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The Zero Trust Network or Zero Trust Architecture is not a new solution or a new product. It is a cybersecurity framework that includes different technologies, processes, and strategies all focused on identity verification.
In this article, we'll explain what it is, how it works and why you should consider it as your next security move.
What Is the Zero Trust Network?
Zero Trust is a holistic network security model that says that organizations should not trust anything or anyone inside or outside its firewall. That is why it automatically assumes breach and verifies each request before granting access.
The word Zero Trust initially came from the analytics firm Forrester Research back in 2010 and even though it is not a new concept, it has become gradually more relevant to help organizations adapt to the new cybercrime landscape triggered by the digital transformation.
Let us explain.
Today, the majority of businesses use traditional security networks also known as the castle and moat model. This model endorses that everything inside the corporate firewall is safe. Well, that is far from the truth. These traditional networks have proven to fail since scammers use phishing attacks and other sophisticated methods to retrieve personal information such as passwords and usernames. This means that cyber threats can arise internally and when hackers have penetrated your network, they can have access to your company's private information without being detected.
With the rise of SaaS applications and a modern workforce that is increasingly more mobile and remote, security architecture needs to be redefined. Indeed, data can now be accessed outside of the corporate perimeter, employees can bring their own device to work and new business models introduced with the digital transformation have increased risk exposure.
In other words, companies must ditch the "trust but verify" old model and replace it with
a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach in order to be more proactive than reactive.
What Are the Main Principles of Zero Trust
The Zero Trust model believes that focusing only on perimeter security is not sufficient anymore. It should be a holistic philosophy that will help secure access from users, end-user devices, APIs, IoT, microservices, containers and so forth.
The Zero Trust model is based on three principles:
Verify explicitly: Authenticate and verify all resources at all times before granting access including user identity, location, device, etc. It means that every attempt to access your network is considered as a threat until confirmed otherwise.
Use least privileged access: Limit user access to the only access they need to do their job. This way, if an account is compromised, you can prevent the attack from spreading.
Assume breach: Inspect and verify everything by segmenting access by network, user, devices, and app. To have more visibility, you'll need analytics to monitor and detect threats to your network
To accomplish its mission, the Zero Trust model relies on technologies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), encryption, identity and access management (IAM), analytics, scoring, etc.
How Does Zero Trust Improve Security
The benefits introduced by replacing your traditional network with Zero Trust are numerous from a security standpoint.
According to Accenture's ninth annual cost of cybercrime study, security breaches have increased by 67% in the last five years costing an average cost of $13.0 million for each company i.e. an increase of 72% in the last five years.
As the number of cyberattacks continues to grow and get more time and money to resolve, organizations must work on building stronger security networks.
In order to lower breach potential, the Zero Trust model focuses on the workload instead of focusing on the perimeter or endpoint. This way, it makes things easier to identify and stop abnormal activities. Every time a workload fails to be verified, it prevents it from communicating with the system
This approach lowers breach potential and decreases risk but also diminishes costs related to the latter.
One of the major pain points organizations experience is to have a fuzzy view of the data they have, where it resides and how it moves within the system. With the propagation of mobile devices, IoT and new SaaS applications and services, it has become even more challenging for the IT and security teams to have the full picture, and therefore protect efficiently the network.
With Zero Trust, any user, device or application that attempts to enter your network is first identified, then presumed abnormal, inspected and verified before it is granted access. Consequently, IT teams can better understand what is in their network and what's trying to get through it.
Security experts have always had some concern about moving to and using the cloud: loss of control. It is true that nowadays, most companies don't have their own data centers serving their network but use different platforms that can be on-premise or with a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to store their applications and data.
Even though CSPs have evolved, workload security remains a shared responsibility between the CSP and the client. Therefore, IT teams don't get as much control as they would like over the network.
Zero Trust has been designed as a workload centric application (instead of focusing on the perimeter) and allows IT and security teams to detect threats within the workload. If a workload fails to be verified, it is not allowed to communicate which makes it more difficult for hackers to achieve lateral movement.
Every security professional knows security within an organization doesn't necessarily reflect compliance. They also know how important compliance is to auditors and that failed audits can have a significant financial impact and disrupt the business.
Audits are mainly focused on highlighting technology weaknesses and any data or system access issue is subject to scrutiny.
With Zero Trust in place, auditors but also the team members will have a clearer view of the organization's data flow and will better understand how the workloads are interacting throughout the network.
This level of transparency results in a smoother audit process and less failed audits.
Why Should You Consider Zero Trust
The Zero Trust model is the right solution for the cloud where the traditional networks are no longer meeting the security requirements to protect organizations and end-users.
On top of reducing risk exposure, businesses that are implementing Zero Trust are also lowering their security costs and realizing savings on their global IT budgets.
Additionally, a Forrester study also found that companies adopting Zero Trust were more confident in deploying mobile work models and securing DevOps environments. These benefits result in helping organizations adopting new business models as well as empowering employees.
Consequently, Zero Trust seems to be the right approach to security for the modern workplace. However, developing a Zero Trust environment is a multi-step journey that requires continuous analysis and effort.
Many businesses have already started deploying components of the Zero Trust model with technologies such as multi-factor authentication or IAM. As cloud adoption is accelerating, it will be easier for organizations to adopt a Zero Trust model.
Want to learn more about the Zero Trust model and how to implement it within you organization? Download the Zero Trust Maturity Model whitepaper by Microsoft.
If you are interested in assessing your Zero Trust readiness, contact us and you might be eligible for a free security assessment.
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