Zero trust requires granular policies that consider the who, what, where, when, and why of network traffic. Administrators must identify their protected surfaces and transaction flows before creating access controls.
Least privilege principles mandate that credentials, including programmatic accounts like service accounts, should be confined to the minimal connection capability necessary for the job. This requires continuous verification and reassessment of context as conditions change.
Zero trust assumes that threats exist inside and outside the network and requires all connections to be tightly authenticated and authorized. This is a significant shift from traditional security models that relied on firewalls and perimeter-based protection to protect data assets, servers, and applications.
Authentication is identifying an individual or device using a credential to access a system or file. It can be done using multifactor authentication, single-login authentication, or a combination of technologies to determine identity and verify that the device is legitimate and trusted.
Authentication is an essential component of a Zero Trust architecture, as it can be used to identify malicious users and devices. It also ensures that devices have basic security hygiene, such as applying updates and enforcing secure passwords. It can be leveraged with micro-segmentation to divide networks into smaller, more manageable segments and isolate workloads, reducing the potential for infection. Moreover, implementing zero trust principles enhances cybersecurity by continuously verifying and validating user identities and devices, thereby minimizing potential risks. Network traffic can then be logged and constantly monitored to spot suspicious activity. These factors can then be weighed with policy controls to reduce risk and limit access.
Micro-segmentation divides the network into smaller segments with granular security policies that separate workloads and environments. This reduces the network attack surface and makes it more difficult for attackers to move laterally within the environment.
For example, a development, test, and production environment can be separated with micro-segmentation, making it impossible for an unauthorized user to access these critical assets. Regular access review ensures that only the right users can access vital processes and applications.
Security policies are built on top of a well-defined architecture with a clear picture of all business applications and IT resources, including their sensitivity and primary security risks. This allows you to create a segmentation map and set up rules for communication between these segments.
A zero trust system can provide a robust micro-segmentation framework that protects all hybrid attack surfaces, from multi-cloud and data centers to remote endpoints and IT and OT systems. This can limit lateral movement, reduce the impact of a breach, and shorten response times to contain threats.
Privileged Access Management
Privileged access management is a critical component of zero trust and helps protect the data at your organization’s heart. It provides granular access control and visibility into the traffic that traverses your network. However, the vast number of capabilities and jargon can make it difficult for organizations to find the right solution.
The risk of privileged account abuse is substantial. Employees can gain unauthorized access to sensitive systems by using compromised credentials or downloading third-party solutions. These accounts should be monitored, with privileges revoked when an employee leaves the company or changes organizational roles. The same should be done for service accounts that automate server tasks or within an application.
Privileged access management can also help improve regulatory compliance. When paired with good password hygiene, privileged access management helps ensure that employees don’t break regulations maliciously or mistakenly. By reducing the amount of self-service IT, it’s possible to minimize the risk of breaches that can lead to fines and penalties.
Data Loss Prevention
Using Zero Trust architecture, you can ensure that only the people, devices, and systems with approved access get to your critical resources. This is a huge step up from traditional network security that relied on the “trust but verify” approach, which gave unauthorized users and compromised credentials the ability to move laterally across the entire network.
In the Zero Trust environment, all traffic is logged and evaluated, and users are only given the capability required to perform their jobs. This helps prevent lateral movement by bad actors and minimizes the impact if a breach does occur, such as the 2021 software supply chain attack Sunburt that accessed critical systems via over-permissioned service accounts.
To fully leverage Zero Trust, your admins must document as much activity circulating the protected environment as possible to identify anomalies and prioritize areas for further inspection. This includes verifying that the devices attempting to connect to your Zero Trust network meet basic security hygiene (such as applying patches) and identifying the types of data they are trying to access. This information can be used to limit access on an ongoing basis.
Zero trust is a security framework that eliminates direct access to networks and resources, establishes granular access control, and improves visibility.
While this model has been gaining in popularity for years, it is becoming more prevalent thanks to the growth of digital transformation initiatives and the proliferation of remote work environments. Organizations need a unified approach incorporating defense-in-depth strategies to secure these distributed environments to protect their mission-critical assets.
This is where the Zero Trust architecture comes in, as it provides a more comprehensive security solution that ensures cloud, mobile, and legacy services are protected without compromising user experience. Selecting services with built-in support for this architecture is essential to implement a Zero Trust model. This will help to ensure compatibility and minimize the burden of managing multiple components. It is also necessary to ensure these services are continuously evaluated and protected against modern attacks.
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