Understanding the Fundamentals of Zero Trust Security

In today’s world, perimeter-based security approaches have become inefficient due to the increasing number of remote workers, cloud services, and the digital transformation of businesses. Simply, modern-day businesses need more comprehensive security approaches like Zero Trust to secure corporate assets. Zero Trust Network Access is a network security framework that removes implicit trust from internal and external networks. The zero trust security model creates an identity-based proactive perimeter that covers users, devices, and applications within the corporate network. It applies strict access controls to users, devices, and applications, and demands authentication at all access levels. Authentication and re-authorization of every data access is its main method of defense.

Zero trust framework enables secure access to company resources and establishes robust data protection. To safeguard corporate networks and sensitive data against modern-day cyber threats, companies should implement zero trust solutions. Now that we briefly explained the fundamentals of Zero trust architecture, let’s see its key components and principles.

Zero Trust Security
Zero Trust Security

Key Components and Principles of a Zero Trust Architecture

Zero Trust architecture is based on the “trust none, verify all” mantra, and it adopts the least privileged access principle. This framework considers all users, devices, and applications malicious. That’s why, it requests continuous authentication from all entities, and once the authentication is complete it grants access to resources that are aligned with entities’ access rights. The zero trust model limits all entities’ access permissions with the resources that are required for their daily duties and roles, nothing else.

Zero Trust architecture has three core components. These are the policy engine, policy enforcement point (PEP), and policy administrator. The policy engine’s function includes allowing or denying the user access to corporate resources. Policy enforcement point (PEP) monitors and supervises current connections between users and corporate resources. Meanwhile, the policy administrator operates as an intermediary between the policy engine and the policy enforcement point. It dispatches the policy engine’s commands to PEP.

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How Zero Trust Enhances Cybersecurity

Zero Trust architecture enhances cybersecurity in many ways. Firstly, it secures identities, enables secure remote access, and robust endpoint security. It uses multi factor authentication tools to verify user identity. MFA tools demand two or more factors from users to verify their identities, these factors can be biometrics, one-time passwords, security tokens, etc. While using MFA tools, cybercriminals can’t use compromised user login credentials to gain access to corporate networks. Secondly, the least access privilege principle gives all entities the minimum amount of access permissions within the network. Simply, users are prohibited from accessing resources that are beyond their permissions, if someone tries to access areas that aren’t in the scope of their privileges, it triggers an alert.

Thirdly, Zero trust architecture applies network segmentation to company networks, creates multiple checkpoints for network traffic, and minimizes the surface areas of cyber attacks. Also, it prohibits lateral movement within the network, if someone tries to move laterally, it triggers an alert. Network segmentation can help businesses isolate threats before they spread to other areas of the network. This way, even if cyber criminals manage to access a network area, they won’t be able to roam inside the network and they will be trapped in one segment and their attack surface will be limited. Also, with network segmentation businesses can enable better data security, and expect for authorized users, nobody will be able to access human and financial resources and confidential data in general.

Implementing Zero Trust Step-by-Step

Implementing zero trust involves 5 core steps for protecting enterprise network assets and preventing cyber threats.

  • 1- Understanding the protection surface: Building a security strategy always starts with identifying what resources or data need protection. This is the most crucial step in building a robust Zero Trust strategy. Also, the protection surface continues to expand with network connected devices and applications. So, your team should determine your valuable assets, data, applications, software, etc.
  • 2- Mapping out network topography: Only determining what needs to be protected isn’t enough for mapping out network infrastructure. Network topography also involves end-points, devices, and entities connected to your network and the interaction between applications and software. This will give you insights into where access controls are needed in and around your network.
  • 3- Outline your Zero Trust strategies and architecture: After mapping out your network topography, your organization can finally move on to outlining the Zero Trust framework and the degree of additional security measures.
  • 4- Implementing Zero Trust policies: The next in your Zero Trust project step requires creating and deploying policies. Zero Trust policies must enforce strict criteria to grant access and strengthen the vulnerable areas of the network.
  • 5- Maintain network permissions: Maintaining network permissions is just as crucial for Zero Trust implementation since the network and managed devices of most organizations dynamically change.
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Additionally, your organization must microsegment the network, apply the principle of least privilege, and enable multifactor authentication to control access better, reduce the attack surface, and prevent lateral movement.

Overcoming Challenges in Transitioning to Zero Trust

Integrating Zero Trust security into your business can be challenging due to several factors. Zero Trust model requires ongoing administration and maintenance. With rapidly shifting workforces, businesses must update their access controls and permissions immediately to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and cyber attacks. Also, Zero Trust principles shut down all traditional control points making them invalid and ineffective. Keep in mind that Zero Trust security can cause configuration and adaptation issues with legacy systems. In this case, businesses must either deploy additional security tools or replace legacy systems.

Case Studies: Successful Zero Trust Implementations in Businesses

A billion-dollar global company Cimpress specializes in the mass production industry, producing customizable B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) products. Cimpress was one of the first companies to offer web-based graphic design software and services with a large customer base. The company was willing to embrace digital transformation and wanted to implement Zero Trust to accommodate its needs for connecting its global team and customers securely. While implementing Zero Trust technology, the company faced management complexities as their business units required flexible disparate technologies. That’s why the organization’s security team needed to build an architecture that offers high scalability and centers around three cloud providers. Successful implementation of Zero Trust architecture improved their security posture and offered high flexibility and scalability for their multi-leveled maturity organization.

Arrival is a British technology and manufacturer company that pioneer in eco-friendly electrical vehicle design and production. Arrival was facing challenges in connecting their globally distributed large workforce with traditional VPN solutions and had a poor end-user experience. This caused new vulnerabilities and a security risk to the organization’s network due to poor access control. By implementing the Zero Trust solution into their network security, the company achieved improved visibility, data protection, bandwidth increase, comprehensive network controls, and enhanced user experience, and accessibility.

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The Future of Network Security

Zero Trust security solutions are among the latest network security trends and will continue to dominate the trends along with AI in the future too. With Zero Trust security, your business can accomplish granular access management, block unauthorized access, reduce the attack surface, and prevent lateral movement. Remember that the Zero Trust journey will allow your organization to set a foundation.

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