it is important to get all C-level executives involved. This will help them adequately inform their teams and open a discussion as to which pieces of the network should be prioritized in the transition.
The transition to zero trust is an ongoing process, and all users need to be aware of this fact. Knowing that changes are underway can help all users make them quickly to avoid disruptions in workflow.
Thoroughly assess the system
Identify sensitive data and systems and take note of security gaps in the current infrastructure. Target the most valuable assets and provide them with the most secure position within the zero trust architecture.
Map out where important data can be found, and which users need to be able to access it. Take note of how data and assets are shared and ensure compatibility once microsegmentation is implemented.
As companies move to the cloud and incorporate IoT, they can also make the switch to zero trust. Doing so will deliver an enhanced security level to the ecosystem and even cover legacy technologies as they transition.
Learn more about how to progress on your zero trust journey: