The traditional approach to security, one based on perimeters and inherent trust, isn’t keeping up with the way networks are built and used today. The evolution of cybersecurity threats, business models, and workplace dynamics necessitates a new method of security control. The idea that a user or device is trustworthy after a single authentication performed at some arbitrary boundary opens too many security gaps.
This is why Zero Trust continues to gain traction. In fact, the U.S. federal government has mandated government agencies to develop and implement plans to adopt a Zero Trust architecture by September 2024. And while Zero Trust has been around for over 10 years now, a recent report found only 55% of respondents have implemented a Zero Trust initiative.
Part of the reason for Zero Trust’s slow adoption rate is related to what it entails. The chief principle in a Zero Trust architecture is that trust is never granted based on a single authentication. Instead, Zero Trust means that for every network connection request, every user/device/system is verified based on its attributes, and this check is performed every time a communication is initiated.
Zero Trust provides significant benefits, like reducing the attack surface, mitigating the damage when a security incident happens, and enhancing the overall cybersecurity posture. But Zero Trust also comes with a lot of complexity.
Making the transition to Zero Trust
The hallmark of Zero Trust is simple. You can’t automatically trust anyone or anything, even if they’ve already gained access. Instead, every device and user have to continually prove their identity and pass an authorization check to access specific resources.
But moving from a traditional security perimeter to Zero Trust can be daunting. When it comes to creating a Zero Trust network, knowing where to start (and figuring out what you have) can be the hardest part.
Here are five steps to help you get on the path to Zero Trust:
1. Understand what assets you have
Until you know what assets are in your environment, it’s impossible to know if they’re supposed to be in the environment in the first place. As one of the first steps to Zero Trust, establish an ongoing asset discovery and inventory process.
2. Distinguish between managed and unmanaged devices
An employee’s laptop is different from a smart TV in the conference room — and they need to be treated differently when it comes to security. A smart security team would put controls on the smart TV, say, use a built-in firewall or isolate it from other networks.
3. Address the gaps in security solutions coverage
No matter how hard you try, there are always devices missing from security solution coverage. That might include AWS instances not known to a vulnerability assessment scanner. Or an employee's personal phone that’s accessing SaaS-based applications which contain company data. Addressing gaps on a continuous basis is a primary element of Zero Trust.
4. Establish ongoing user access auditing
Are there users with local admin access to all machines? Are those admins overprivileged? Users with passwords that never expire? Along with strict access controls and granular policies, an ongoing auditing process can ensure proper access rights and permissions.
5. Implement security policy validation
Finally, putting a security policy validation process in place is the only way to ensure nothing gets missed and exceptions aren’t exploited.
Looking toward a future with Zero Trust
With cybersecurity threats ever-changing, the need for advanced protection against sophisticated threats is only increasing. And Zero Trust is expected to play a huge role.
When it comes to the future of Zero Trust, there will be a bunch of different factors at play. Take automation, for example. Having the ability to automate security controls, monitoring, and remediation actions will allow for a more effective Zero Trust program.
Other key aspects that will likely shape Zero Trust range from integrating with cloud environments and artificial intelligence, to the development of industry standards.
Yet executing a Zero Trust strategy isn’t a “one-and-done” deal. It’s a progressive journey. And it requires commitment, monitoring, and continuous improvement.
We take a deeper dive into why Zero Trust is more important than ever, the role of cybersecurity asset management in a Zero Trust framework, and more.