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Zero Trust Security: Here’s What You Need to Know

Businesses that care about network security are increasingly deploying a zero trust (ZT) security model to authenticate and authorize access to applications and data. The model is an answer for businesses that want to limit exposure to malware, ransomware, and other cyber threats. 

ZT offers a better path to protect apps and data if it is used properly. Here’s everything you need to know about zero trust security and its impact on cybersecurity investment opportunities.

What Is Zero Trust Security? 

Zero trust is a network security concept developed by Forrester alum John Kindervag in 2009. Kindervag’s idea can be summed up in the following quote: “Never trust, always verify.”

A business that prioritizes ZT continuously authenticates, authorizes, and validates its security configuration and posture. The company’s employees do the same, to the point where there is complete buy-in across its staff.

It may sound simple, but there is plenty that goes into it. A clear understanding of ZT is a must for businesses that want to establish a top-tier cybersecurity operation.

Core Principles of Zero Trust Security

The ZT model is built around four core principles that outline a holistic security philosophy. They are not meant to stand alone, but instead form the pillar of your network security policy, which must fit into a broader strategy to be successful.

1. Ongoing Examination of Default Access Controls

Cybercriminals can attack from inside and outside a company’s network, so no source can be trusted. One way a business can guard against internal and external threats is to authenticate, authorize, and encrypt every request that comes through its network. I.e., trust no one that accesses your network.

2. Use of Multiple Preventative Techniques

Hackers use many attack vectors, and businesses must plan for them. The use of multiple preventative techniques is key to minimizing the risk of cyberattacks that could hurt a business and its stakeholders.

3. Real-Time Monitoring of Network Assets

Time is limited from the moment a cybercriminal launches an attack to the instant it is discovered and mitigated. Real-time network monitoring capabilities empower businesses to quickly detect and address cyberattacks.

4. Alignment to a Bigger Security Strategy

A ZT architecture can help a business guard against cyberattacks, but it offers no guarantees. Companies must consider this model in relation to their broader security plan, so they’re well-equipped to protect against cyberattacks now and in the future. 

The benefits of zero trust can be significant. A business that explores these benefits in detail can determine if this security architecture is the best option to secure its networks. 

Why is Zero Trust Security Important?

This is more than just the latest IT security buzzword. The reasons businesses implement a ZT security architecture include:

1. Access Control

The model provides businesses with unprecedented access control capabilities. It empowers companies to explore which users and devices need access to apps and data and implement security technologies and governance policies as needed.

2.  Additional Security Layer

It adds a layer of security that stays with a company’s network, even as its network expands. This enables the company to maximize its network security, regardless of how big its network becomes.

3. Borderless Security Strategy

It supports the rapidly growing remote workforce. It can support a company’s mission to let remote workers use its network securely to complete tasks from any location, at any time.

Businesses use zero trust security solutions to verify the identities of all users and devices that attempt to connect to their systems. These solutions ensure users and devices are granted access to business systems only if authorized personnel or systems confirm their identities. 

How do Zero Trust Security Solutions Work?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Businesses often use the following solutions as part of a ZT architecture:

1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA uses two or more pieces of evidence to verify a user’s identity before he or she can access a network. The number of authentication factors is usually tied to the level of network security required — the more authentication factors used, the less likely it becomes that an unauthorized user can access a network.

2. Least-Privilege Access

Least-privilege access involves granting network access exclusively to those required to have it. This ensures only authorized users and devices can access a network, limiting the company’s attack surface.

3. Micro-Segmentation

Micro-segmentation is a security technique in which network perimeters are split into small zones. The technique lets a business limit access to different parts of its network to contain cyberattacks. 

Zero trust also requires businesses to develop and implement governance policies that define who is granted access to what apps and data. These policies must be used in conjunction with the ZT security model to optimize the overall security posture.

Is Zero Trust Security Effective?

A business can deploy best-in-class policies and the technology to support it but lack effective governance policies, which makes it penetrable to cyberattack. Lackluster technologies combined with strong governance policies are unlikely to help a business guard against these attacks as well. 

Effective use of the ZT security model requires a business to develop both the technologies and governance policies associated with it. A company must also consider the users and data it wants to protect and craft its security strategy accordingly.  

10 Tips to Develop an Effective Zero Trust Security Strategy

Some of the things that companies can do to develop an effective ZT security strategy include:

1. Evaluate Your Attack Surface

Identify data, assets, apps, and services (DAAS) used across your business and the security tools currently used to protect them. Look for gaps within the infrastructure and brainstorm ways to address them.

2. Establish an Asset Directory

Figure out where your sensitive information is stored, and which users and devices need to access it. Consider how users and devices interact with this information and the security controls you’ll need to secure it.

3. Use Appropriate Preventative Techniques

Deploy MFA, least-privilege, micro-segmentation, and other preventative techniques to support your ZT model. These techniques can help you stop cyberattacks in their early stages.

4. Limit Authentication Access Entry Points

Keep the number of authentication access entry points across your network at a minimum. This lets you minimize your attack surface.

5. Develop Governance Policies

Create policies to manage how user and device access to networks is managed. There is no room for “gray” areas with these policies — they must be easy to understand and administer across your company. The policies should also be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure they meet the needs of your business.

6. Optimize Network Security Strategy

Leverage a combination of network-based and identity-based protections across your network. The protections together can reduce the risk of data breaches caused by new and emerging cyber threats.

7. Utilize Threat Intelligence and Behavior Analytics

Use threat intelligence sources and behavior analytics to gain insights into cybercriminal activities. These insights can show you the quality, quantity, and diversity of network attacks.

8. Promote User Awareness

Teach your staff about zero trust and what can be done to combat cyberattacks. Employees who know the ins and outs of cybersecurity will know how to identify and report suspicious network activities before they lead to data breaches.

9. Track Your Results

Monitor the results of any ZT tools and governance policies you use. Create baselines and produce reports at regular intervals to assess the effectiveness of these tools and policies. There is always room for improvement, so maintain persistence as you try to find ways to improve your security architecture.

10. Stay the Course

Remain patient as you develop and execute a security strategy. The plan won’t stop cyberattacks, but it can be enhanced over time to help your business minimize their impact. 

Building a successful zero trust strategy takes time, resources, and energy. It also requires a company to account for the pitfalls of ZT security, so it can get the most value out of its investments. 

Further Reading: 8 Essential Cybersecurity Roles

Common Pitfalls of Zero Trust Security

A company may be committed to building a zero trust architecture, but failure to consider the pitfalls of security needs can be dangerous. This scenario can crop up for any company, and it can cause a business to miss out on opportunities to secure its entire network. 

Pitfalls of the ZT security model include:

  • Exclusion of legacy apps, network resources, administrative tools, and protocols from the architecture
  • No data security regulations adopted to the model
  • Lack of visibility into the company’s network 
  • Limited control of a business’ network operations
  • Poor governance of the strategy

ZT is relatively new, and it may take several years before businesses realize its full potential. How you apply your strategy can have far-flung effects in the years to come, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity investing

Contact an Expert with Questions About Zero Trust Security

Zero trust can be a difference-maker for businesses when it is used properly. The model offers a starting point for an extensive security strategy, one that can help companies keep pace with advanced cyberattacks. 

Expect the number of businesses to use ZT to grow in the foreseeable future. Option3Ventures can help you understand the implications of investing in companies that recognize the value of ZT vs. those that don’t. 

Our team of cybersecurity investment experts is happy to answer any questions you have about zero trust security and other cybersecurity investing topics. Contact us today for more information and tips on zero trust and other security trends impacting your investments today.


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