Zero Trust is an innovative cybersecurity concept. Its motto dictates to „always verify and never trust“. But what does that mean? Zero-trust arose from the need of modern organizations to have their networks be accessible from various access points. Before it was standard practice that all accesses that stem from within an organization e.g. company hardware or from their internal network were automatically trusted. With the adoption of cloud computing and an ever more remote or hybrid workforce this concept of trust within organizations has become a liability. The modern work environment requires us to always verify whether an access is legitimate in order to stay clear of data breaches and other malicious cyber activities.
The main principles of Zero trust are as follows:
- Always verify, never trust - all attempts to access the organization's internal network need to be verified.
- Limit the blast radius - make sure that people within your organization only have access to whatever they need access to and not more to limit the impact of an access breach.
- Automate data collection - all attempts to access the network need to be logged in order to gain information on patterns and potential threats.
Challenges of Zero Trust
Zero trust is a security philosophy that replaces excess implicit trust in users and devices with thorough authentication and authorization policies. It is not a technology itself.Nothing comes without challenges, so what are the challenges that face zero trust?
The scope of a Zero-Trust initiative
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is one of the more well-known technologies that support zero trust. As its name suggests, ZTNA’s security elements are network-focused.It makes sense to focus on the network because of the excessive implicit trust that is historically part of network security based on perimeters.The network isn’t the entirety of an organization’s IT environment and systems. Organizations also need to consider their applications and the associated data generated. There’s also application development among other areas of an organization to support its business.That is a very large scope and is why shifting entirely to zero trust takes years. It is also why organizations tend to start with one use case, such as remote work, and then systematically move through the different areas of their business.
The need for a strong identity system
One of the security technologies that is most critical for a zero-trust security posture is an identity system. These systems are often part of an IAM tool.Identity systems are what authenticate a user or device and prove to the rest of the suite of security tools the entity is what it says it is. The security tools use the identity of the user or device as a point of reference for the policies that determine how much access the entity has and where it can go in an IT environment.There is always the possibility that identities will be attacked. So, if we shift this adaptive trust model to be identity-centric, well the bad guys will shift to start attacking identities.
Benefits of Zero Trust
Gain greater visibility across the enterprise
Once you have monitoring set up to cover all your resources and activity, you’ll have full visibility into precisely who (or what) accesses your network — so you know the time, location, and applications involved in every access request.
Simplify IT management
Because Zero Trust rests on the foundation of continual monitoring and analytics, you can use automation to evaluate access requests. IT doesn’t need to be involved in approving every access request — they serve in an admin capacity only when the automated system flags requests as suspicious. This benefit is significant. According to a recent survey, 53% of organizations report a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills. The more you can safely automate, the fewer human resources you need to dedicate to IT.
Improve data protection
A Zero Standing Privilege framework combined with just-in-time (JIT) access prevents rogue employees or malware from gaining access to large portions of your network. Limiting what a user can access and how long they can access it goes a long way in reducing the impact of a breach since, once malware breaches your firewall, it can find and extract your customer data or intellectual property quickly. With Zero Trust, identity is the perimeter. Firewalls are no longer sufficient now that users are spread across the world, and data is spread across the cloud. Identity is attached to the users, devices, and applications seeking access, so Zero Trust offers robust protection for workers and data in any location.
The benefits of implementing a Zero Trust framework go far beyond security. From improving visibility, to increasing productivity, to making better use of your IT resources and facilitating compliance, Zero Trust helps you to build strength and resilience throughout your organization.
Zero Trust and Employees
Zero Trust: more an experience than just architecture
An effective zero trust experience works for and empowers the employee. To them, everything feels the same — whether they're accessing their email, a billing platform, or the HR app.In the background, they don't have broad access to apps and data that they don't need. This comes down to building a well-defined and measurable "circle of trust" that is granted to an employee based on their role and team. With these guardrails in place, you're removing the friction and providing a good user experience while establishing more effective security.
From an employee’s perspective, zero trust must not become a technical impediment to getting work done. Once a zero-trust architecture is deployed, users can be confident that the rules and policies under which they operate are operating within this architecture. This invisibility means zero trust can offer significant protection without the need for user attention or input. It simply allows them to work from anywhere, on any device, and remain protected at all times.Beyond the VPNBecause it doesn’t interrupt the working habits of remote staff or require them to constantly log in before connecting to corporate IT resources, zero trust is a significant step up from more traditional Virtual Private Network (VPN) links. Zero trust can also improve network performance for remote workers. Rather than connecting to cloud-based resources by going through a corporate data centre and then out to the internet, they can instead go directly to the cloud. The result will be faster speeds and lower latency.
For employees, zero trust delivers significant benefits. It removes complexity, increases performance, and raises IT security to a new level. Moreover, now that legacy networks are increasingly being replaced by the public internet, putting such a strategy in place has never been more critical.
More trust, not zero trust
Zero-trust methodology should result in increased trust because it’s about establishing healthy boundaries. Employees trust that they are empowered and protected, without security being in the way, and security teams can be more comfortable with reducing friction because of trust in the boundaries. When done right, this is a win-win situation.
How to Implement
Implementing a zero trust architecture in your organization can look like an overwhelming task at first because of the many different aspects Zero trust comprises. Therefore it's important to have a clear path to implementation as well as a strong Cybersecurity partner.
1. Identify who and what needs network access
Zero trust is about verifying access to your network. It is necessary to identify who needs access. Additionally, identify what devices are used and how they access the internal network.It is also very important to start segmenting your network, not everybody should have access to everything. Employees should only be able to access the areas of your network that they need for their job, so even if a data breach occurs not all of your data is compromised.
2. Identify solutions
After you have identified all access points and their users, it is time to find solutions to protect and verify. A common practice for verifying identities is Multi Factor Authentication. Even more secure solutions are biometric authentication methods like face recognition, especially when used continuously or dynamically meaning they verify the user even after the initial login.
3. Implement and monitor
Once you have settled for a solution make sure that your employees know what changes have been made and why. It is important to closely monitor the implementation to make sure everything is running smoothly and your business processes are not disturbed. Make sure that logs of every access attempt are generated and can be analyzed.
4. Continuous improvement
Implementing a zero trust architecture is a dynamic process. Effectiveness needs to be checked regularly and potential new threats emerging should be identified quickly. Cybersecurity threats are always evolving and so should your security.
How could homebase help?
One of the most effective ways to implement zero trust is through biometric authentication of remote workers. Many studies concluded that authentication methods based on face recognition are the most effective due to the balance they offer between providing security and protecting employees’ privacy rights. With our GDPR-compliant and easy-to-use software, the access to your company’s data is under sufficient control.
Homebase has a team of experts who happy to assist with your data security needs.