The term Zero Trust has matured into one of cybersecurity’s freshest buzzwords—and for good reason. Many of the most successful companies in the world are adopting this architecture, but what exactly does it mean? This guide will help you understand Zero Trust, including what it means, how it works, and how it can protect your company from data breaches! If you’re responsible for protecting your company’s cybersecurity infrastructure, make sure to read this article before it becomes too late!
Understanding Zero Trust Networking
Before talking about what Zero Trust is, it’s essential to understand two basic types of security architectures. There’s Trust-All, where all network traffic is trusted until proven otherwise. And then there’s Zero Trust, where all network traffic must be treated as untrusted until it can be verified. These two approaches are like night and da, but they both make sense in different situations.
Zero Trust systems work well for organizations that deal with many unknown users who could potentially damage if access wasn’t revoked immediately. This type of architecture encourages immediate revocation without risking user disruption or productivity loss. On a Zero Trust network, you would never set up a guest Wi-Fi hotspot because there isn’t enough time to verify every single connection before granting access.
Where Zero Trust Networking Applies
One of Zero Trust’s central tenets is that once a device is connected to a network, it should be granted zero access. This suggests that even if someone borrows or impersonates a user’s credentials, they will not be able to get past various levels of security put in place by IT teams. Zero Trust architecture simply extends your network protection across all users at its most basic level instead of focusing on each individual one. With Zero Trust networks, all devices are assumed to be untrusted until they can prove otherwise. Networks are segmented into different areas, with layers upon layers of security slowly unlocking for authenticated endpoints based on how trustworthy they are perceived to be. As a result, malicious actors have much less space to operate within, making targeted attacks much more difficult.
Where Zero Trust Networking Doesn’t Apply
As with any term that’s new, it’s worth thinking about whether Zero Trust makes sense for your business. For some companies, perhaps it does, but not all. Zero Trust probably doesn’t apply if you have a centralized IT group that manages every aspect of information security at your company. But, if you have third-party partners with access to sensitive data—suppliers or vendors who perform services for you—then it might make sense to adopt a Zero Trust model of network architecture. That way, users within your company are protected from any security breaches initiated by outside parties.
Benefits of a Zero Trust Model
A Zero Trust model aims to eliminate access in traditional black and white ways, where systems and applications either can or cannot be accessed by users. Instead, in a Zero Trust model, we seek to establish trust only in particular instances where we know we can trust users. This reduces the overall attack surface significantly. Moreover, it eliminates data leakage via insider threats because no one person has complete access across all systems at all times.
Protecting against external and internal attacks becomes more accessible with a Zero Trust approach, making any breach less likely. This approach also ensures that both users and administrators are highly accountable for their actions. For example, if someone in IT accidentally grants access to an unauthorized user, they will be held responsible because it was known that they couldn’t be trusted with that type of access in the first place. Both sides must take greater responsibility when accessing systems and data in Zero Trust environments.
The Primary Principles of a Zero Trust Network
There are three main principles for a zero-trust network design. First, each node should have no more privilege than it needs to perform its job. This means that users shouldn’t have elevated rights or privileged access to things like web servers or management consoles unless they need it for their job. Second, network traffic should be encrypted end-to-end without relying on other nodes to protect your data in transit. The third principle is that every node in your network should be explicitly defined and controlled by you. You should own it, so if there’s a security compromise anywhere in your environment, you can mitigate it quickly because you have visibility into all of your assets.
These three principles help ensure that attackers never gain a foothold, even if they somehow infiltrate one part of your organization. If an attacker doesn’t gain initial access to anything critical, there’s nothing left for them to exploit.
Formerly a niche security methodology associated with massive enterprise environments, Zero Trust has spread rapidly over the past year. Many organizations realize that standard perimeter-based network defenses don’t work against ever-more sophisticated attacks from modern hackers armed with big budgets and vast stores of stolen information from vulnerable systems. Putting the perimeter first may make things worse as any lapse inside those firewalls allows attackers behind them immediate access to systems throughout an organization’s infrastructure.
Implementing Zero Trust Network Security
This approach is designed to ensure that every device on your network is recognized, both for convenience (no more nagging employees to update their password!) and protection. Zero trust architecture can go beyond computers; these days, it’s not unheard of for businesses to insist that workers log in with biometric fingerprints or other forms of identification each time they want access to company resources. Despite how you decide to implement it, zero-trust security ensures that every new connection must be authenticated—and won’t work if it isn’t recognized. While adopting a zero-trust system will likely cause some initial resistance from employees who are used to using work devices however they please, enforcing policies like these can cut down on hacking attempts dramatically. The result? Your business avoids costly data breaches that have put companies out of business.
Don’t Attempt This Alone
The internet is abundant with contradictory advice when it comes to how your enterprise should handle cybersecurity. The industry itself is in a state of constant change, and it can be challenging to determine what’s essential. If you don’t have someone with experience in Zero Trust architecture on your team, don’t attempt to start it on your own; you could inadvertently create a less secure environment than you had before. Instead, bring together a panel of experts who will be able to answer any questions that arise as you plan your new domain.