Zero trust security frameworks are a key weapon in the armory of businesses striving to ensure top protection of their most critical assets, data, and resources. But how do zero trust models work and what’s so special about them?
Zero trust offers an unprecedented level of continuous protection to organizations of all kinds and allows them to leverage sophisticated mechanisms to keep valuable assets safe.
The popularity of zero trust security mechanisms has been on the rise. According to Statista’s 2022 global survey, 41% of respondents reported that they had plans to implement a zero trust strategy and were in the early phases of doing so.
But what is zero trust security really and where exactly can it be applied?
Let’s find out together.
What is zero trust security?
Zero trust security is an approach that requires every identity, user, system, or device to undergo identity verification before gaining access to resources on a private network. In other words, the core goal of zero trust is to trust no one and nothing, and ensure that an organization’s data and resources are inaccessible by default.
Before zero trust, organizations used to rely on perimeter-based security methods — such as firewalls — that extend trust and grant unlimited access to all users, apps, and devices within the perimeter.
However, the rapid development of tech innovations entailed the rise of more sophisticated cyberattacks, which turned out to be immune to traditional security approaches.
At around that time, the zero trust concept came to prominence. Its core intention was to prevent attacks coming from bad actors and eliminate the consequent damage by annihilating implicit trust and requiring even authorized users and devices to be verified before gaining access to the network.
These days, zero trust has piqued the interest of various industry leaders across the globe. World-renowned companies such as Coca-Cola, Google, and WestJet Airlines have already embraced zero trust security frameworks in their operations. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has even developed a standard on zero trust, called NIST 800-207, that provides detailed guidance to enterprises and governments on how to implement the framework.
How does zero trust security work?
Zero trust security models work by treating everything — both inside and outside of the network perimeter — as a threat by default. They generally cover security layers such as identity, endpoints, applications, networks, infrastructure, and data.
Zero trust frameworks apply robust authentication and authorization mechanisms for all devices, persons, network flow, and connections, utilizing context from as many data sources as possible. They are responsible for ensuring that all interaction complies with the requirements of an organization’s security policies.
Zero trust protects the network against all the “threats” by executing the following activities:
- Logging and inspecting the network’s corporate traffic
- Limiting and managing access to the network
- Verifying and protecting the network’s resources
What are the benefits of zero trust security?
If implemented and leveraged correctly, zero trust security models offer numerous benefits, the most outstanding of which are enhanced data protection, better visibility across the entire organization, significant cost savings, improved user access, and greater security for employees.
Enhanced data protection
Zero trust models make it possible to boost an organization’s security posture and provide top-notch data protection. With zero trust, businesses can ensure that only authorized users from verified devices can access and operate with internal and corporate resources, leaving fraudsters out in the cold.
Better visibility across the entire organization
Zero trust security models enable you to control who attempts to access your network, as well as where, when, and from which device. This information will help you establish greater visibility of your assets and activities, and introduce relevant security measures.
Significant cost savings
The global average total cost of a data breach amounts to $4.35 million. So it goes without saying that every organization has to implement robust security measures to avoid multi-million dollar costs, as well as keep their data safe. Zero trust security models, for their part, can help companies ensure that their networks are tamper-proof and secured, and that no unauthorized party can access them.
Secure user access
Traditionally, employees have been required to enter their credentials and passwords to access the organization’s resources and applications. Such methods are considered to be rather vulnerable, as employee credentials can easily be compromised, leading to severe data breaches.
Zero trust, on the other hand, leverages granular security policies such as specialized SSO gateways and MF authentication in place of standard credentials, which results in a smooth, secure user access.
Greater security among remote employees
According to research by HP Wolf Security, around half of office workers across the globe use their work devices for personal use, which makes 84% of IT stakeholders worry that this would increase their company’s risk of a security breach.
The zero trust security approach helps companies protect their internal apps against potentially compromised remote devices and data theft. It verifies remote users and grants them access only to the apps they need (i.e. not all the apps in internal data centers and private clouds).
Examples of zero trust use cases
Zero trust security models can be applied in a variety of different ways, including secure onboarding for third-party services and contractors, protection of remote workers, safe IoT deployment, and efficient data center segmentation.
Let’s delve into each specific use case and see how exactly zero trust helps make a difference.
Secure onboarding for third-party services and contractors
Numerous enterprises cooperate with third-party services, suppliers, and contractors which need to be provided with access to the corporate network, creating a potentially huge security risk.
In this case, zero trust frameworks may help organizations ensure that remote connections comply with all safety requirements and will not cause damage to internal assets. The security mechanism can be set up to provide special policies and leverage encryption, traffic monitoring, and other essential access checks to define how both managed and unmanaged devices should be handled, and which connections can be considered secure.
Safer IoT deployment
Businesses eager to embrace the Internet of Things need to remember that IoT devices are not secure by default.
Luckily, zero trust security mechanisms can help stakeholders substantially minimize the vulnerability of IoT deployments by limiting who, and what, IoT devices can interact with. With zero trust, it is also possible to establish a convenient inventory of IoT sensors and be in the know about where they are located at any given time.
Discover how our IoT development team can help you build a secure, smart, and resilient IoT network
Efficient data center segmentation
Zero trust is particularly convenient for distributed computing, as it allows distributed services to remain in steady communication with each other safely. As well as this, zero trust technology can be implemented throughout data centers and clouds to safeguard the integrity and security of laterally-moving information as it transfers from one server to another.
Reduction of ransomware attacks
Businesses can rely on zero trust security to prevent and minimize ransomware attacks. Zero trust models will continuously wrap security around each and every user, connection, and device, and substantially reduce data exposure if there is any breach.
Zero trust has established itself as a powerful and reliable IT security model that can be implemented in a wide range of organizational processes. It also offers substantial benefits, including better data protection and visibility, cost savings, and reduction of an organization’s attack surface.
Should you need in-depth consulting on zero trust security and its implementation in your processes, reach out to our seasoned IT consultants for help. We will scrutinize your request, run a complete analysis, and line up a strategy that details a technology package that will sit well with your infrastructure.