Zero Trust – Cybersecurity for Today’s World

In our modern cyber threat landscape, attacks are coming from every side. It can feel overwhelming trying to protect your organization from a cyberattack. With many employees now telecommuting, using web-based applications, and more, there are many avenues of vulnerability for an attacker to enter your network.

There are countless numbers of software, services, practices, and more that can help manage cybersecurity. While many of these things are important for protecting your business, there is an increasingly socialized philosophy for cybersecurity that is useful for your business. While not new, this term is both all-encompassing and in-depth. The term is Zero Trust.

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What is Zero Trust?

Many businesses have operated their IT security around the idea of a single corporate perimeter that trusts everything inside. However, this mindset is problematic because once an attacker gets past the perimeter, they can access everything inside, often spreading across the network throughout different systems.

As the name implies, the overarching idea of a Zero Trust cybersecurity policy is to trust nothing and verify everything. In today’s world, employees want the option to work remotely on unsecured external networks. Additionally, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are typically housed outside the corporate network. These factors make it more challenging to keep your company secure.

Zero Trust is similar to the concept of a firewall. Typically, you deny all access to the firewall and only allow those things that require access. Zero Trust follows the same philosophy. Everything that comes in contact with any technology associated with your corporate network should be denied access until verified. Additionally, with Zero Trust, the trust provided is temporary and established from multiple sources of data, and it is constantly re-evaluated.

microsegmentation zero trust cybersecurity
Microsegmentation is an important part of the Zero Trust philosophy that protects your network.

You may believe that this concept sounds unfamiliar or extreme. However, if you’ve ever accessed the internet before, you have practiced the Zero Trust philosophy. If you follow basic IT Security best practices, you likely do not click on a link, visit a website, or respond to a message without verifying the information first. So, Zero Trust is not as foreign of an idea as you might think. The Zero Trust model guides us to treat all devices as if they were internet-facing and, instead of having one single perimeter, we create many micro perimeters (or microsegments), applying checks and controls around everything and between everything.

Benefits of Zero Trust

By implementing a Zero Trust policy, you can control your entire environment, from inside the office to the cloud applications used. You can maintain security even if you don’t have full use or control of the infrastructure. For example, with web-based applications, you can use tactics like multi-factor authentication. This also means that since nothing is seen as in or out of the corporate perimeter, you can manage your security policy in the same way across the board. Whether you are implementing security for an employee in the office or working from their home, you can apply the same measures to both situations. This makes security easier to understand for employees and easier to implement organizationally.

Additionally, by utilizing micro perimeters as mentioned above, the spread of cyberattacks within your network is drastically limited. Rather than having access to everything once the attacker breaches the perimeter, they have minimal access to your organization’s systems. The distrust and verify the model of Zero Trust is also beneficial to further prevent the spread or entry of an attack.  This is because your environment is continually monitored, and the entry of users is continuously verified.

Zero Trust allows for better control over cybersecurity, giving you a stronger base of protection against ever-present cyber threats.

implementing zero trust cybersecurity
Implementing a Zero Trust cybersecurity policy involves assessing your environment completely, and formulating Zero Trust policies using this information.

How to Implement Zero Trust Policy

It is important to note that depending on the intricacies and specifics of your corporate environment, implementing a Zero Trust cybersecurity policy may look slightly different for each organization. However, there are common practices to keep in mind if you would like to implement this philosophy.

  1. Define Surfaces: The first step in implementing Zero Trust is to define what surfaces your organization wants to secure, control, and monitor. Consider what services, devices, applications, and more that you use for your business. These could be things such as cloud storage, company laptops, applications such as Microsoft Teams, and the list goes on. Having a clear picture of everything your business uses technologically is important in order to secure your entire environment.
  2. Map Out Pathways Required: The next step is to map out access to various pathways within the network. This includes considerations such as which groups will need access to what apps, servers, devices, and more. There are two kinds of pathways to consider – standard and privileged. Privileged pathways differ from the standard in that they have limited (I.e. privileged) access. For example, your accounting department likely needs access to software that most other departments do not require. These privileged pathways will likely need extra security and controls applied.
  3. Define Network & Policies: After you have examined all aspects of your IT infrastructure, you can begin developing your Zero Trust network and policies. Identify what security and access controls will be applied to which parts of your corporate environment, and create protocols to distribute company-wide, or among those who need to understand your Zero Trust security policies. Some examples of solutions that follow the Zero Trust philosophy would be privilege access management (PAM), local administrator password solution (LAPS), and more.
  4. Monitor Micro-Perimeters: The final step in implementing the Zero Trust philosophy in your environment is to monitor all newly created micro-perimeters.

This is not a simple undertaking, but it is one that is well worth it. Unlike the “set it and forget it” model of installing something like anti-virus software, Zero Trust introduces constant monitoring of all systems to both reject potential attackers entering the network, as well as to promote a better understanding of how cyber threats work and where vulnerabilities in the system lie.

In Summary

Zero Trust cybersecurity philosophy is a comprehensive, deep dive into your technology environment to ensure it is as protected from cyber threats as possible. Furthermore, while it may seem complicated, we have all practiced it while using the internet at some point or another, and it is easily replicable to teach employees across the organization.

Learn more about Zero Trust by watching our on-demand webinar.

Zero Trust
NetGain, in partnership with Sophos, hosted a webinar on Zero Trust. Watch it on-demand.
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