Zero trust is a security model based on maintaining the principle of strict access controls and not trusting anyone in the model by default, even those who are already in the network perimeter.
Zero trust requires strict identity verification for any person and device that is trying to access resources located on a private network. This is regardless of whether the devices or people are sitting outside or within the company’s network perimeter.
It is an approach to network security that integrates several and diverse technologies and principles. Zero trust security is different from traditional IT network security because it does not trust anyone and anything which is inside the network perimeter.
Unlike this model, traditional network security is based on the castle and moat model. This means it is hard for anyone outside the network perimeter to obtain access to the inside network but everyone who is in the inside network has gained trust by default.
With traditional network IT security, if an attacker can gain access to the network, then they will have access to everything by default. This brings about a major security risk. The security issues in this model are further accelerated by the fact that companies no longer have data in just one place. Information can be stored in different places like the cloud, which makes it difficult to have proper security and access control to data and assets spread out in the entire network.
The zero trust model is here to rectify this major security concern and issue since the zero trust architecture doesn’t trust anyone by default, whether they are inside or outside the network perimeter. Verification is also required for anyone trying to access resources that are on the network.
This model adds an extra layer of security to traditional IT network security, which has mitigated many data breaches. Managing a data breach is an expensive affair and the average cost of managing a single data breach has been approximated to over $3 million.
This explains why many companies and businesses are now adopting the zero trust security model.
Principles Behind The Zero Trust Security Model
For the zero trust security model to work effectively against security issues, it needs to follow these main principles;
Multi Factor Authentication
Multi factor authentication is one of the core values of the zero trust security model. MFA requires that more than one piece of evidence is given during the access process to authenticate the user. This means that using a password only for a website is not enough security, and if MFA is enabled, a user with a password only cannot access the resource.
Two factor authentication is a common form of MFA. It requires users to have the password and a code that is sent to another device like a mobile phone. This ensures the user has 2 pieces of evidence, the password and the code to access a resource. Two factor authentication verifies that a user is really who they claim to be.
Least Privilege Access
The principle of least privilege is a major component of the zero trust network access model. It ensures users are only given access to the resources that they need to perform their job functions by giving users only as much access as they need.
This principle limits how users are exposed to sensitive data and information or even access to some parts of the network. To implement the least privilege, the admin has to review user and roles permissions.
Although VPNs (Virtual Private Network) are a way of securing communications through encryption by allowing encrypted traffic, they are not properly suited for the least privilege model in the authorisation part. Using VPNs gives the user access to the whole network they are connected to. This limits the zero trust security model.
Ensuring Continuous Evaluation and Monitoring.
The zero trust network security model assumes that attackers exist within and outside the network. This means no users or devices are allowed to automatically connect. Through monitoring and evaluation, the model will identify the user, evaluate their privileges, the identity of the device and its security.
Policies like connections time and logins are well evaluated and often reviewed. This forces the users and the devices connecting to the network to continuously go through re-verification which boosts security.
Preventing Lateral Movement Principle
For implementing a zero trust model to boost network security, it is crucial to prevent lateral movement. Lateral movement is an incident where the attacker ,after gaining access to the network, moves within it.
This activity can be difficult to detect even after an attacker’s entry point to the network is discovered. This is because the attacker has moved to other parts of the network and compromised them. Zero trust is modelled in a way that it will contain attackers ensuring they don’t move laterally.
Zero trust access is segmented and often has to be re-established after a set time. With such a model, the attacker cannot move across other parts of the network since they have been segmented and are unable to maintain separate access. This makes detection and mitigation easier.
Once a company detects that an attacker is inside their network, the affected device or user account is cut off from the rest of the network. Quarantining the affected entity reduces further access and damage. With the traditional IT network security model, this would have been hard or impossible and even if done, it would be of no or little use since the attacker would have laterally moved to other parts of the network.
Device Access Control
Zero trust ensures strict controls on device access and also sets controls on user access. The model systems work effectively through monitoring how the different devices are accessing the network and if they are authorised. This model also monitors and evaluates the devices to ensure they have not been previously compromised, which works efficiently in minimising attacks on the surface of the company’s network.
Zero trust networks are built to control user and device access while ensuring maximum secure access. The model controls access management by verifying user identity and device monitoring.
Security teams in companies need to implement the zero trust architecture for enhanced cybersecurity and improved productivity in the business environment. Zero trust works effectively in defending identities, devices and endpoints, apps, data, infrastructure, and the network.
Businesses should adopt this model because networks are critical business assets and intellectual property has to be protected.
Cybercriminals are targeting companies intending to steal, destroy, or hold hostage sensitive information through ransomware and asking for hefty ransoms.
Although no security model is perfect, the zero trust security model reduces the attack surface and limits the impact and severity of any cyber attack. This works in your business’ favor since time spent in responding to security incidents is greatly reduced, which reduces the cost.
How cyber-secure is your business? Find out with our free cybersecurity health check.
It’s a 30-minute Zoom call that walks through a checklist to assess your current cybersecurity levels and provide a short report with some advice and recommendations.