What is Zero Trust Security?

June 15, 2021 / by Frederid Palacios

Information security should be one of the highest priorities for every organization. The state of your company's reputation lies in your ability to protect sensitive and private information. As technology becomes more advanced, so do the capabilities of hackers. Should your data network be hacked, not only will you have to scramble to regain control, but you will lose the trust of your customers and likely have to handle lawsuits. To avoid security breaches, you must have a trusted and robust security system that can not only fight off attacks but also prevent and predict them – but this is easier said than done.

Data Privacy on Black-Golden Watch Face with Closeup View of Watch Mechanism.

Security risks can reside internally and externally, and the most dangerous threats could be those you do not expect. Internal threats could include an individual’s personal device being accessed on a public network or a cloud misconfiguration, each of which could be detrimental to your organization. For this reason, companies are encouraged to embrace zero trust security. We will discuss what zero trust security entails and how it can benefit your organization in protecting your information and strengthening security.


What is Zero Trust?

In 2017, a Data Breach Study reported that the global average cost of data breaches is $3.62 million. Clearly, current security approaches are not working as well as they should be. To combat this, organizations are implementing zero trust security. Zero trust is a concept based on the belief that organizations should not automatically trust anything, whether insideor outsideof the company’s perimeters. Instead, organizations should verify anything and everything that tries to connect to their systems before granting access. Essentially, no IP addresses, machines, or devices should be allowed access to your company’s system until they are identified and authorized. This eliminates a significant amount of unknown or unauthorized users from entering your system, thus reducing security breaches.

The zero trust security model is based on four primary principles:

  • Re-examine all default access controls. There is no such thing as a trusted source in a zero trust model. The model assumes that potential hackers reside both inside and outside the network. As such, every request to access a system must be authenticated, authorized, and encrypted.
  • Employ a variety of preventative techniques that focus on identity, endpoint, data, and application access. Zero trust relies on preventive measures to stop breaches and minimize their damage. Identity protection and device discovery are core tools to zero trust, in addition to multifactor authentication and micro-segmentation. All of these techniques are vital to verifying users and limiting movement between layers of a system.
  • Enable real-time monitoring and controls to identify and interrupt malicious activity.In addition to preventative measures, zero trust also incorporates real-time monitoring to improve breakout time – the window between when an intruder enters one system and moves laterally to another.
  • Align to a broader security strategy. Digital capabilities alone will not prevent breaches, so zero trust also allows companies to adopt a holistic security solution to ensure the safety of their networks. Companies will examine and update old and obsolete security protocols, ensuring that their security systems are cohesive and connected to maximize security.

Cyber Security as a Competitive Advantage

Why is it Important?

Zero trust combines a wide range of preventative techniques to deter would-be attacked and limit their access in the event of a breach. As a result, it is one of the most effective ways for organizations to control access to their data, networks, and applications. It is no longer enough to only establish firewall rules and block by packet analysis to maintain sufficient security. Hackers are getting smarter, so companies need to keep up. A compromised network that passes authentication protocols should still be evaluated for each subsequent endpoint it attempts to access. As technology advances, companies are increasing the number of endpoints within their network and expanding their infrastructure. With a larger network, there is more opportunity for attackers to breach. Modern trends make it more challenging to establish, monitor, and maintain secure perimeters, so it is critical that you implement a borderless security strategy such as zero trust. With zero trust technology, your system can recognize normal versus anomalous behaviors, allowing you to enhance authentication controls and policies. Your network will be segmented by identity, groups, function, and user access control, allowing you to contain breaches and minimize damage.


Achieving Zero Trust

While each organization’s security needs are unique, there are some standard recommendations to achieving zero trust within your organization. First and foremost, you must assess your organization. Defining the attack surface and identifying sensitive data, assets, applications, and services within your framework is key to determining your security parameters. You should identify and audit every credential active within your organization, ensuring that you remove stale accounts that have not been used in 30 days. Within these accounts, review all privileges for risk and impact. In doing so, you will also need to assess your organization’s current security toolset and identify any gaps within the infrastructure. Your most critical assets should be given the highest level of protection within the security architecture.

Once your organization’s current securities have been assessed, it is time to create a directory of all assets and map the transaction flow. In this step, you will determine where sensitive information resides and which users need to access this. Consider how various services interact with one another to ensure compatibility in security access controls between resources. This is crucial to notify your system of unauthorized lateral movements and reauthenticating access between systems. It is also essential to know how many service accounts you have and exactly where they need to connect. This will help you review authentication protocols to identify and raise connection challenges on outdated and weaker systems. Obtain a list of all approved cloud services to then enforce access to only low-risk services. Additionally, you may consider removing stale accounts and implementing a mandatory password rotation for additional security measures.

Now that you have thoroughly reviewed your current security solutions, you must establish various preventative measures. When it comes to security, it is substantially more effective to be proactive than reactive to minimize damage. There are several preventive measures you may implement to deter hackers and halt their access in the event of a breach. A very common measure is multifactor, or third-factor authentication. This control provides an additional layer of verification to every user inside and outside of your network, and it should be triggered by risk increases or unusual traffic. Least privilege principles are also helpful in preventing breaches as they grant users the least amount of access necessary for their roles in areas that hold particularly sensitive data. Management should regularly review privileged accounts as users move from group to group, limiting and granting access as needed. Another robust measure is that of micro-segmentation. Adding micro-perimeters to your system can act as a border control within the network, preventing unauthorized lateral movement. Your organization will be able to segment based on user group, location, or logically grouped applications.

Finally, your organization must continuously monitor your network. Consistent monitoring is critical to identify anomalous activity. Log, inspect, and analyze all traffic and data without interruption to ensure that any possible risks and breaches can be caught immediately. It is also an excellent measure to escalate and store authentication logs for anomalous and suspicious activity, so flag risks as they appear. Using zero trust methods, your organization will strengthen security both internally and externally, minimizing breaches and risks to ensure your longevity and protection. 

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Tags: Cyber Security

Frederid Palacios

Written by Frederid Palacios

Fred Palacios is a seasoned software architect with more than 20 years of experience participating in the entire software development cycle across a host of different industries--from automotive and services to petroleum, financial, and supply chain. In that time, his experience working closely with high-level stakeholders has provided him with a strategic vision for developing the right solutions to flexibly meet critical business needs. As CTO of Intertec, he's continuing to focus on the creation of business-critical applications for large enterprise projects, particularly those that handle high concurrency and large datasets. He is passionate about using technology as a tool to solve real-world problems and also mentoring technical teams to achieve their maximum potential and deliver quality software.

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