The world has changed and traditional network security is no longer sufficient in an increasingly remote working environment. Historically, organizations relied on the belief that data is safe within the corporate office intranet or over a secure virtual private network (VPN). In recent years, we have found that this approach doesn’t work and a more comprehensive strategy must be applied that leaves nothing to chance. This is where a Zero-Trust security framework comes into play.

What does Zero Trust mean?

A Zero-Trust approach to cybersecurity incorporates the principle of “trust no one, verify everything.” It operates on the assumption that no matter how good your security is, hackers will find a way to access your private network. These days, attacks often come from inside the organization as the result of an infected personal device or a compromised employee. Employees who work from home on their own laptops, access company email via their personal phone, or bring their own device to work are particularly susceptible to these types of attacks. 

This model is easy to infiltrate by stealing a user’s credentials, infecting a device with malware, or gaining access through false identity. Once inside, the hacker has access to all company files under the guise of a verified employee. In a zero-trust environment, all users and devices are considered a potential threat even when inside the ‘secure’ corporate network. Access to company data is subject to additional verification procedures and identity challenges, and strict user permissions ensure employees can only access the files they need.

Zero Trust principles

Zero Trust principles are established by the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). They define the components and methods that an organization should put in place for a Zero Trust architecture (ZTA) network strategy.

  • All data sources and computing services are considered resources. This includes personally owned devices and small-footprint devices that send data to storage or actuators.
  • All communication is secure regardless of network location; i.e.: remote devices and devices on the local enterprise network are treated the same, and all communication is encrypted regardless of device location. 
  • Access to individual enterprise resources is granted on a per-connection basis. Access requests from all devices are evaluated before access is granted, regardless of if the device is on the enterprise network infrastructure or not.
  • Access to resources is determined by policy, including the observable state of user identity and the requesting system, and may include other behavioral attributes.
  • The enterprise ensures all owned and associated systems are in the most secure state possible and monitors systems to ensure that they remain in the most secure state possible. With a ZTA strategy, an enterprise must use a Continuing Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program to ensure systems remain secure.
  • User authentication is dynamic and strictly enforced before access is allowed. This involves a constant cycle wherein authentication is applied and reapplied in an ongoing fashion, adapting to changing security conditions and protecting against new threats.

Zero Trust best practices

An organization that wishes to implement a Zero Trust security framework should apply the following best practices:

  • Strict Limitations and Access Controls – Zero Trust access should be granted on a purely “need-to-know” basis. No user or device should have access to data or the ability to run applications or processes that it doesn’t explicitly require. 
  • Identification of Sensitive Data – A Zero Trust strategy requires that sensitive data be identified and prioritized in terms of security and encryption. This involves careful documenting and auditing of storage locations to ensure all sensitive data is accounted for and adequately secured. 
  • Ongoing Threat Detection – A Zero Trust framework incorporates ongoing threat detection activities to continuously monitor and assess security. It requires that all incidents related to data access and sharing are individually assessed in comparison to prior behavior.

Implementing Security Today: Starting with Zero Trust

Download this free whitepaper to learn how a Zero Trust “assumed breach” approach is an effective security model that will protect you from cyberattacks.

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Zero Trust strategies

To adopt a security model with the principles of “trust no one, verify everything,” apply the following Zero Trust strategies:

  • Automate threat response – This is your first line of defense in ensuring cyberattacks are identified and mitigated in the shortest possible time span. The longer an attack goes unnoticed, the greater the cost. 
  • Reduce your attack surface – Apply strict endpoint management protocols, including device and application lifecycle management, to ensure that any security ‘loose ends’ are tied up. Delete unused profiles, safely store or dispose of retired devices, and minimize access points.
  • Enact security analytics – A powerful Zero Trust security platform uses logging and auditing of events to provide security analytics that help detect patterns and reveal successful and unsuccessful intrusion attempts.
  • Zero Trust identity and access management (IAM) – A Zero Trust identity and access management (IAM) strategy implies that no assumptions are made regarding identity and strict verification is applied in every case. A Zero Trust IAM platform like Microsoft Azure Active Directory provides a single point of control from where you can verify identity, authenticate access, and keep track of security incidents.

Get started with Zero Trust identity and access management today

A Zero Trust strategy is the best way to ensure your network is secure without having to rely on the security of non-standard devices or employee responsibility.

Speak to a Yorktel advisor today and find out how we can help your organization implement a Zero Trust strategy and take full control of your network security.

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