Zero Trust often feels like a buzz-term, thrown about by cybersecurity professionals and industry thought leaders. Coined by John Kindervag in 2010, Zero Trust has gradually become one of the most popular cybersecurity approaches, championed by world leaders and industry experts alike.
But what does Zero Trust actually mean?
Zero Trust is neither a platform, software, nor a single technology. Rather, it is a unified approach to cybersecurity. Fundamentally, it is based on the understanding that in the digital realm, it is impossible to differentiate between those with good intentions and those with bad.
Embracing a Zero Trust approach means adopting technologies, ways of working, and policies, under the key principle; ‘never trust, always verify’.
This approach strives to best protect modern digital business environments from potential, and occurring, cyber threats across the board. Serving to guide the security procedures and policies regarding data, infrastructure, networks, end-points, and identities of an organisation, whilst providing accessibility, visibility, and automation.
The Answer to a Problem
The turn of the millennium brought with it a problem that has since steadily grown in size and complexity. The previous industry standard cybersecurity approach, known as perimeter-based security, was becoming outdated.
In the past, organisations adopting this model enclosed their protected digital environment within a ‘digital wall’. Imagine your organisation’s network as a castle, well, perimeter-based security acted as the defensive wall that surrounds it.
15 years ago, when the entirety of an organisations network would be housed on-site, this approach worked fine. Now with migrations towards the cloud, the growth of IoT devices, the move towards hybrid working, and the increasing capabilities of mobile devices, cracks have appeared in the defence.
The 2020 global pandemic has served to only accelerate this issue, with many organisations pushed towards adopting remote working, organisational environments have become chaotic and difficult to secure.
The static nature of perimeter-based security, designed to protect devices and users exclusively within LAN boundaries, has become a detrimental vulnerability. Global organisation’s observed a 148% increase in ransomware attacks during the early days of Covid-19.
Another key issue with this security model is that it assumes trust in those accessing resources from within the perimeter, from inside the castle. This allows malicious and negligent insider threats to flourish. In a survey conducted by Tessian, 47% of individuals working from home admitted to clicking on phishing emails.
The answer to this problem? Zero Trust.
The Principles of Zero Trust
Zero Trust is a holistic security approach which provides a set of ideals that serve to guide the integrated technologies, policies, and platforms that form an organisation’s cybersecurity. To establish a successful Zero Trust strategy, it is essential to adhere to the following three core principles:
- Verify Explicitly: Before granting access, requests must pass through multiple layers of verification. This includes verifying the user’s identity, location, device health, and the importance of the data they’re attempting to access.
Verifying explicitly means making informed verification decisions. No matter who appears to request access or whether they’re doing so internally or externally from the organisation’s network, they must be verified.
- Use Least Privilege Access: Ensuring only the right people are accessing the right things at the right time. This means only granting user’s access to data that is necessary for their specific job role.
Least privilege access can be achieved using ‘just-enough access’, (JEA) where the minimum level of access is granted. Furthermore, ‘just-in-time access’ (JIT) enhances security by granting access at the time that is needed and revokes it once it no longer is.
- Assume Breach: Holding the assumption that an attempted security breach will occur and is potentially occurring. This principle assumes that every user and device is suspicious and that there are no safe zones within the network.
Practically it means implementing measures to limit the damage of a breach with procedures such as micro-segmentation, end-to-end encryption, continuous monitoring, and automated threat detection and response.
The Benefits of Adopting a Zero Trust Approach
The transition from perimeter-based security to a Zero Trust approach can prove to be a difficult and time-consuming process. Despite this, the advantages that such a shift provides, in terms of security, productivity, and flexibility, make it a crucial and profitable transition to make.
Zero Trust offers reduced risk and increased security in comparison to alternative security approaches. Treating each user and device with suspicion, this approach limits the scope for potential damage. Even if an attacker gains access to an internal device or identity, they will not be able to move laterally within your network and access other resources. Furthermore, security teams achieve increased visibility and greater control under a Zero Trust approach.
The incorporation of automation is a pivotal aspect of a successful Zero Trust strategy. This substantially diminishes the need for manual interference in rudimentary security tasks. Thus, your security team and IT personnel have more time to focus on higher priority matters.
Moreover, Zero Trust guarantees secure access to resources from any devices, making remote work smoother and increases the flexibility of your working environment.
Better End-User Experience😊
Through aligning security policy with business intent, Zero Trust provides a seamless and straightforward access and authentication process for your end-users, resulting in an overall more enjoyable end-user experience. Reducing the need for complex password policies and frequent password changes, this source of frustration is removed.
Unified Security Approach🔗
Through consistent application, Zero Trust provides a comprehensive framework which all of your organisations cybersecurity decisions are guided. It provides a roadmap for which technologies and software should be prioritised in acquisition. This framework guides the effective utilisation of such, avoiding wasted budget and top-heavy security models, creating a structure of procedures, policies, and technologies which work intrinsically together to achieve the same goal.
Over last 5 years many public sectors and governing bodies have been working on defining a structure for the adoption of Zero Trust strategy. Recently, Joe Biden issued an executive order mandating all federal government agencies to embrace a Zero Trust framework. With this intrinsic relationship across public and private sectors, there is much compliance cross-referencing within the accepted structure for adoption of Zero Trust.
Perimeter Security VS. Zero Trust
- Internal vs External: Perimeter Security assumes trust of all within a network, whereas Zero Trust, trusts no one.
- Hybrid Work: Zero Trust makes the process for hybrid work much smoother than Perimeter Security.
- Policy: Zero Trust utilises dynamic policies which allows better adaptability than Perimeter Security.
- Prevention vs Detection: Perimeter Security relies on prevention, whereas Zero Trust has better capabilities for detection and response.
- Cloud-Native: Zero Trust is better suited for cloud environments than Perimeter Security.
How We Can Help
The transition from out-dated cybersecurity frameworks towards Zero Trust is one that can be difficult and time-consuming. This is where we come in.
Our team of experienced IT professionals have experience working with businesses through this transition, developing bespoke Zero Trust adoption strategies that meet their unique requirements.
As a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Modern Work, we at Vital are ideally placed to help you:
- Transition to a Zero Trust approach.
- Understand your current cybersecurity expenditure.
- Identify opportunities for development.
- Secure the best Microsoft pricing.
For a no obligation review of your cybersecurity infrastructure get in touch here.