Embrace Zero Trust Cybersecurity: The Never Trust, Always Verify Approach

By George Finney at SureCloud
Published on 25th May 2023

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The traditional approach to cybersecurity is to create a secure perimeter around a network and only allow authorized users to access it. However, as cyberattacks become more prevalent, organizations require more comprehensive protection.

 

As a result, many are turning to Zero Trust cybersecurity frameworks. Up until recently, zero trust, which is based on the assumption that all users and devices must be verified before entering a network, was more of a concept than a concrete strategy, but more and more security leaders are choosing it to mitigate risk. For example, according to Gartner, over 60% of organizations will embrace zero trust as a starting place for security by 2025.

 

In this article, we’ll examine what zero trust is, its key components, and the steps organizations can take to implement it successfully.

What is zero trust and what are its key components?

A zero trust framework protects an organization’s most valuable infrastructure and data. It works on the idea that every connection and endpoint is a potential threat. Whether the threats are internal or external, the framework protects against them.

 

It goes beyond technology. It creates a security culture within an organization by applying new policies, procedures, and technologies to protect vital assets. It differs from traditional strategies because it eliminates the concept of a trusted network or user and is based on the principle of never trust, always verify.  A zero trust cybersecurity strategy features the following key components:

 

Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM is the foundation of a zero trust approach. It involves identifying all users and devices that access an organization’s network and resources. It grants access based on their identity, role, and least privilege. The IAM system authenticates users before allowing access to the network.

 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is a security process requiring users to provide multiple forms of authentication before granting access to an organization’s network or data. Even if an attacker obtains a user’s password, MFA ensures they cannot breach the system.

 

Network Segmentation: This is the process of dividing networks into smaller segments, each with its own set of security controls, reducing the attack surface and limiting the impact of a breach.

 

Mirco-Segmentation: This approach goes one step further than network segmentation. It divides a network into individual pieces to control access to specific resources, ensuring only authorized users have access.

 

Least Privilege: Least privilege is a concept that grants users access to only the resources needed to perform their job. It ensures that even if a user’s account is compromised, the attacker cannot access all areas of the organization’s network.

 

Data Protection: Implement data encryption, data loss prevention, and other techniques to protect business-critical resources. With such policies in place, it means that if an attacker gains access to a company’s infrastructure or data, they can’t read or use it.

 

Zero trust is a new approach to cybersecurity that eliminates the concept of a trusted network or user. Never trust; always verify.

Common misconceptions surrounding a zero trust approach

As cyberattacks become more sophisticated, many organizations have adopted a zero trust approach to cybersecurity. However, there are still several misconceptions surrounding it. For example, there is a belief that it focuses solely on network segmentation when it’s a holistic approach that involves strict access controls and continuous monitoring.

 

The most common misconception is that it requires a complete overhaul of an organization’s security infrastructure and processes. In reality, zero trust is a gradual process that is implemented on a step-by-step basis. For example, organizations can start by applying zero trust principles to their most sensitive assets and gradually extend them to all other areas of their network.

 

This step-by-step deployment also dispels the myth that zero trust is a one-time implementation. It’s not something that can be deployed and forgotten about. It’s a continuous process requiring regular monitoring and updating to ensure its effectiveness. Furthermore, it’s not a replacement for traditional antivirus software. It adds another layer of security that verifies every user, device, and application accessing your network.

 

There is also an assumption that it’s an expensive approach to implement. However, it doesn’t necessarily require significant investment, as organizations can leverage their existing security infrastructure by adding zero trust principles to it. Moreover, many solutions available today are affordable and scalable.

 

Zero trust is a flexible and scalable security model that organizations can implement gradually. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach.

How can organizations implement a zero trust cybersecurity strategy effectively?

The successful implementation of a zero trust cybersecurity framework requires a strategic and phased approach that considers an organization’s specific security requirements, business objectives, and risk profile. The below steps can support a successful implementation:

 

Identify and categorize sensitive assets: The first step in the implementation process should be to identify and categorize your organization’s critical assets, data, and applications. This will help determine which assets require the highest level of protection.

 

Develop access policies: Based on the categorization of assets, your organization needs to develop access policies that outline who can access what resources under what conditions. These should be based on the principle of least privilege.

 

Implement strong authentication mechanisms: Adopting processes such as multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication, or digital certificates should be used to verify the identity of users and devices accessing your network.

 

Continuously monitor network activity: Network monitoring is crucial as it enables security teams to detect and respond to potential security threats in real-time. The use of tools such as analytics and machine learning can help identify anomalies and gaps in your network.

 

Regularly review and update policies: Access policies, authentication mechanisms, and asset categorization should be reviewed and updated regularly. It will ensure the strategy you have put in place remains effective.

 

The successful implementation of a zero trust approach will provide a layered defense that can detect and respond to any threats.

 

As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, organizations should re-evaluate their approach to security. Zero trust is a model that provides a comprehensive framework to protect against the evolving threat landscape. By assuming that no user or device is inherently trustworthy and implementing strict access controls, organizations can better defend themselves against bad actors.

 

The adoption of a zero trust model is becoming increasingly critical for organizations to safeguard their assets, reputation, and customers. It’s not a matter of if, but when you should adopt this approach. Those who are proactive will be better prepared to face future challenges and thrive in an ever-changing digital landscape.

To learn more about the importance of zero trust and why security awareness matters, check out this episode from the GRC and Cybersecurity Podcast.

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