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Networking / Security

What Is Zero Trust Security?

Zero trust is a security model built on central access controls and not trusting everyone in an organization. Discover how this impacts data security today in this article.
Mar 30th, 2022 3:00am by
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Feature image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Zero trust is a framework for security in which all users of an application, software, system, or network, inside or outside of an organization, must be authenticated, verified, and frequently validated before being granted access to specific data or tools within the company’s network. In the zero trust framework, networks can be in the cloud, hybrid, or on-premise with employees in any location. The assumption is that no users or devices are to be trusted with access without meeting the necessary validation requirements.

In today’s modern digital transformation forward environment, the zero trust security framework helps to ensure infrastructure and data are kept safe, and more modern business challenges are handled appropriately. For example, as the pandemic has evolved, securing remote workers and their access will be of greater importance for organizations that want to scale their workforce. Ransomware threats and attacks are increasing, and zero trust implementation can detect these threats, from novel ones to custom-crafted malware, far before they cause harm.

What Foundation Makes Up Zero Trust?

Zero trust security is built on the architecture established by the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). The NIST 800-207 publication outlines the standard for zero trust procedures and serves as a comprehensive foundation to ensure compatibility against modern attacks, especially in a work-from-anywhere model that most companies use.

As security breaches are rising, federal agencies adhere to the NIST outlined zero trust policies and put vendors and other stakeholders through rigorous demands to ensure compliance. The global zero trust security market is expected to reach, and driving a lot of this growth is the frequency of target-based attacks aimed at taking down cloud-based applications, IT infrastructure components, and endpoint devices, to name a few.

In short, zero trust is built on a couple of principles:

  1. Always verify access for all users across all devices.
  2. By minimizing access, the impact of external and internal breaches is also minimized if they do occur.
  3. Access to resources, systems, software, and applications is determined by the policy and user identification only.
  4. Implementing contextual analysis and collection can help you see behavior patterns across the network and respond quickly.

How Does Zero Trust Work?

Traditional network security follows the “trust but verify” way of thinking and granting access to data and information. Zero trust security follows the “trust no one and verify everything” model of thinking. In the traditional method, users are trusted automatically which puts companies at major risk for attacks and breaches. Companies must monitor and validate user access and establish controls before any access is granted in the zero trust architecture method.

Chart about the importance of just-in-time infrastrcuture access

Sixty percent (60%) of VP level or above executives in Teleport’s 2021 State of Infrastructure Access and Security Report believed it is very important to move towards zero trust architectures. Rank and file security professionals were much more circumspect. (Blame IT and Security, Not End Users, for Password Problems)

With zero trust security, email is secure, and data is encrypted. Multifactor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) are incorporated into the organization’s security policy, ensuring endpoints and applications are connected and secure appropriately. Identity access management (IAM) is another form of zero trust in which some of these systems, including single sign-on and privileged access management are implemented.

In a remote workforce environment, it is essential to ensure employees, freelancers, vendors, clients, and contractors have the proper access to the correct information in the right way and at the right time. If you’re granting access at face value to people working within or outside your company, you could be putting your company at risk for severe breaches. IT teams in remote-first or remote-hybrid work environments must be prepared to verify and validate users and devices with automated policies that can work even when they are not at their desks.

Real-time visibility also impacts zero trust policy implementation. Organizations with hundreds of users and applications require geolocation monitoring, endpoint function knowledge, device credential privileges, incident detection, software versioning, and user identity credentials.

Chart of priorities driving IT.

According to a survey of IT and information security workers in the US federal government, the desire to secure IoT and edge devices is driving zero trust is particularly high at intelligence agencies (e.g., NSA, CIA). Meanwhile, civilians in the government are more likely to believe zero trust is about with the government more likely to believe zero trust is about protecting data and preventing a breach.

Why Zero Trust Matters

Virtual Private Networks and firewalls might still be relevant but are slowly becoming a thing of legacy. With so much information being accessed in the cloud, the on-premise perimeter approach to securing data and applications is less effective than it was just a decade or two ago.

Zero trust matters because it provides a solid and robust protection cap against a range of cyberattacks and ransomware and malware attacks that exist in exponential numbers today. It can be costly and time-consuming for the modern enterprise to lose data, assets, and identities for the modern enterprise.

With zero trust implemented, companies can accomplish the following:

  • Improve real-time visibility into all their cloud, hybrid, and on-premise environments.
  • Protect data, applications, devices, and networks from cyberattack infiltration.
  • Minimize the risk of data and security breaches.
  • Decrease the time it takes to detect and respond to an attack.
  • Continuously monitor components, users, workloads, and devices across multiple environments.
  • Build a consistent user experience for internal and external employees and contractors.

Bottom Line: Zero Trust Today

Today, no single security strategy works for every organization. Developing a customized, comprehensive policy that works in every scenario and for every user and device is imperative. Applying access policies prevent employees from accessing private or sensitive information and keeps relevant information secure and accessible to the right people in the proper environments.

To learn more about zero trust security, discover what zero trust network access is and how zero trust models work in container security.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Teleport, Real.
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