Zero Trust Security: Redefining Trust in the Digital Era

In today’s digital threat landscape, previous security solutions are simply not enough to secure networks. These models are based on the assumption that a network can only be targeted from outside, and anything inside of the perimeter is secure. While this was somewhat true in the older days, this assumption is no longer valid as employees work from basically anywhere and access business resources from a variety of devices.

Zero Trust Security is a new security model that redefines trust in business networks and challenges traditional security solutions. It no longer assumes that the agents within a network are secure, and considers every user, device, and application to be untrusted until they verify their identity. As a result, all the traffic within the network is monitored at all times through verification, and access is only granted after the user is authenticated. 

In this article, we will explain how Zero Trust Security works, list down a few of its benefits, and try to tell why you need it in your security structure as well. 

The Evolution of Trust in the Digital Era

In the early days of computing, trust was built by securing the perimeter of a network. In essence, organizations worked on fortifying their networks with firewalls and intrusion detection systems to protect them from external threats. They thought by isolating their network from outside dangers, they would keep everyone in the network secure, so all the users accepted into the network were considered trusted. While this approach worked for quite some time, the emergence of cloud computing has made it significantly inadequate. 

Perimeter-based security approaches like the one we explained just now trusted internal networks, but today’s digital landscape made it impossible to have implicit trust for the users within a network. The main reasons for this shift were insider attacks, persistent threats against the network, and compromised credentials that bypassed perimeter security. Besides these threats, the proliferation of cloud computing and remote work has made it challenging to talk about a defined perimeter of the network. 

Recognizing the limitations of this perimeter-based model, Zero Trust Security emerged. It eliminated the implicit trust in networks, regardless of users’ location and the source of their connection. The new approach instead advocated for continuous verification and authentication. Zero Trust assumed everything was a potential threat until they prove otherwise. By eliminating this source and location-based trust in the networks, it made these two factors unrelated, making it effective to secure remote workers and cloud applications. 

The Five Pillars of Zero Trust

Zero Trust Security is based on five core principles. Knowing these pillars is important so you don’t confuse Zero Trust with a single security service, but more of a framework that consists of multiple principles.  

Verify and authenticate all users and devices

Verify user identity and the health of their devices at all times, and make it a continuous process. The main idea behind this is asking users to authenticate themselves before every attempt to access a piece of resource, and checking their devices for vulnerabilities or any suspicious activities. 

Enforce a least privilege access control

This principle is based on the idea that users should have the minimum level of access to resources they need on a daily basis. Let’s give an example about least privilege; when a user needs access to a specific document, least-privilege access provides permission only to that file and not the folder that contains it. This ensures resources are secured from prying eyes and accidental breaches. 

Practice risk-based authorization

Authorize access by considering the risk level of the request. There are several risk ratios used by companies when making this decision. Simply, this principle means that access is provided after checking the user, the piece of resource they want to access, and the status of their devices. This will enable IT personnel to decide whether it is a good idea to let the users utilize that specific resource. 

Implement strict segmentation and micro-segmentation

Divide the network into small, more manageable pieces and isolated segments to implement strict access controls. This will also prevent attacks move within the network and compromise other parts of the network when they initiate the attack. As you might have figured out, this principle minimizes the attackable surfaces in your network, making it possible to respond to it in time. Implementing a Zero Trust security model is more than preventing attacks, it also minimizes the impact of an attack. 

Conduct regular auditing and logging 

Collect and analyze security logs using access requests. This process will help you detect suspicious activity in your network and identify potential vulnerabilities. Analyzing and regularly auditing can give you insights to be used to prevent future attacks and patch soft spots. You can collect security logs from all devices and systems that are approved by the organization, and with the increased visibility that comes with Zero Trust, it should be easy enough. 

Benefits of Zero Trust Security

Improved security

Zero Trust minimizes internal threats and helps organizations have a more robust security posture overall. But more than preventing attacks, micro-segmentation enables IT admins to confine a successful attack before it is injected into other parts of the network. 

Increased agility

Zero Trust allows organizations to use new technologies and work styles without compromising their networks. For example, using Zero Trust is the perfect way to minimize the risk associated with remote work, so organizations can still have teams worldwide. They can provide secure access to resources while leveraging locational advantages. 

Reduced costs

As a comprehensive security framework that brings security to the edge of the network via authorization, verification, and access controls, Zero Trust helps reduce costs. Organizations can cut down on security personnel and the money they spend on other security services by transitioning to a Zero Trust model. 

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