Zero Trust is a security ideology that is based upon a fundamental principle of always authenticating and verifying all users, devices, and systems. The name is quite literal: no trusted devices, no trusted users with unlimited access. Anything and everything should be treated as suspect until proven otherwise.
Zero Trust is a philosophy that encompasses not only component relationships, but also access policies and security planning.
Zero Trust architecture is a network design strategy that allows for a modern defense against the ever evolving threat landscape. Because the architecture is designed for a perimeterless network and is always on guard, it provides coverage against both external and internal threat actors.
Zero Trust architecture is more than just basic network fundamentals, however. It includes additional principles around both infrastructure and operational policies, such as a single source of truth for user identity, device health considerations, authorization techniques, and access control.
Why Zero Trust is Important
Traditional network security rests on the internal vs. external ideology. It builds a network architecture that trusts everything on the inside and verifies only what is trying to gain access from outside of the network. This type of architecture is referred to as “castle-and-moat security.” This type of architecture requires only the “keys to the gate” for entry, which means that once breached, there are no additional obstacles for unauthorized access.
The traditional castle-and-moat mentality must be replaced with a modern strategy and a more robust solution for two main reasons: cyber security threats are evolving faster than ever before, and company network structures and requirements are changing as well.
With Malware-as-a-Service and Sabotage-as-a-Service becoming more popular, threat actors are more versatile and capable of performing both internal and external attacks. Keeping attackers out of the company’s network is no longer sufficient security. The modern threat landscape requires a broader strategy, like Zero Trust, that provides a mindset and architecture that encompasses both internal and external threats.
And the threat landscape isn’t the only environment undergoing change. Companies are no longer lone-standing citadels. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is in full swing. A whirlwind of new technology, cloud migrations, digital transformations, expansion of the remote workforce, and the ubiquity of BYOD are factors that companies are simultaneously contending with, which can result in security cracks that leave networks vulnerable.
Company networks have to be able to handle an enormous number of devices due to the radical change networks are undergoing. Users are spread out across the country, with some networks going even further to provide global access. Additionally, employees are using laptops, mobile devices, and tablets in order to complete tasks in remote environments.
Zero Trust security puts the right architecture in place to handle these types of changes. Zero Trust moves away from the idea of a network being a castle and makes the network an interwoven expression of endpoints, applications, and resources with a wide net of defenses instead.
Zero Trust security goes beyond just network defense. The Zero Trust methodology and architecture provide the ability to prevent breaches, but they also provide the means of redesigning the network to better handle a breach if one does occur, so that damage can be mitigated and recovery started sooner. This combination of defense and containment is what makes Zero Trust a successful solution for the modern cyber threat landscape.
Zero Trust Glossary: Additional Terms and Concepts
There are a lot of “Zero Trust” and related terms being thrown around in the security space, and these terms can often become blurred together. Here are a few terms that are most common:
Zero Trust Security
The term “Zero Trust security” refers to the security philosophy itself. It is interchangeable with “Zero Trust model,” “Zero Trust philosophy,” and “Zero Trust.” All of these terms are used to bring to attention the multiple concepts and facets that are the entirety of Zero Trust. Expect to find anything from security planning, workflows, framework advice, implementation, and/or technology when you see these larger umbrella terms.
Zero Trust Network Access
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a network architecture that provides adaptive access and dynamic permissions to on-premise resources based on granular service attributes. It is versatile for use with browser applications or with thick clients.
ZTNA is a modern replacement for VPN, a component of legacy castle-and-moat style protection. It can also be used agentlessly with cloud-based applications on any device and additively incorporates threat protection and data loss protection policies. ZTNA is a core technology necessary to implement Zero Trust security.
Zero Trust Design and Zero Trust Environment
The terms “Zero Trust design” and “Zero Trust environment” are related to specific aspects of the Zero Trust model.
- Zero Trust design is the process the company will go through to determine the needed outcomes, the surface area, and the who-what-when-where-why-how of access needs. These are both important pieces of Zero Trust implementation.
- Zero Trust environment refers to the protected surface area. The surface area is the collection of data, applications, services, and assets that the company lists as critically important. Think of the surface area as a safe. You lock the doors to your house to protect everything, but you put your utmost valuables in a safe. In this case, the surface area (the safe) is an additional protected collection inside of the entire attack surface (your house).
Key Principles of Zero Trust Architecture
There are several key principles that come together to create the Zero Trust philosophy and framework.
Least privilege is a security principle that requires users to have only as much access as required. It is the sweet spot between users having too much access and not having enough to adequately perform their duties.
Privilege creep, also called permission bloat, happens when users accumulate access as they are promoted or change jobs. It causes security risks and compliance concerns because it leaves a gap where there doesn’t need to be one. Least privilege requires review of user access and service accounts to ensure unnecessary access is being removed in a timely manner.
Device Access Control
Zero Trust security also monitors and authorizes at the device level. Device access control refers to the protocols and policies in place for network access. It not only ensures that devices are authorized, but also tracks each device’s type and assesses the device itself to check for possible compromise. Device access control is key to minimizing the attack surface of the Zero Trust environment.
Continuous, Real-time Monitoring
Continuous, real-time monitoring is visibility of the network at all times that is run against protocols to “watch” the traffic. A cyber attack can occur at any time and in the blink of an eye. Real-time data loss prevention (DLP) and advanced threat protection (ATP) policies, especially inspection for known threats and zero-day attacks, are key to successfully implementing Zero Trust. Safeguarding the network while also continuing seamless access to applications, real-time monitoring offers a continuous view of what’s happening on the network.
Microsegmentation is a strategy that divides a network into small zones, protected by their own segmented perimeter. This is a vital security technique for limiting attack capabilities, because it allows attacks to be trapped in one segment. This prevents the entire network from being crippled by one breakthrough.
Preventing Lateral Movement
Lateral movement is a common tactic used by threat actors to steal sensitive data or high value assets. Once inside a network, the threat actor collects privileges and access wherever they can in order to successfully make it to their intended target. Zero Trust strategies are key to preventing lateral movement. For the most secure configuration, single sign on (SSO) should be layered with multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires a user to enter more than a password to authenticate. The most common form of MFA is a 2-factor authorization (2FA) which requires a second piece of evidence, such as a numeric code or mobile device push, in addition to a password. This adds an additional barrier to threat actors planning to steal and/or use compromise credentials.
Zero Trust Security Best Practices
Zero trust can seem to be complex at times, but using a few basic practices can help make a transition to Zero Trust go smoothly.
Introduce the Zero Trust Philosophy Company Wide
Zero Trust implementation requires training, planning, and multifaceted implementation, which will require joint participation from many different teams. It is necessary to bring internal teams on board early in the process and secure the necessary backing needed to help the Zero Trust initiative succeed.
Zero Trust is not just new technology or a new network architecture. Users will have different protocols for remote access, what is accessible will likely change, and new security procedures will be implemented. This will touch everyone in the company in some way, so it is best that everyone understands what is happening and why.
Implement Zero Trust in Steps
Zero Trust implementation is a marathon. Companies should complete one step at a time and allot adequate timing for each stage.
- Generally speaking, Zero Trust implementation begins with a planning phase to gather business requirements and define desired business outcomes.
- Next, proceed to the designing phase to determine the Zero Trust environment and its logistics.
- Follow up with an access review and determine how access management will be handled.
- Lastly, implement a continuous, real-time monitoring solution, along with DLP and ATP policies.
By gradually introducing Zero-Trust architecture, you can provide security strategy continuity throughout the process and evolve your company’s network into a modern solution with great functionality .
Build Zero Trust into Digital Transformations
The fourth industrial revolution already has many companies undergoing digital transformation. Many organizations are moving to cloud environments or revamping current systems, in efforts to keep on the cutting edge and keep resources secure. It’s a perfect opportunity to incorporate Zero Trust philosophy into ongoing changes for a more seamless transition.
Adopting Zero Trust is also an opportunity to start a new digital transformation. If the network needs an overhaul already, Zero Trust gives you the opportunity to evolve the network and bring greater security to the company. Digital transformations are a good way to begin implementing Zero Trust.
Challenges of Zero Trust
Zero Trust can present challenges with legacy systems, insufficient planning, and impacts to productivity. Adopting any new philosophy presents challenges, but keeping the challenges in mind will help you to be prepared and have a constructive planning phase.
Legacy systems are part of the current enterprise and often essential to operations. Many companies exclude these legacy systems from Zero Trust implementation out of concern for compatibility or excessive cost expenditure, which leaves weak points that cyber attackers can target.
With the right ZNTA, these legacy systems don't have to be left behind. A good ZNTA will have the necessary adaptive tools that can extend the Zero Trust experience to your legacy systems.
Anytime a company alters access management or access protocols, there is a risk of affecting productivity. Users must be able to access applications and the data they need to perform their jobs, and that access needs to be reliable, predictable, and secure.
Zero Trust, however, focuses on locking down all access until security thresholds are met. If a team member gets a promotion or accepts new responsibilities at the company, they may need access to systems and data they didn’t access before. Substandard Zero Trust systems can’t keep up, which causes delays.
Make sure your Zero Trust plan and your ZTNA are set up to respond quickly when access needs change.
Zero Trust and Other Cyber Security Options
There is no shortage of cybersecurity options available to a company, but not all options have aged well. The castle-and-moat mentality is not as effective as it once was due to advancements in technology and the evolution of the threat landscape.
However, that doesn’t mean that other security options that worked with that ideology also are defunct. Zero Trust incorporates many of the security technologies already in use today.
Zero Trust and Identity Access Management (IAM)
IAM is the process of assigning adequate access to users based on defined policies and regulations. It is a core method of maintaining the least privilege principle and an essential category of tools for Zero Trust.
Zero Trust and Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Zero Trust and DLP work well together, and DLP is more important than ever. Legal definitions of what “reasonable” security looks like, stricter global data privacy, and more cunning threat actors with better tech have increased the need for solid data protection.
Zero Trust naturally incorporates DLP, and it is essential to use real-time DLP and inspection to guard against identified threats and zero-day attacks.
Zero Trust and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
Zero Trust and SASE work together by converging a least-privilege access strategy with an architecture that simplifies how highly distributed users, BYOD, and cloud resources are secured.
Zero Trust vs. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Zero Trust does not mesh with all traditional security solutions, like castle-and-moat style legacy networks that rely on VPN. It works on the premise of trusting no one, while VPNs work on the premise of trusting anyone who has keys to the front door. Zero Trust provides a better defense against cyber threats, because it does more than guard the gate.
How to Choose a Zero Trust Solution
Zero Trust is a cutting edge methodology that is better equipped to handle the networks of today. The threat landscape has evolved beyond guarding the front gate, and companies are having to do and see more to adequately protect data and high-value assets. In order to do that, a Zero Trust solution should provide your company with:
- Total visibility
- Powerful, real-time threat protection
- Tightly controlled network access
- Automated architecture scaling
When it comes to Zero Trust solutions, Bitglass is an industry leader.
The Bitglass ZNTA is capable of providing both agentless and agent-based access control and real-time threat protection. Bitglass’s ZNTA includes a patented contextual access control, as well as DOS protection, while also providing total visibility. Bitglass offers a native IdP with MFA for use, or easily integrates with an existing IdP and MFA. The Bitglass Zero Trust solution maximizes up-time and performance with automated architectural scaling.
Bitglass SASE with ZTNA
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