Published: 23/07/2021

Zero Trust Security


Zero Trust Security is an innovative approach to cybersecurity that aims at preventing cyberattacks. It is based on the principle that users, devices and applications cannot be trusted. Zero Trust Security means tightening controls over access to information via network perimeters and implementing strong authentication measures in order to allow only authorized entities into secured areas of the network.

Zero trust security principles

Sometimes referred to as "Defense-in-Depth", Zero Trust Security consists of 2 core principles:

  • Zero User Knowledge – A user who logs onto a system should not be aware whether they are logging onto their local machine or a remote one. Instead, they should log on to a session that grants them only as much access as needed.
  • Zero Device Trust – Due to the continuous increase in targeted attacks and sophisticated malware, organizations must assume that any device connecting to their network is infected with malware and thus introduce proper security measures against those devices.

Architecture and components

As mentioned above, the core principles of Zero Trust Security rely heavily upon strong authentication measures along with segmentation or isolation of resources. The main elements within this environment include:

  • Endpoints – this refers to any device accessing the network such as laptops, desktops, servers etc. Users share endpoints where multiple users can access different services on the endpoint.
  • Perimeter network – this is a virtual (cloud) network that manages the traffic flow between corporate networks and public/external networks.
  • Enterprise zone - resources like application servers, databases etc. in the cloud or on-premise that are owned by an organization and serve as entry points to sensitive data.

A loss of any one of these elements would mean a breach in security policies which will lead to unauthorized access and compromise of sensitive information. That is why Zero Trust Security focuses on creating a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy with strong authentication measures and multiple points of control at each layer so no single point of failure can result in a total breach.

Technologies behind zero trust

Zero Trust Security is often built on top of traditional security protocols and applies them to a new, more secure model. Technologies include:

  • Multi-factor authentication – this involves using 2 or more types of identification, such as a password plus a physical device (such as an ID card) or another piece of information like biometrics (fingerprint scanning etc.). This creates barriers preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • Identity virtualization – apps are able to identify and authenticate users based on the identity they currently hold within the system rather than requiring separate user profiles for each application. This reduces the amount of information stored in multiple locations which are prone to breaches.
  • Dynamic access control and role-based access control – these tools allow a user only to have access to information and services within their role or job function. This prevents users from accessing data that is irrelevant for them and thus reduce the risk of an unauthorized breach.

Importance of zero trust security

Zero Trust Security is being adopted by organizations across the world due to a number of reasons:

  • The workforce is evolving and bringing more mobile devices into companies. With this evolution, there is an increasing need for access to corporate systems via Internet connections in the form of phones, laptops and tablets. This increases the risk of data breaches if proper measures are not taken against these devices.
  • Using cloud-based services for storing data exposes you to risks no matter how strong your company's internal security policies are. If an attacker can gain access to your cloud account or service, they would have unlimited access to all customer information stored on it - similar to a breach that occurred when Dropbox was hacked in 2012.
  • Zero Trust architectures are effective in enhancing the overall business process by reducing costs, providing faster time to market for applications etc. As the world becomes more digital and businesses keep pushing for innovation, a Zero Trust Security solution can help them meet their business goals while mitigating risks at the same time.

Why adopt a zero trust approach

Zero Trust Security provides a more advanced and secure authentication model compared to traditional security models. Here are some key benefits of adopting this approach:

  • Less infrastructure, less cost – identity virtualization and single sign-on in the cloud removes the need for companies to deploy hardware tokens or purchase expensive multi-factor authentication devices like smart cards. This optimization of resources means that companies can save on operational costs.
  • Lower risk exposure – as access is granted based on role function alone rather than device or individual identities, there is an overall reduction in risk because employees are only allowed access to their own data and nothing more.
  • Improved security - multi-factor authentications require users to have 2 or more authentication credentials that are difficult to replicate i.e. it will be very hard for hackers to break into your system if they don't have a password as well as physical access to your device, etc.

Key challenges

Just like any other security measure, a Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity also comes with its own set of challenges that need to be addressed before being implemented:

  • A zero trust solution requires a great deal of investment in time and money. The process may take quite some time - from planning your strategy all the way through implementation. It is also important to have a powerful infrastructure so your company can handle the additional workloads and authentication processes instead of choosing an easy way out by opting for lower-quality security services.
  • The investments required mean there will be resistance from employees as they will not be able to use the same devices or software as their colleagues in the organization if you choose to roll out identity virtualization. There may also be difficulties in enforcing the new authentication rules throughout your organization.
  • There are also privacy issues to consider - Zero Trust solutions share user data with third-party providers that will have access to all sensitive company information, and thus companies need to ensure the trustworthiness of their chosen partners before signing up for a service or software.

Zero trust use cases

The Zero Trust model can be implemented in various scenarios including:

  • Employee onboarding/offboarding – when employees leave or join your company, they will need to access different systems. With a Zero Trust approach, provisioning of access is automated and done in real-time which makes the onboarding and offboarding process easy and more efficient as only relevant data is shared across each system the employee needs to access.
  • Exchange environment – Exchange Online Protection (EOP) allows you to enforce security policies for both e-mail delivery and internet traffic protection at the application level. This means that EOP would manage all of an organization's email flow regardless of whether it was sent internally or externally via mobile, tablet, or desktop. EOP also provides the foundation for Zero Trust environments since by default, it enforces email security policies at the application layer rather than just inspecting individual emails it receives. Just note that EOP can only check emails sent out if they are running on Office 365. For more details, see here.
  • Enterprise app management – zero trust access to enterprise applications helps both employees and businesses alike as users have secure access to do their job without having access to anything else in the company network and business owners can better manage potential vulnerabilities due to this separation of duties which is a result of ensuring only relevant data is shared between the company and employee.

Security experts recommend organizations adopt a Zero Trust Security approach because it is better prepared for advanced threats like malware, ransomware and encryption attacks. With everything in one place, it becomes easy for attackers to get into your network and steal data without much effort as they don't have to target specific systems or require much skill. And even if you block them off today, there will be other ways tomorrow - that's why having a Zero Trust model ensures that users and devices are only given access to relevant information at any given point of time so they can focus on their job while staying protected from cyberattacks.

Zero trust approach across industries

Zero trust in banking

The financial industry is one of the most attractive targets for cybercriminals, which is why banks have to adopt Zero Trust security solutions that can safeguard their clients' information from any unauthorized access.

For instance, you can use technologies capable of detecting unusual activities on a network and conducting real-time analysis based on user behavior so you can block suspicious transactions or fraud attempts in almost all cases.

When applying a Zero Trust approach to banking operations, it's crucial for organizations to define policies that will allow workers to quickly comply with new regulations related to data protection and privacy as they are released. It's also essential for businesses to keep IT staff informed about the latest changes in laws affecting security and privacy so they know how these changes relate to their workflows.

Zero trust in healthcare

The healthcare industry is another example of a digital environment where it's difficult to restrict users' access to data and systems because patient information has to be exchanged between multiple providers as well as departments within hospitals.

For instance, this kind of information exchange is essential for doctors who need access to personal medical history in case they have to perform surgery or decide on a course of treatment with patients. On the other hand, there are many cyber attacks targeting medical organizations because holding confidential patient records can give hackers financial leverage over individuals whose sensitive information has been stolen.

For this reason, healthcare organizations now have to share information while making sure that unauthorized parties cannot gain access to personally identifiable information protected by various laws. If you work in the healthcare industry, you can apply a Zero Trust solution to protect patient data and stay compliant with regulations that require healthcare organizations to take all possible steps to safeguard sensitive information.

Zero trust in the public sector

One of the main goals for government agencies is protecting citizens' confidential information from cybercriminals, which makes it necessary for government departments and local authorities to share information while making sure they are not at risk of getting hacked.

In most cases, this task can be accomplished by using technologies that enforce access control based on predefined policies applied at various levels of an organization. For instance, if you work in a local authority or another department in a city, town, or county council that has to collaborate with other government organisations and authorities on various projects related to taxation collection, applications for housing benefits, or transport development, you should consider implementing a Zero Trust security solution to exchange information while safeguarding sensitive data from unauthorized access.

Zero trust in manufacturing industries

Manufacturing organizations have also started adopting a Zero Trust approach to digital security because they need to share valuable data with suppliers and partners for collaboration on new products, delivery of components necessary for maintaining production levels, and other operations that require the transmission of confidential information.

For instance, if you work at an automotive manufacturer that has supply chain operations located in several countries around the world, you may find it challenging to keep track of all transactions related to component deliveries for various cars and trucks being developed by your company. If you want to ensure safe collaboration between your business and third-party suppliers, you can implement Zero Trust Security solutions at your company and set policies that will allow you to share information with third parties while making sure they cannot gain access to any confidential data.

Lawyers are also starting to adopt a Zero Trust security approach because they need to collaborate with other departments within their organization as well as external service providers like accountants and tax specialists who have restricted access to client data.

For instance, if you work in a law firm that offers services related to immigration claims or family disputes, it's important for you to be able to help clients connect with legal experts from different departments within your business without violating rules for protecting sensitive information. Information exchange is essential when dealing with the personal details of clients who are having a dispute with their neighbors or family members, but it's also critical to make sure that unauthorized parties cannot gain access to any confidential data.

Zero trust for small and medium-sized businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have started adopting Zero Trust security solutions as well because they need to collaborate with their counterparts in other companies on various projects.

For instance, if you work at a company that develops apps for smartphone owners who would like to learn how to use iOS devices or Android gadgets, you will have to communicate with software developers from other companies and share your code or the templates you designed without compromising app security. It's important for SMBs to adopt cloud storage services that can protect app code from cybercriminals who like to upload malware on popular file-sharing platforms.

Zero trust for government organizations

Government agencies have also started adopting a Zero Trust security approach because they need to collaborate with other departments within their organisation as well as outside service providers in various countries around the world.

For instance, if you work at a local authority or a department that has to exchange information regularly with authorities from other cities and counties, you may face issues related to document storage and data management. To improve collaboration among employees across different departments, it's important to implement cloud-based solutions that will allow you to access valuable documents wherever you are without risking data exposure.

Planning for zero trust security

Getting started

It is important to have a clear understanding of your business requirements before moving from conventional security approaches to Zero Trust. For enterprises, it should be part of the risk assessment process as this can help determine if they need additional measures and tools to fight cybercrime targeting their organization or not. It will also highlight all potential threats and establish how organizations can work towards reducing risks so they are less exposed in the future.

When planning for Zero Trust Security, you should do these things:

  • Understand why you need to embrace Zero Trust – if your company's data has been compromised several times in the past year despite traditional network security measures, an underlying problem may be that existing security procedures might no longer fit today's threat landscape due to new cybercriminal techniques and technologies. To prepare for the next cyberattack, then, you must fundamentally change how your organization thinks about network security and privacy issues as well as user identity and access management.
  • Use threat modeling to identify vulnerabilities – you can start by analyzing existing threats targeting your business or any potential threat scenario that may require a more secure environment to prevent breaches. Your goal is to identify the entry point of potential attackers into your data ecosystem so you can plan ahead accordingly and be ready when an attack occurs.
  • Conduct a Zero Trust Security risk assessment – you'll need to figure out which user devices are going to be allowed on the network, where they should connect from, who will manage them and whether each device should have separate access opportunities based on/or in addition to user identity. Then you'll be able to identify the areas of your network that need additional protection and come up with a Zero Trust Security plan that fits best for your organization.
  • Map out which apps are critical to business operations – learn where they reside physically and whether there's a logical connection between those applications or not. Furthermore, it helps if you know which users are accessing each application as well as who has access to data inside an app so you can plan ahead before deploying zero trust security solutions throughout their organization. This will also help in identifying any potential threats related specifically to particular apps or software on corporate systems too.
  • Learn about the specific services your organization will need to leverage in Zero Trust Security – this includes authentication, authorization, data protection and cloud security, user identity management (UIM) solutions as well as access control mechanisms with tools that fit best for business requirements.
  • Find out which third-party providers or SaaS vendors have access to critical systems within your network – it is important to know where those systems are hosted and even when a vendor becomes compromised by cybercriminals so you can take action right away.
  • Be aware of the risks associated with BYOD or CPEs – with employees bringing their own devices (BYOD) or connecting to the corporate network using remote access points like cell phones (CPEs), there's a greater possibility that these devices can be compromised by cybercriminals. This is why you should understand how to manage and control these activities so data from corporate systems are protected even when there's a potential breach from third-party equipment that connects to your network.
  • Identify evidence for security breaches – in some cases, it may end up being difficult to determine if a breach occurred or not because an attacker might hide within the network or lie dormant within an app before taking action. However, with Zero Trust Security, this problem is resolved as you'll have the ability to quickly identify security gaps and shut them down at once before more damage occurs.

Best practices for implementation and deployment

  • Implement two-factor authentication on every device – it's easy to get distracted by the latest cloud storage services and start storing data in the cloud. However, security breaches can still happen even when your users use a strong password for their accounts or implement multi-factor authentication on devices. Plus, you need to make sure that all of your devices require two-factor authentication (2FA) so they aren't easily compromised by cybercriminals operating on the public internet.
  • Create a separate user account for each employee – assign each user an account based on their role within the organization. You might create a different set of rules for employees with high levels of access compared to those in lower positions who only have limited access rights. Then, put together standards and best practices for using each account effectively too.
  • Get rid of shared accounts – it's common for organizations to use a single user account and share access privileges across multiple users, which isn't effective in terms of security or usability guidelines. This is why you should create separate accounts for everyone so they have ownership over their personal space in the network. However, you can still share data between individuals if necessary.
  • Use least privilege rule for every role – this refers to limiting the number of resources that a particular user has access to the maximum possible extent while performing their job as well as providing them only with the amount of information about other users' spaces without needing prior approval before accessing those spaces too. This way, cybercriminals won't be able to gain access to unauthorized data even if they gain control of an individual.
  • Use security devices for external connections – even when you think that the only way to get access to corporate resources is through a virtual private network (VPN), this might not be the case. In fact, it's easy for cybercriminals to exploit weak firewall configurations and find their way into your network by using externally accessible devices, which is why you should consider investing in security solutions (like cloud-based firewalls) capable of blocking malicious activity before it gets inside your network.
  • Create a centralized reporting mechanism – this involves collecting all events reported across the entire network in one place so you can analyze them right away. This can help detect new attacks on time before they more damage to your data.

With a Zero Trust approach, it's easier for organizations to keep their sensitive information safe from attackers because there are fewer attack vectors that should be monitored. In other words, employees don't have the same level of access as they did in traditional IT infrastructures where users or admins can easily gain unauthorized access and compromise business-critical data just by having the right credentials to log into devices within the network. With Zero Trust security, however, you don't have to worry about such scenarios anymore because you'll be able to control and monitor user activities more closely than ever before with full audit trails in place.

Zero trust security solutions

There are several things to keep in mind when implementing a Zero Trust security approach. For instance, your strategy must be designed around the user instead of the device or location because this will allow you to apply policies more quickly and accurately as users change roles within the company or move from office to office.

The best way to deploy a Zero Trust solution is by using technologies that support end-to-end encryption that will protect all organization's data with strong cryptography while supporting automated key management so workers can seamlessly access information from anywhere at any time without ever worrying about data breaches.

Besides that, it's crucial for businesses to have visibility over all sensitive information stored on mobile devices and systems located outside the enterprise – this includes employee applications hosted on third-party cloud services. You can achieve this visibility by using a Zero Trust security framework capable of monitoring mobile devices and applications, which will also allow you to control the way data is accessed and shared with third parties.

Zero trust vs SDP vs VPNs

Security and access control are very important for organizations because they involve protecting sensitive information against unauthorized access. In the past, network security was implemented with a concept known as "perimeter defense," which means that all external traffic was routed through chokepoints called firewalls where data could be inspected to determine whether it should be allowed in or blocked. This approach is still in use today but is not meeting the expectations of users, as workers expect full access to company data from wherever they work.

In comparison, Zero Trust is an evolution of this traditional approach that will allow you to define policies based on user identity rather than on location – this also applies when these users move around and change roles within the organization. If applied correctly, Zero Trust solutions represent a leap forward in the evolution of corporate security and access control.

Zero trust security vs SDP

When it comes to securing enterprise information, Zero Trust and Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) solutions share one thing in common – they are both based on identity-based policies that determine how access to sensitive information is restricted by analyzing user behavior and characteristics, not device or location. The main difference between these two approaches is that Zero Trust solutions provide a more granular level of protection than SDPs do.

For instance, when you apply Zero Trust security principles within your company you can offer each employee access to only those services or applications they need to perform their job tasks without giving them administrative rights. This way you will create a clear separation between worker and administrator roles, which will help avoid instances of insider threats.

Zero trust security vs VPNs

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are a type of network security technology that offers remote workers access to the same resources as on-site employees – this includes applications, servers and file storage. In order to connect to these resources, VPN users must establish an encrypted connection with their employer's premises by using a dedicated tunnel.

There's an important difference in how these two approaches work: Zero Trust solutions grant access based on user identity while VPNs do it based only on location, which means that your data is protected even when accessed from a public Wi-Fi hotspot or computer owned by a third. This way, when you use a VPN remote users have access to the same resources as if they were connected directly to your network via an Ethernet cable.

Frequently asked questions about zero trust security

How can zero trust security network enable recovery from cyber-attacks?

When you develop a Zero Trust strategy, all access is tightly controlled through security policies that limit user permissions to only those necessary for their job tasks. This way, cyber-attacks are contained to a specific area of the network and won't spread further since there aren't any backdoor or privileged accounts available for hackers to exploit.

How can zero trust security help prevent data breaches?

If you want to protect sensitive corporate information and avoid a data breach, access controls must be based on user identity rather than the location where they are using their device. By adopting a Zero Trust security approach, you'll create a clear separation between worker and administrator roles so that insiders can't exploit their privileges to cause damage or steal valuable company data.

Can both on-premises and cloud data be protected with zero trust security?

Yes. Zero Trust architecture can be implemented within a private network and deployed in any cloud environment – this way, your data will always remain protected no matter whether it's stored at an external data center or in-house.

How does zero trust security impact cloud computing?

Using cloud technology to host virtual servers has become very popular since it's much more cost-effective than maintaining traditional hardware servers, but when you adopt this approach there are several important aspects you must consider: First, you'll have to decide if your cloud provider is trustworthy since there are known cases of companies being hacked even after their data was stored on a cloud platform. In addition, it's essential that the virtual cloud network remains secure since unauthorized guests can easily access services without going through a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

How to develop a functioning zero trust security framework?

In order to build a Zero Trust security framework, you'll first have to create an inventory of all networked assets including devices, servers and applications. Once this has been completed, it will be easier to develop a Zero Trust security platform that meets your specific business needs and protects the confidentiality of all data even if there are hacking attempts due to zero trust architecture.

What VPN solutions are compatible with zero trust security architecture?

Zero Trust Architecture can be implemented alongside any type of VPN technology, but you must first select an appropriate service provider so as to get unrivalled levels of protection: in fact, most providers offer cheap budget plans along with high-end enterprise-level packages that can be customized according to your company's needs. The best VPNs include personal cloud services that enable you to encrypt your files before uploading them to public cloud storage – thus guaranteeing complete safety even if hackers or cybercriminals attempt to access the data.

What are some examples of high-profile companies using Zero trust security?

Some of the world's most renowned companies are already using Zero Trust architecture to reduce cybercrime: for instance, Equifax uses this framework in order to store and retrieve files via encrypted databases so that their customers' financial information is always safe.

How is zero trust cloud security different from zero trust network security?

Although the underlying architecture of Zero Trust Network Security and Zero Trust Cloud Security solutions is similar, i.e. both security models are designed to prevent risky network access by granting endpoints immediate access only after they've been authenticated, there's one crucial difference: the former provides a mechanism for securing data in transit while the latter focuses on encrypting data at rest.

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