Zero Trust security is a concept that has been discussed extensively. However, there are many different interpretations of what it means. Some consider it to be a platform, while others see it as a principle. The term has become so ubiquitous that it is often dismissed by those in the cybersecurity industry and referred to as a buzzword.
The Zero Trust cybersecurity model is intended to protect digital business environments, such as public and private clouds, DevOps, robotic process automation (RPA), and SaaS applications. It is a crucial framework that all organizations should be aware of and adopt.
Identity-based Zero Trust solutions, such as SSO and MFA, ensure that only authorized individuals, devices, and applications can access the organization's systems and data. The Zero Trust approach operates on the belief that distinguishing between "good guys" and "bad guys" is not possible. Traditional methods of securing an enterprise by creating a strong perimeter are no longer effective due to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, widespread use of cloud services, and hybrid work environments.
The approach prioritizes the continuous verification and security of identities, applications, data, endpoints, networks, and infrastructure. It also emphasizes the importance of visibility, orchestration, and automation.
In Zero Trust, verification is required for all actors. There are no exceptions. This framework is a strategic approach to security that ensures everyone and every device accessing the system is verified as legitimate.
Why Zero Trust?
Cybersecurity incidents, like ransomware and phishing, are prevalent in today's news. With an increase in cloud applications, mobile devices, remote workers, and IoT-connected devices, organizations must align their security policies with business intent. Implementing Zero Trust involves utilizing security technologies and policies that improve security measures while promoting business agility.
These findings from 2022 should be considered:
- In 2022, the number of ransomware breaches increased by 13% from the previous year, which marks a larger rise compared to the cumulative increase of the past five years.
- 71% of organizations experienced a software supply chain-related attack that led to data loss or asset compromise.
- The average cost of a data breach reached a record high of $4.35 million in 2022.
In order to implement Zero Trust, an organization must establish identities for its employees, devices, and applications. It is crucial that these capabilities are integrated and function seamlessly to avoid any unnecessary delays in access decisions for users logging onto applications or APIs.
Zero Trust has evolved into a widely accepted approach.
John Kindervag coined the phrases "Zero Trust" and "Zero Trust architecture" in 2010. He recognized the shortcomings of perimeter-based security. As identity-based threats surged, the philosophy gained traction. Today, Zero Trust is the leading cybersecurity approach. It is championed by government and industry leaders because identity is more important than ever:
- The number of identities has significantly increased, with an average staff member having 30 digital identities and machine identities outweighing human identities at a ratio of 45 to 1.
- Organizations face challenges in protecting identities linked to business-critical applications and implementing Identity Security controls around cloud infrastructure and workloads. Additionally, many store secrets in multiple places across DevOps environments.
- Security leaders are concerned about the threat of credentials and consider it to be their top area of risk. As cloud-based assets increase, hybrid work becomes more common, digital transformation continues, and third-party access expands, attackers are targeting unsecured or poorly managed identities.
With the above concerns in mind, a significant number of senior security executives consider adopting a Zero Trust approach to be important, with 88% stating it to be either "very important" or "important". According to a research report by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), more than half of the global organizations surveyed have either implemented or started implementing a well-defined Zero Trust strategy across their IT infrastructure to facilitate Zero Trust.
Five Principles of Implementing Zero Trust.
There are several frameworks that can help organizations implement Zero Trust, such as NIST's SP 800-207 Zero Trust Architecture and CISA's Zero Trust Maturity Model. These frameworks are intended to provide guidance rather than a strict prescription for the development of a Zero Trust strategy and roadmap, as well as for implementation and compliance. Although these frameworks allow for flexibility, all successful Zero Trust programs should adhere to five fundamental principles.
- Strong, adaptive authentication: Implementing an adaptive strong authentication system with intelligent risk-based access enhances password security and offers valuable user behavior analytics. This benefits both organizations, who can detect potential threats more quickly, and users, who can easily and securely access resources.
- Continuous approval and authorization: Continuous re-authentication and validation of user identities can help ensure appropriate access to resources, particularly in high-risk browser sessions or during periods of inactivity.
- Secure, least-privilege access: Effective least-privilege access management controls are necessary for intelligent and secure access to enterprise resources. Dynamic provisioning, like granting JIT privileged access on a per-session basis, is a useful approach to reduce privileged access risks.
- Continuously monitor and attest: Continuous monitoring and attestation are essential for a comprehensive understanding of access decisions. Anomalies can be detected as they occur, ensuring optimal system security.
- Credential and authentication protection: Endpoint privilege management plays a crucial role in ensuring strong endpoint protection. It helps to detect and prevent attempts at credential theft through methods such as software abuse or memory scraping. Additionally, it enforces consistent application of least privilege, including removal of local admin rights. Flexible application control measures, such as allow-listing for trusted sources, are also implemented to defend against malware and ransomware.
Start your Zero Trust journey
In today's digital landscape, Zero Trust is not just a buzzword in the world of cybersecurity. It's a critical approach that can help organizations protect against modern-day threats and safeguard their sensitive data. As businesses continue to face more sophisticated cyber threats, it's crucial to implement a security framework that prioritizes data protection and risk management. By assuming that every user, device, and network is potentially compromised, Zero Trust helps to mitigate the risk of data breaches and ensure business continuity.
Zero Trust security is not a destination, but a journey. It's an iterative process that requires other security measures to complement mature and measurable Zero Trust programs. Continuous monitoring and improvement are necessary to enhance your cybersecurity posture.
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