As zero trust has become the buzzword of the moment, many organizations are working to implement it. However, deploying a zero trust architecture is no simple matter. It is essential to understand what problems zero trusts solves and which it doesn’t in order to effectively add it to an organization’s cybersecurity strategy.
What is Zero Trust?
Zero trust is designed to replace legacy, perimeter-focused security models. Under these models, an organization deployed security solutions at the network perimeter and inspected all traffic crossing this perimeter. By attempting to block all attacks at the perimeter, an organization could treat anything inside the network as “trusted” while assuming that all threats originated from outside the protected network.
This model has several issues, which zero trust is designed to solve. Instead of taking a “trust everything” approach like legacy security models, zero-trust provides access to data and other resources on a case-by-case basis. These access decisions are made using access controls based upon a user’s or application’s role within an organization.
What Problems Does Zero Trust Solve?
Zero trust is designed to minimize an organization’s cybersecurity risk by compartmentalizing an organization’s resources and granting access on a case-by-case basis. This helps to limit an organization’s exposure to a number of threats, including:
An organization’s sensitive and valuable data is a common target of cybercriminals. Zero trust helps to limit an organization’s exposure to these attacks by restricting access to data to the employees and applications that require it to do their jobs. This decreases the organization’s attack surface since certain accounts may be incapable of performing a data breach if compromised by an attacker due to lack of access to the sensitive data.
Cybercriminals rarely gain immediate access to their objective during an attack. Instead, they need to move laterally through the network from their initial access point to a high-value target (like a database). Zero trust makes this lateral movement more difficult because accounts’ access to an organization’s IT infrastructure is limited by role-based access controls.
Some malware infections – like ransomware – attempt to spread through the target network to maximize their impact on an organization. Zero trust helps to restrict this lateral movement as well.
Denial of Service Attacks:
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks require an attacker to have access to a critical resource within an organization’s environment. A zero trust security architecture can help to restrict this access and decrease an organization’s attack surface.
Zero trust does not eliminate any of these risks, and it may be possible for an attacker to bypass or overcome zero trust security controls. However, implementing zero trust helps to increase the difficulty of performing a successful attack.
Using Zero Trust Effectively
Zero trust is a powerful tool that enables an organization to reduce its cybersecurity risk. However, it is not a complete security solution and should be deployed as part of a comprehensive security architecture.
For example, a zero trust architecture can help to minimize the impact of a ransomware infection by restricting its ability to spread through the enterprise network. However, the ransomware may be able to access and encrypt any data and systems that the compromised user account has legitimate access to. Zero trust only serves to compartmentalize access and restrict the scope of the attack.
For this reason, zero trust must be deployed alongside other security solutions geared at identifying and preventing different attacks. Examples of such solutions include:
Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW):
A next-generation firewall acts as the foundation of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. It restricts access to the protected network and performs security inspection of all inbound or outbound network traffic, enabling the detection of malware and attempted data exfiltration.
Web Application and API Protection (WAAP):
Web applications and APIs are a common target of cybercriminals and an entry point into an organization’s network. WAAP is essential to ensuring that an attacker cannot leverage an application’s legitimate access to an organization’s sensitive data.
Organizations are increasingly moving their infrastructure to the cloud, and cloud security is very different from on-premises environments. Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) and other cloud-focused solutions are essential for enforcing policies and securing the cloud.
SASE Enables a Usable, Functional Zero Trust Architecture
A zero trust architecture is only one component of an organization’s security strategy. It provides a number of benefits, but it must be combined with a number of other security solutions in order to provide effective protection against cyber threats.
Organizations can take different approaches to achieve this, but one of the most efficient and best-suited for the modern enterprise is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). SASE integrates a full security stack – including zero trust network access – and network optimization capabilities into a single solution and deploys as a cloud-based virtual appliance. This enables an organization to implement a simple, comprehensive security solution capable of providing protection to its entire IT infrastructure.
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