A Zero Trust network assumes breach and treats users and devices as untrusted until proven trusted. This approach requires authentication, authorization, and encryption of each access request. It also involves micro-segmentation to limit access to specific applications, minimizing the blast radius of any compromised system or attacker. And it utilizes rich intelligence and analytics to detect anomalies in real-time.
Visibility is critical—from seeing the ball on a basketball court to landing an aircraft in bad weather. But it’s essential for cybersecurity. Visibility allows security teams to identify assets, understand how those assets communicate with one another, and detect risks. Visibility also helps organizations select preferred services and consolidate their use. Without visibility, a business may unknowingly have redundant services or be forced to pay for the extra bandwidth it doesn’t need. Modern enterprises have a diverse and complex IT environment, with dozens of firewalls, servers, proxies, internal applications, and third-party SaaS systems running on physical and virtual infrastructure. Managing this environment can be challenging for any cybersecurity team. Visibility is essential in ensuring that those systems are properly configured and protected. Visibility also provides the insight needed to understand how the IT environment is performing and whether or not it’s a security risk. Zero-trust network access operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” Every access request is authenticated and authorized based on various data points, including user identity, device context, policy, location, and other environmental factors. Additionally, it employs micro-segmentation and least privilege access to minimize lateral movement, and it leverages rich intelligence and analytics for real-time threat protection and control. The result is a much more robust security posture that’s difficult to breach and an ability to mitigate better the blast radius of any breach that does occur.
Reduced Cognitive Load
Zero Trust prioritizes security by locking down access to network resources until a user is verified. However, doing so can block users from accessing files they need to work on and slow down workflows. Zero Trust must be implemented intelligently and based on a framework informed by real-world deployments. Modern enterprises have complex distributed infrastructures comprising multiple databases, servers, proxies, and internal and third-party SaaS applications. In addition, many organizations have legacy systems designed around implicit Trust and may require a significant amount of custom configuration to conform with a Zero Trust model. To implement a Zero Trust system, IT leaders must consider how to manage these different environments while maintaining secure access to applications and data regardless of location or device. This is often a complex, time-consuming, and costly undertaking. To combat the effects of cognitive overload, cybersecurity teams should be empowered to automate as much of the process as possible. While this will not eliminate all manual processes, it will significantly reduce their workload and allow them to focus on other tasks that are more critical to the organization’s success. Investing in a SIEM solution with advanced SOAR capabilities can help identify and resolve incidents that SOC teams might otherwise miss. This can help alleviate the effects of cognitive overload on your team and ultimately improve their productivity, efficiency, and morale.
Minimized Attack Surface
The attack surface refers to all the possible routes a lousy actor could use to breach your organization. This includes digital, like apps, ports, and code; physical, like servers, routers, and end-user devices; and social engineering, such as phishing. A Zero Trust architecture minimizes the attack surface by verifying access continuously. The architecture also provides security controls that prevent lateral movement once an attacker enters the network. Zero trust networks utilize micro-segmentation to maintain separate security perimeters for different data assets, applications, and servers. The smallest of these zones is the size of a single file in the data center so that even if one is compromised, it is difficult for attackers to move laterally across the network. In addition, a Zero Trust approach is proactive rather than reactive. It ensures that any device attempting to access the network is verified and that the user’s identity and context are always validated. This helps prevent an unwitting employee from becoming the entry point for a cyberattack. It also means that employees receive regular cybersecurity awareness training to know what to look out for and how to respond to phishing attacks or suspicious behavior.
The traditional security approach that relied on a network perimeter to protect systems and data no longer works. Today, people work on multiple networks, and co-workers are located worldwide. A Zero Trust model focuses on securing identities, endpoints, and applications. This “never trust, always verify” approach enables organizations to ensure a new way of working and stop threats in their tracks. This fundamental shift makes it impossible for attackers to leverage the moat surrounding your business infrastructure. Attackers can no longer take advantage of the time it takes for users to traverse the firewall and get access to applications by relying on implicit Trust. A Zero Trust architecture eliminates this vulnerability by forcing users to mutually authenticate with the application they are trying to connect to before it allows them to pass through the firewall. This verification process includes securing and validating credentials to prevent compromised accounts from being used to gain unauthorized access and utilizing a least privilege principle that limits the scope of user permissions to avoid unnecessary risk. While Zero Trust implementations are a great way to mitigate cybersecurity risks, they are not without challenges. For example, some models require extensive deployment to ensure security controls are always operational. This is particularly true for micro-segmentation, which requires ongoing maintenance to map IP data accurately and continually adjust as workloads and devices change.