In a time when the headlines are riddled with the latest data breaches and data leaks, businesses cannot afford to have a false sense of security. There is simply too much at stake, and they need to take proactive steps to protect themselves from being the next headline.
The zero trust approach has initiated a new era in cybersecurity, empowering companies with a new set of tools. It is a radical departure from the traditional methodology of building a system and then trying to lock it down.
What is Zero Trust?
In 2010, Forrester Research introduced a new model for information security called zero trust. They suggested that one of the safest ways to build a system is to do it around the assumption that every person and entity involved is unreliable and out to get you. And this holds regardless of whether that entity is outside the security perimeter or inside it.
The issue with existing models is that people outside the organisation undergo verification and authentication processes, but those inside the network don’t. Therefore, when cyberattacks occur, hackers that crack the authentication processes can cause destruction because there is barely any internal resistance. This also gives way to malicious intents and threats by employees.
Zero trust’s core principle is “never trust, always verify” instead of “trust but verify”. It does so with the help of various technologies such as encryption, multifactor authentication (MFA), access management and behavioural analytics.
The Main Principles of Zero Trust
Zero trust is based on a few fundamental principles that determine how organisations deploy and use it.
Uninterrupted Monitoring of the Network
One of the central premises of zero trust is the continuous monitoring of all activity happening in the network. Whenever someone is trying to access data, as a rule, their identity is verified and given permission only till it is necessary. Re-authentication is also a regular feature to enforce proper monitoring of all devices. If any suspicious activity is seen, the system immediately detects and blocks it so that a thorough investigation can be done.
Lateral movement is when an attacker goes through different parts of the network after getting access. As suggested before, hackers find it easy to navigate through internal systems since there is nothing to stop them. Zero trust architecture uses microsegmentation to prevent lateral movement. Under microsegmentation, the security perimeter is divided into different parts, each with its own authentication processes. Therefore, even if someone illegally enters the network, data remains relatively secure due to separate division and storage.
Least Privilege Access
Under the principle of least privilege, users get only a limited amount of information depending on their requirements. If there is unrestricted access, the probability of someone getting their hands on unnecessary data is high. Under zero trust, misuse of data is curtailed since only what is needed is given out. Even the privileges are reviewed from time to time to keep a stricter check on the use of data.
Passwords are generally the primary vehicle of authentication in enterprises. However, with the rise of sophisticated cyberattacks and new social engineering methods, they are not enough. Zero trust focuses on implementing multifactor authentication, which means that users need to validate their identity through another mode. This can be in the form of a code, fingerprint, or retina scan, among others. Multifactor authentication adds another layer of security to keep hacks at bay.
Key Benefits of Zero Trust
There are multiple advantages of using the zero trust security model, and many organisations have reaped the rewards.
Reduces Security Risks
Zero trust has emerged as a superior alternative to traditional security methods and has effectively reduced risks for organisations. Cyberattacks not only harm them financially but also affect their intangible assets such as reputation. Through continuous monitoring and verification of all users and devices, zero trust has made companies more resilient to attacks and helped them maintain better security standards.
Leverages Multiple Tools
Zero trust architecture uses an array of tools to secure the network, which is evident from its core principles. For example, it regulates and monitors information, gives limited access, mandates additional verification and prevents lateral movement through microsegmentation. All these ensure a robust framework to tackle cybersecurity challenges.
Companies Have More Control
The model is such that it allows organisations to have better control over their data and processes. Insider threats have increased drastically over the past few years and the Covid-19 pandemic has made things worse. Since many employees require remote access to sensitive information, regular verification is a must. Zero trust, therefore, fits in well and allows CXOs to have more peace of mind. Microsegmentation also helps in segregating critical data from other types and further restricts unwanted interference.