And How You Can Get Ahead of the Curve
Many are moving more and more workloads to the cloud and security is a concern. Zero trust is also a big buzzword right now. But how does Zero Trust fit into the modern cloud era and how can IT leaders get ahead of the curve.
What does zero trust mean anyway?
Zero Trust is an architectural approach that “assumes breach” and reduces the security surface by not trusting anything inside or outside a network. The goal of Zero Trust is to limit access to only those things that users absolutely need. In other words, identify the very little subset of “trusted” domains and resources within a corporate perimeter, and make sure everyone else stays locked out.
The modern approach for Zero Trust is an evolution from the micro-perimeter model, which uses network segmentation and whitelisting to restrict access. The core tenets of Zero Trust include:
- Identification and authentication of users and devices in real-time and at any point of connection
- Automated enforcement of policies based on identity and risk assessment in near real-time
- “Unbreakable” encryption and the ability to prevent credential and encryption compromise
What does zero trust mean for enterprises?
Zero Trust is first on the agenda today because of its burgeoning popularity. It’s based around the idea that you can’t just blindly trust anything on your network anymore – it might be compromised, attacked, or infected by malware. So, you need to take a fresh approach to the way you handle identity and authentication, isolating individual users so that they can only access what they absolutely need on any given network connection. If employees are only allowed to use specific applications when connecting from their office IP address, for example, then if an attacker steals one of those passwords, they can’t access your other applications. Instead, their activities will be confined to the one area that you allow them to work in.
Zero Trust is all about layering security. One of the major benefits of cloud computing is automation, but this also opens up new vulnerabilities – when manual processes are removed from tasks like authentication and authorization, any mistake could leave you wide open to attack. With Zero Trust, security teams can automate processes while maintaining the accuracy that is essential for protecting your assets.=
Every cloud service provider offers granular access controls, but there are other ways to layer protection – putting an application into a virtual network, for example, which restricts the data it can see, or using multi-factor authentication to identify any process impersonating your cloud users.
Zero Trust is a long term strategy
Zero Trust isn’t just something you can bolt onto your network in one fell swoop – it’s a blanket policy that needs to work in harmony with all the different components of your IT environment, from your security layer right through to your cloud applications. Once you have a clear idea of your risk profile and the level of protection needed, only then can you start putting a Zero Trust strategy in place.
But even implementing micro-segmentation, whitelisting and other security measures isn’t enough on its own – it doesn’t track user and device behavior or monitor access patterns. That’s why automation is crucial to Zero Trust: you need to be able to see how individual users operate within your network and put policies in place that automatically enforce security in real-time, per your risk profile.
The core of Zero Trust is that you should only let people access what they need. If this isn’t something your organization already practices, then transitioning to a Zero Trust approach will require some major changes to the way you work – but it’s well worth it when you consider the competitive advantage and tighter security afforded by such a proactive approach.
Why is zero trust important when moving workloads to the cloud?
At a high level, zero trust is all about restricting network access. In a traditional network, users are able to access applications and data from any point on the network, which means that if an attacker compromises one node, they can then send requests to different endpoints until they find something of value. With a Zero Trust approach, individual nodes are isolated, so that if one is compromised, the damage is limited.
That’s why networks need to become more distributed – putting controls in place at the network level, for example, means that user-level controls can be used to restrict access further. That multi-layered approach minimizes an attacker’s chances of finding something sensitive within your network.
Zero Trust is a long-term security strategy that’s designed to protect you from both internal and external attacks, scaling as your network grows – but making the transition over to this model requires some significant changes to established procedures. In order to move forward with a Zero Trust policy, organizations need not only central governance of user access policies, but also the ability to track and monitor user behavior, so that security teams can identify anomalous behavior and intervene accordingly.
The cloud is a significant driver for this approach because it’s forcing businesses to rethink how they deliver applications to end-users. There are clear benefits to running modern applications in the cloud – but unless you put some extra layers of security in place, you’ll be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.
Zero Trust is not just for cloud providers
Zero trust isn’t just about moving applications into the cloud – it’s also about bringing that philosophy back down to earth. It’s all about centralizing management of access controls and policies so that when new systems are connected to the network, they can be brought into line by security teams without too much effort.
This also means that your IT infrastructure has to become more flexible, so that it’s capable of managing access policies for different users and devices across different endpoints – both on-site and in the cloud. And while Zero Trust is often focused on cloud applications, it’s worth remembering that legacy applications and data often still need to be accessed using on-premises infrastructure.
The key point here is: if you only use the cloud part of Zero Trust and leave all your other systems behind, then you’re not going far enough. You’ll end up with a more limited security profile – which is going to cause problems as your business grows.
What should IT leaders be looking for when moving towards a zero-trust security model?
The IT team’s role is critical when it comes to adopting a Zero Trust approach. CIOs and CISOs need to work closely with their teams to create an access model that balances security needs with business priorities so that users are only granted access to the resources they need to do their jobs.
This means supporting them with a range of tools and technologies that will help them build meaningful access policies, monitor user behavior, thwart breaches, and provide threat intelligence.
The most important thing to remember is that Zero Trust doesn’t just represent new ways of working – it also adds new layers of responsibility for IT teams. This means making sure they have the right skillset and expertise to manage the policy management platform, as well as the tools and dashboards to monitor anomalous behavior. If those processes break down, then you’re going to end up with a security profile that’s as leaky as your old network architecture.
Zero Trust isn’t a silver bullet for your cybersecurity problems, and shouldn’t be used as such. It’s important to remember that attackers will always find a way through any network – so they’ll still try to exploit vulnerabilities in both traditional and web-based applications.
What Zero Trust does is prevent them from moving around your network once they’re inside it – so that, when an incident happens, security teams can detect and suppress it quickly. The idea is to tighten the window in which attackers have access to sensitive data or systems, by bringing together a central policy management platform with dynamic micro-segmentation.
It’s also important to remember that Zero Trust isn’t about stopping authorized users from getting access to the resources they need – it’s about making sure that their activities can be monitored and accounted for. It means recognizing, for example, a user’s location before giving them remote desktop permissions – which reduces the risk of a breach if an attacker compromises their credentials.
Whether you’ve been hearing about Zero Trust or have been practicing it from the beginning, this article will provide you with some helpful insights into the goals and objectives of this new approach to security. Don’t forget, though, that becoming a Zero Trust organization is about more than just buying the right tools – it also requires an overhaul of processes and workflows.
It’s about getting everyone working together towards the same goal – whether they’re part of the IT team, the security team or the business – so that your organization can start working towards an environment where risk is mitigated.
If you’re concerned about cloud security, network security or any cybersecurity, let’s talk. If you are interested in finding partners to address zero trust initiatives or even to conduct a zero trust assessment, we can matchmake you against our portfolio of national partners.