Is Zero Trust Beneficial For Businesses?
- by Justice Levine
Zero trust might be the most cryptic term and hyped trend in cybersecurity currently. Beyond being a trend, it's also a real concept, and represents the best hope of stopping the major increase in cyberattacks.
Unfortunately, there is much confusion concerning which security tools help achieve zero trust, and which ones pretend to live up to their potential. Zero trust is the most abused and the most misunderstood term in security today. This article will discuss the common misconceptions that make experts wary, the difficulties of implementing zero trust, and why the tool is beneficial for your business’ security.
What Can Zero Trust Do For Your Business?
Zero Trust is a security framework that requires all users in or outside the organization’s network to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data. Networks can be local, in the cloud, a combination or hybrid with resources anywhere as well as workers in any location. Zero Trust is a framework for securing infrastructure and data and addresses the challenges businesses face, including securing remote workers, hybrid cloud environments, and ransomware threats.
Executing Zero Trust combines advanced technologies such as risk-based multi-factor authentication, identity protection, next-generation endpoint security, and robust cloud technology to verify a user or systems identity, consideration of access at that moment in time, and the maintenance of system security. Zero Trust also requires consideration of encryption of data, securing email, and verifying the hygiene of assets and endpoints before they connect to applications.
Traditional network security followed the “trust but verify” method, which automatically trusted users and endpoints within the organization’s perimeter. This method ultimately puts the organization at risk from malicious internal actors and legitimate credentials being taken over by malicious actors, enabling wide-reaching access to unauthorized and compromised accounts once inside.
Zero Trust architecture requires organizations to continuously monitor and validate that a user and their device have the right privileges and attributes. Additionally, the architecture requires the enforcement of a policy that considers the risk of the user and device, along with compliance or other requirements to consider prior to permitting the transaction. The organization is required to know all of its service and privileged accounts to establish controls about what and where they connect. One-time validation is not enough as threats and user attributes are all subject to change.
More than 80% of all attacks involve credentials use or misuse in the network so additional protections for credentials and data must extend to email security and secure web gateway providers as this helps ensure greater password security, the integrity of accounts, adherence to organizational rules, and avoid high-risk shadow IT services.
What Are the Seven Pillars of Zero Trust?
Many organizations have referred to the Forrester Zero Trust eXtended (ZTX) model to help with the migration from a perimeter-based security architecture to a zero-trust framework. The Forrester framework breaks down seven necessary pillars to properly deploy zero-trust security, including:
This pillar focuses on the use of security tools such as authentication and access control policies to identify and validate the user attempting to connect to the network before applying access policies that limit access to decrease the attack surface area.
The primary goal of this pillar is identification and authorization when devices attempt to connect to enterprise resources. The devices may be user-controlled or completely autonomous.
This pillar refers to the applications, digital processes, and public and private IT resources used by an organization for operational purposes. Security is wrapped around each workload to prevent data collection, unauthorized access or tampering with sensitive apps and services.
This pillar is used to help microsegment and isolate sensitive resources from being accessed by unauthorized people or things.
This pillar centers around the categorization of corporate data so that the data can be isolated from everyone except those that need access and also includes the process of determining where data should be stored, as well as the use of encryption mechanisms while data is in transit and at rest.
Visibility and Analytics
Security processes that revolve around access control, segmentation, encryption, and application or data organization must be monitored. The visibility and analytics pillar may use AI to automate processes, including anomaly detection, configuration control, and end-to-end data visibility.
Automation and Orchestration.
The last pillar covers ways organizations can automate and centrally control the entire zero-trust model on the LAN, WAN, wireless WAN, and public or private data centers.
Security leaders can implement these seven pillars of the ZTX model to apply the appropriate security tools and better secure IT. Zero-trust pillars are designed to help IT security administrators identify, organize and implement the appropriate security tools that satisfy the overall goal of a zero-trust strategy.
Zero Trust Misconceptions
While the framework has rapidly grown in reputation in recent years, there are still many myths and misconceptions regarding what zero trust is and how it relates to your organization.
Zero-Trust is a Solution or Software You Can Implement
The first assumption most people make when they hear about zero-trust is that it’s a product or software that will enhance their existing cybersecurity. This is inaccurate. Zero-trust is not a plug-in solution, but a set of principles and best practices designed to change prevailing mindsets and approaches to cybersecurity. The most important result of zero-trust is behavioral and value change within an organization.
Zero Trust Means Trusting No One
The zero-trust motto of “never trust, always verify” is often misconceived to believe that trust and permissions should be eliminated across an entire organization. In actuality, it indicates a need to move away from assuming trust, which allows a user unchecked access throughout a network. Zero Trust assumes all network traffic is potentially malicious, meaning every user should be verified and authenticated to access sensitive data or systems.
Zero Trust is Only About Security
Improving security is a major benefit of zero-trust, but it can also help to improve compliance, enhance productivity, and support the use of new technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT). By adopting a zero-trust approach, you can not only improve security, but also support the evolution of your organization.
Zero Trust is a One-Time Implementation
Zero Trust is an ongoing process, as the threat landscape is constantly evolving, and your security strategy must be able to adapt. A managed service provider (MSP) can help you continuously monitor and update your zero-trust implementation, ensuring that it remains effective, protecting your organization from new and emerging threats, and ensuring that your security strategy remains effective.
Zero-trust is Only Relevant For Larger Organizations
Because larger organizations represent more obviously lucrative targets for cyberattacks, small and mid-size enterprises are often under the impression they don’t need to invest in cybersecurity. In actuality, Zero Trust is a preferable security framework for businesses of all sizes.
Zero-trust is Not a Panacea
Zero Trust is not the solution against all cyberthreats and organizations need other security measures to bolster it, especially because less than 1% of large organizations have a mature and measurable Zero Trust program.
Solving Zero Trust Challenges
Zero Trust is not without flaws but remains the preferred posture for companies that are security-conscious. To mitigate the inherent risks, consider the following:
Run Zero Trust Trials
Before implementing Zero Trust, conduct user trials and security evaluations as this gives users experience employing these types of systems, admins experience managing these types of systems and security teams experience responding to incidents and security issues.
Start small when entering Zero Trust into live environments and don't abandon legacy systems altogether. Identify the most sensitive data and critical workflows, and subject them to stricter access controls, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), privileged access, and session management.
Scale the deployment once successful. Gradually introducing zero-trust security doesn't disrupt the continuity of a cybersecurity strategy. Companies begin locking down crucial assets, but because they're not entirely abandoning one system for another, they're exposed to fewer threats.
Marriott Hotels Suffers Data Breach That Hit Millions
In 2018 the Marriott Hotels chain was fined £18.4 million ($22 million) for a major data breach that may have affected up to 339 million guests.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said names, contact information, and passport details may all have been compromised in a cyberattack and also included seven million guest records for people in the UK. The ICO said the company failed to put appropriate safeguards in place but despite imposing a fine, the ICO acknowledged that Marriott had acted quickly once it found the flaw, and had improved its systems since.
The first part of the cyberattack happened in 2014, affecting the Starwood Hotels group, which was acquired by Marriott two years later. For four more years the problem went unnoticed and the attacker continued to have access to all affected systems, such as names, email addresses, phone numbers, passport numbers, arrival and departure information, VIP status, loyalty program numbers.
On that basis, the ICO said Marriott had failed to protect personal data as required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Keep Learning About Zero Trust
As companies and government agencies begin implementing Zero Trust architectures, it is important that initiatives are proposed and approved by highest level executives to ensure success.
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