websights Zero Trust: All You Need to Know

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What is Zero Trust?

You know that technology has become really important when governments start talking about it, or even imposing it. The fact that the Biden administration published an executive order about national cybersecurity, mandating government organizations to apply Zero Trust Architecture shows the importance of the concept. Not only for government institutions, but for enterprises too. A single and traditional validation is far from being enough to secure access and data. This blog will tell you how Multifactor Authentication (MFA) can help you implement a Zero Trust security policy.

What exactly is Zero Trust?

It is the name given to an IT security model which requires all users and devices, them being inside or outside the organization’s network perimeter, to be authenticated and authorized to access networks, applications, and data.

When it comes to Zero Trust, a single and traditional validation is far from being enough. Threats and user attributes are likely to change and hackers and cyberattacks are getting more and more sophisticated.

Therefore, organizations must ensure that all access requests are continuously verified before allowing connection to any assets (network, applications, data…).

What is the value of Zero Trust?

A Zero Trust approach to information security and risk management is not merely a technical matter, it also brings business value to any organization, whether commercial or non-profit, large, medium-sized or small:

  • Cost savings operational efficiency thanks to centralization and automation of security policies.
  • Reduced risk of data breaches and financial losses are the results of better protection of sensitive data and intellectual property.
  • Avoidance of potential penalties and negative brand reputation.
  • Reduction of time, cost and effort when meeting and reporting on compliance requirements.

By aligning security and business goals across the whole organization, IT in general and security in particular are turned into business enablers.

Where does the concept come from?

The concept of the Zero Trust Framework is rooted in the principle that no individual or system should be implicitly trusted, regardless of whether they are inside or outside of an organization’s perimeter. It was coined by John Kindervag, a former Forrester Research analyst, in 2010. The role of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) in this context has been significant; they’ve formulated guidelines like SP 800-207, outlining Zero Trust Architecture and providing a roadmap for organizations to implement it, reflecting an evolving understanding of network security.

Zero Trust is often compared to Gartner’s CARTA (Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust Assessment) framework, which takes a similar yet distinct approach. While both focus on continuous authentication and evaluation of trust, CARTA emphasizes adaptive responses to risks. It’s more dynamic, adjusting security controls in real-time, considering the ever-changing risk associated with users and systems. Zero Trust, on the other hand, remains consistent in denying trust regardless of the user or system’s status or behavior.

While Zero Trust’s model operates on the assumption that a breach is inevitable and thus always verifies everything, CARTA works on the continual analysis of risk and trust levels, adapting security measures as needed. Both strategies are aimed at offering more nuanced and flexible approaches to security than traditional methods, yet their focal points and strategies diverge, reflecting different philosophies and methodologies within modern cybersecurity paradigms.

What are the core principles of the Zero Trust framework?

Zero Trust is a security concept that insists no user or system should be trusted by default, regardless of its location within or outside of the organizational boundary. It’s an approach that contradicts the traditional ‘trust but verify’ model. The implementation of Zero Trust is well-explained in the NIST 800-207 framework, a guideline that provides vital information on how organizations can employ Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). NIST describes the core principles as follows:
  • Continuous verification: Zero Trust mandates consistent validation of users and devices, not just at the point of entry but throughout the entire session. This ongoing authentication and authorization ensure that trust is never assumed and can respond dynamically to potential changes in risk.
  • Limiting the blast radius: By compartmentalizing access and permissions, Zero Trust limits potential damage if a system is compromised. If one part is attacked, the ‘blast radius’ is limited, as the malicious actor does not gain automatic access to the whole network. This segmentation is crucial in reducing risks and enabling quick mitigation.
  • Automating context collection and response: Zero Trust leverages technology to gather real-time context about a user’s or system’s behavior, such as device information, user attributes, and network conditions. Automating these processes allows for swift response to suspicious activities, ensuring that the security protocols adapt and react instantaneously.
The NIST 800-207 framework guides organizations in developing these principles into a cohesive security strategy. By embracing continuous verification, limiting the blast radius, and automating context collection and response, the Zero Trust model represents a more rigorous and adaptive approach to security, moving away from static defenses to a more fluid, context-aware posture. It’s a comprehensive transformation that requires a thorough understanding of the technology, people, and processes within an organization, all working in unison to create a more secure environment.

What are the problems with the ‘trust but verify’ concept and why is Zero Trust better?

The ‘trust but verify’ principle, though widely used, has its drawbacks. It assumes a certain level of inherent trust within an organization or system and then relies on verification processes to ensure integrity. This can lead to complacency and over-dependence on verification methods, which can be exploited by malicious insiders or sophisticated attackers. The verification mechanisms might become weak over time, or misconfigured, allowing unauthorized access.

The Zero Trust approach, on the other hand, takes a more skeptical stance, assuming no trust for any user, system, or process, whether inside or outside the organization. This paradigm necessitates continuous authentication and authorization for all users and devices. By applying consistent security measures throughout the entire network, the Zero Trust model minimizes the risks associated with misplaced trust or verification failure. It recognizes that threats can come from both inside and outside an organization, thus providing a more holistic and adaptive defense mechanism, which is seen as an improvement over the ‘trust but verify’ principle.

What are the most common use cases for Zero Trust?

The concept of Zero Trust has gained significant traction in modern network architecture and has various use cases.
  • Remote work security: With the increase in remote working practices, Zero Trust is used to ensure that all remote connections are authenticated and continuously validated. This ensures that users can securely access the required resources, whether inside or outside the traditional network perimeter, without granting excessive permissions.
  • Third-party access control: Organizations often collaborate with third parties like vendors, consultants, and partners. Zero Trust helps in controlling and monitoring the access of these third parties to sensitive information. By continuously assessing trust and only granting necessary access rights, the risk of data breaches can be minimized.
  • Microsegmentation in cloud environments: In complex cloud environments, microsegmentation employing Zero Trust principles helps to break the network down into smaller segments. By applying security controls on each segment, unauthorized access can be prevented. If an attacker gains access to one part of the system, they are still isolated from other segments, protecting critical assets.
  • IoT (Internet of Things) security: As IoT devices continue to proliferate across industries, they create a complex network of interconnected gadgets, many of which have varying levels of security. Zero Trust can be applied to manage these devices by consistently verifying their identity and enforcing policy-based access control. Even if a device is within the internal network, it must still prove its legitimacy, reducing the risk of an insecure device being exploited as an entry point for an attack.
Incorporating this additional use case, Zero Trust offers a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses remote workers, third-party access, cloud microsegmentation, and IoT devices. It’s a forward-thinking model that recognizes the fluidity and complexity of modern digital environments, providing layered protection that continuously evaluates trust and adaptively responds to emerging threats.

How to implement a Zero Trust framework? What different stages are there?

Adopting a zero trust framework is a comprehensive process that requires thorough planning and implementation across different stages. Consider the follow stages in the implementation:

  • Assessment: Before implementing a zero trust framework, organizations must assess their existing security infrastructure. This includes identifying vulnerabilities, understanding the data flow, and evaluating current access controls.
  • Planning and strategy development: Once the assessment is complete, organizations need to develop a tailored strategy. This includes defining the principles of zero trust specific to the organization, aligning them with business goals, and identifying necessary technology and resources.
  • Implementation of Identity and Access Management (IAM): Zero trust relies heavily on strict identity verification. Implementing IAM ensures that only authorized individuals have access to specific resources, and their activities are constantly monitored.
  • Network segmentation: Zero trust requires the separation of networks into smaller, isolated segments. By doing this, if a breach occurs, it can be contained within a single segment, limiting its potential damage.
  • Continuous monitoring and analytics: Implementing continuous monitoring tools and analytics ensures that organizations can quickly detect and respond to any suspicious activities. Real-time analysis of user behavior and network traffic is essential.
  • Training and education: Educating employees about the principles of zero trust and their role in maintaining it is vital. Regular training ensures that everyone understands the policies and follows them.
  • Ongoing management and optimization: A zero trust framework is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution. Regular reviews, updates, and refinements are necessary to adapt to new threats and evolving business needs.

By following these stages, organizations can build a robust zero trust framework that aligns with their specific requirements, providing enhanced security against the ever-evolving cyber threats.

What technology is behind Zero Trust?

The technologies behind Zero Trust include Identity and Access Management (IAM), Multifactor Authentication (MFA), micro-segmentation, and robust encryption. IAM ensures proper identification of users, while MFA adds an extra layer of authentication. Micro-segmentation breaks up security perimeters into small zones to maintain separate access for separate parts of the network. Together, these technologies create a system where trust is never assumed and must always be verified.

Fortunately, many companies already have IAM and MFA in place, but just having these technologies does not suffice to assume Zero Trust had been achieved. What’s more, according to Gartner, few organizations have actually completed Zero Trust implementations. Gartner predicts that by 2026, 10% of large enterprises will have a mature and measurable Zero Trust program in place. For reference: in early 2023, less than 1% already had a Zero Trust program in place.

Gartner predicts that by 2026, 10% of large enterprises will have a mature and measurable Zero Trust program in place. For reference: in early 2023, less than 1% already had a Zero Trust program in place.

Why is a Zero Trust approach important?

Zero Trust policies are taken at a strategic level to establish, monitor and maintain secure perimeters within the access to networks, applications, and data.

As users are becoming increasingly mobile and facing sophisticated cyberthreats, organizations can be expected to quickly adopt a Zero Trust security mindset to minimize the spread of breaches and their consequences, whether financial or brand-related. It is especially critical as companies tend to increase the number of endpoints within their network and expand their infrastructure to include cloud-based applications and servers.

How can MFA help you achieve Zero Trust?

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are some essential elements to any Zero Trust device, including MFA.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is integral to Zero Trust architecture. In conventional models, users inside the network are often trusted by default. Zero Trust eliminates this inherent trust, and MFA reinforces this by requiring two or more verification methods – something you know (password), something you have (a mobile device), or something you are (biometric verification). This adds complexity to the authentication process, making it harder for unauthorized users to gain access. By demanding multiple pieces of evidence for user identity, MFA ensures that even if one factor is compromised (like a password), additional layers of authentication must still be cleared. This complements the Zero Trust philosophy by continuously ensuring that trust is earned and re-verified, significantly bolstering the security of the system.

However, not all MFA solutions are the same as the technologies behind them are quite different. There are several criteria to consider when evaluating the security and user experience of the different vendors.

Why work with TrustBuilder for Zero Trust?

TrustBuilder is recognized for our expertise in implementing Zero Trust architectures, and as a trusted vendor of Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions, we stand out in the industry. Our innovative approach includes a robust solution for Multifactor Authentication (MFA) and integrates adaptive authentication and step-up authentication. These features allow TrustBuilder to continuously monitor and validate if individuals can maintain their authorization to access resources or perform transactions. Our comprehensive and tailored offerings ensure a high level of security at every access point, protecting critical assets while fostering agility and efficiency. TrustBuilder’s commitment to innovation and collaboration makes us a preferred partner for building a resilient and flexible Zero Trust environment.

Zero Trust is an IT security model mandating that all users and devices, whether inside or outside an organization’s network, be authenticated and authorized continuously. It assumes no inherent trust, requiring ongoing verification and authorization for network, application, and data access, thus significantly enhancing cybersecurity measures.

Implementing Zero Trust involves a comprehensive process including assessment, planning, Identity and Access Management (IAM), network segmentation, and continuous monitoring. Key solutions include Multifactor Authentication (MFA), micro-segmentation, robust encryption, and regular training for employees. These technologies and strategies together ensure that trust is never assumed and must always be verified within the organization.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is integral to Zero Trust architecture, reinforcing the principle that no inherent trust is given to any user or device. MFA requires multiple verification methods for user identity, ensuring continuous and rigorous authentication. This aligns with Zero Trust’s continuous verification mandate, adding a critical layer of security by making unauthorized access significantly more challenging.