NetworkSecurity

What Is Zero Trust Security

Zero Trust security is a cybersecurity framework that mandates identity verification for all users and devices attempting to access private network resources, irrespective of their network location (i.e., inside or outside). Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the primary technology related to Zero Trust architecture. However, Zero Trust is a comprehensive network security strategy comprising numerous tools and principles.

As the name indicates, Zero Trust architecture does not trust any device or user inside or outside the organization’s network perimeter. Traditional network security allows users and devices inside the entire network to access resources.

The traditional network security approach utilizes the castle-and-moat model. This security model presumes everyone inside the network is trustworthy but makes it difficult for external users and devices to gain access to the network. The issue with this strategy is that an intruder can freely control anything inside the network after it gains access.

Nowadays, data is frequently dispersed among cloud providers, making it more challenging to establish a single network security model for the entire network. Hence, the traditional security model poses high risks as businesses no longer keep their data in a single location.

A zero-trust security model restricts access for all users and devices by default, either inside or outside the network perimeter and necessitates user identity and device identity for granting access to network resources. This additional security layer helps prevent sensitive data breaches. According to studies, a data breach often costs more than $3 million. This striking figure reflects that many firms are determined to implement a Zero Trust security strategy.

History Of Zero Trust Security Model

When the concept of this model was initially published in 2010, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. created the phrase “Zero Trust.” When Google later revealed the implementation of Zero Trust security to their network, it sparked its increasing deployment interest within the technology industry. Zero Trust security access was recognized by a leading global research and advisory company, Gartner, in 2019, as a key element of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions.

How Does the Zero Trust Security Model Work?

The Zero Trust model has a straightforward fundamental tenet, i.e., considering all users and devices as malicious. It represents a significant divergence from the 1990s-era network security concept based on a protected network perimeter and a centralized data center. The traditional security framework relies on authorized protocols, IP addresses, and ports, including remote access VPN connectivity, to set access controls and authenticate what is authorized inside the network.

In contrast, a zero-trust model views all internal or external traffic to the network perimeter as malicious. For instance, applications are prevented from interacting until their authenticity is verified using a set of characteristics, like an identity or fingerprint. Enhanced security is achieved through identity-based validation regulations, which follow the application anywhere (in a container, public cloud, on-premises network architecture, or a hybrid environment) it interacts.

The Zero Trust model safeguards services and applications even when they share information across network environments without any policy updates or architectural modifications because of environment-agnostic protection. The Zero Trust model uses corporate policies to link applications, devices, and users safely over networks. Hence, enabling secure digital transformation.

Principles Of Zero Trust Security Model

A Zero Trust model aids companies in accelerating the procedure for securely authorizing connections with continuous execution. It makes it possible for the appropriate user in the right environment to access the relevant data. To safeguard user access, resources, and data, the following Zero Trust principles create a compliance model for context sharing amongst security tools:

Continuous Monitoring And Validation

Neither devices nor users can be implicitly trusted since the theory underlying a Zero Trust network anticipate that hackers are internal and external in the organization’s network. Zero Trust authenticates device identity, encryption, user identity, and privileged access. Once authenticated, connections and logins expire at regular intervals, necessitating constant re-verification of devices and users.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

The Zero Trust security model likewise places a high priority on multi-factor authentication (MFA). It implies that a user must provide more information than just a password for authentication. The implementation of Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on social media platforms like Facebook and Google is a common example of an MFA application. Enabling 2FA for these platforms requires the user to input a password and a code communicated to another device, like a smartphone, providing proof of their identity.

Device Access Control

Zero Trust mandates stringent device and user access control. Zero Trust network architectures must track all devices attempting to connect to the network, ensuring authorization and inspecting to verify that all of them are protected. Hence, further reducing the network’s attack surface.

Least-privilege Access Management

Least-privilege access is another Zero Trust security tenet that entails granting access to users only up to a certain required level. Each user’s access to delicate network components is reduced as a result.

User access management must be carefully handled through least privilege access. Least-privilege techniques are not for VPNs because connecting to a VPN grants access to the entire network.

Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation is also employed in Zero Trust networks. The network segmentation process divides security perimeters into smaller areas to establish distinct access for different network areas. For instance, a micro-segmentation network with files stored in a single data center may have multiple distinct, secure zones. Without additional authorization, a user or application with access to one of those locations will not be capable of entering other locations.

Lateral Movement Prevention

When a cybercriminal advances inside a network after gaining access, it is referred to as “lateral movement” in the context of network security. Even if the hacker’s access point is found, lateral movement may be challenging to identify as the intruder will have already compromised more network components.

Zero Trust is created to restrict the lateral movement of hackers. A hacker cannot access other network segments because Zero Trust access is segmented and requires intermittent restoration. Any hacked devices or privileged accounts can be isolated and inaccessible if the intruder’s activity is identified. In a castle-and-moat model, isolating the exploited device or user access has an almost negligible chance of prevention if the attacker has the option of lateral mobility.

Importance Of Zero Trust Model

Zero Trust attraction and acceptance have dramatically increased recently, with numerous notorious data breaches urging the importance of a stronger security posture. The COVID-19 pandemic has also ignited an immediate requirement for secure remote access technology.

Previously, organizations used firewalls and other similar technologies for internal network security. In this paradigm, entering a VPN, which establishes a protected virtual tunnel into the network, allows an off-premises user to access resources remotely. However, issues occur when VPN access credentials are misused, as was the case with the notorious Colonial Pipeline data breach.

With the prevailing remote work culture, businesses must enable secure remote access widely as the dangers of VPN use are heightened. The perimeter-based concept was also created when a company’s resources were housed on-site in a corporate network. Many businesses currently have valuable resources dispersed over several clouds and corporate networks, blurring the traditional network perimeter.

In other words, traditional security strategies are getting riskier, less reliable, and incompetent. Contrary to perimeter-based security, Zero Trust security policies allow businesses to establish a direct secure connection between users and data, apps, systems, and services, irrespective of employees’ location or the location of the organization’s resources (in the cloud or on-premises).

Benefits Of The Zero Trust Model

Employing Zero Trust policies can benefit organizations in the following ways:

  • Reduced data breach risk.
  • Sensitive data, customer data, or enterprise data protection.
  • Assistance with regulatory audits.
  • Shorter data breach detection period.
  • Improved command in cloud environments.
  • Access to network traffic visibility.

Zero Trust Use Cases

Over the years, Zero Trust architecture has become formally established as a solution to protecting digital transformation and a variety of complicated, catastrophic risks encountered in the previous year. Zero Trust is beneficial for all organizations. It can help your firm to reap the rewards right away if:

Protection is required for an architecture deployment methodology that entails the following:

  • SaaS apps
  • Legacy systems
  • Uncontrolled devices
  • Multi-identity, hybrid, multi-cloud

Management is required of the following important threat use cases:

  • Ransomware (A two-stage issue incorporating identity breach and code execution)
  • Insider threats (Analysis of behavioral analytics for remote individuals is very difficult)
  • Supply chain attacks (These include users with privileged access working remotely on unsecured devices)

The following guidelines apply to your organization:

  • Reluctance to purchase cyber insurance because of the prompt development of the insurance market due to ransomware
  • Challenges with SOC/analyst expertise
  • Industry-specific or legal prerequisites (like the US government Zero Trust Mandate or financial sector)
  • Considering the importance of user experience

All organizations encounter specific problems because of their industry, current security strategy, and level of digital transformation expertise. Correct implementation of Zero Trust might fulfill particular requirements while guaranteeing a return on investment (ROI) for your security plan.

Organizational And Business Risk Minimization

Zero Trust solutions prevent any services or apps from exchanging data unless their identification credentials are authenticated. Identification credentials are unchangeable characteristics that adhere to predetermined security standards like authorization and authentication criteria.

Hence, the Zero Trust strategy lowers risk with network visibility, providing insight into the components and interaction of assets in the network. A Zero Trust approach eliminates overprivileged services and software as thresholds are created and periodically verifies the credentials of all connecting critical assets to decrease risk further.

Gain Access To Manage Container And Cloud Ecosystems

The biggest concerns of security professionals about shifting to the cloud are access control and visibility loss. Workload security is still shared between the enterprise and the cloud service provider (CSP) regardless of the improvements in CSP security. Nevertheless, businesses can only have a limited impact within the CSP’s cloud. ‍

Security policies using a Zero Trust security architecture are enforced depending on the identity of connecting workloads and linked to the workloads. As a result, network elements like IP addresses, ports, and protocols have no impact on security, which is kept as near as possible to the resources that require protection. Protection follows the workload and stays persistent despite alterations in the surroundings.

Lower The Possibility Of Data Breaches

Every entity is viewed as threatening, adhering to the principle of least privilege. Before granting access, each request is examined, users and devices are verified, and privileges are evaluated. The access is continuously re-evaluated upon context change, like the data being acquired or the user’s location.

Without authenticity, hackers can not gain access to or exploit data, even if they breach the network or cloud environment via a hacked device or other weakness. Furthermore, the hacker can not move laterally as the Zero Trust architecture implies network segmentation.

Supports Compliance Initiatives

All individual and workflow communications are hidden from the web via the Zero Trust solution, preventing their exposure or exploitation. The invisibility leads to fewer catches in the auditing process and makes it simpler to establish compliance with laws and privacy standards (like DSS, NIST 800-207, PCI).

By employing granular restrictions to distinguish between non-governed and governed data, Zero Trust micro-segmentation allows the establishment of perimeters surrounding specific categories of sensitive data (like data backups and payment card data). Micro-segmentation offers better transparency and control throughout the auditing process or in case of a data breach than the overprovisioned access of several conventional network models.

Implementing Zero Trust: How To Do It

Organization’s security teams must initially put their attention toward addressing two queries before implementing a Zero Trust architecture:

  • What are you attempting to safeguard?
  • Who are you attempting to defend it against?

The security team must use this tactic to guide your architectural design. The best strategy is to build processes and technologies on top of the approach rather than the contrary.

Gartner suggests utilizing Zero Trust as a service in the Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) model. Security teams can also gradually deploy Zero Trust network architecture, beginning with a test case of less important or critical assets. Irrespective of the order, a Zero Trust solution will provide organizations with instant benefits in risk mitigation and security management.

Zero Trust Components

Recent Zero Trust architecture has evolved. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Zero Trust Edge (ZTE), and Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) are a few examples of the application of Zero Trust principles. Another name for Zero Trust is Perimeter-less security.

Zero Trust is not a single, distinct technology. Instead, a Zero Trust network architecture employs several technologies and principles to handle typical security issues using preventive measures. Since the on-site and remote work boundaries became indistinct and remote work became normalized, professionals developed these components to offer sophisticated threat prevention.

Fundamental Principles Behind Zero Trust Network Access

Five fundamental tenets form the foundation of the Zero Trust model:

  • It is always considered that each network user is malicious.
  • There are always internal and external risks to the network.
  • Network location is insufficient to determine network trust.
  • Every network flow, device, and user is authorized and authenticated.
  • Policies should be flexible and derived from all possible data sources.

Zero Trust Network Access Capabilities

  • Manage network traffic among all resources.
  • Eliminate VPN.
  • Authenticate users and provide them with cloud access.
  • Service deployment.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and other types of authentication and authorization.
  • Enhanced application performance.
  • Network-wide access vs. application access.
  • Enhanced security posture for intricate threats.
  • Least-privileged user access to all apps (on-premises, SaaS, IaaS).
  • Edge security.

Conclusion

Although organizations have distinct and unique requirements, they can deploy efficient and competent security controls over their network to protect enterprise data by visualizing, mitigating, and optimizing the Zero Trust security model. Many cybersecurity vendors offer Zero Trust Solutions but beware of the scams in the name of Zero Trust. Hence, security teams must have appropriate knowledge about Zero Trust concepts to distinguish what Zero Trust is and what’s not.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.

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