Zero trust is a security framework that eliminates inherent trust and requires users, devices, and data to be verified as they say they are. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, and lateral movement within the network.
An effective Zero Trust Network Access strategy requires strong endpoint protection to prevent advanced threats from compromising the device, stealing sensitive information, and moving laterally across your business. To do so, your endpoint security solution should assess traffic for malicious behavior as it enters the endpoint and exits.
This is critical because the modern enterprise has an incredible diversity of endpoints – BYOD devices, mobile apps, and remote workers all accessing work applications from different locations. Often, these devices are not managed and may have a variety of software configurations, patch levels, and user privileges. The core principle of Zero Trust is “never trust, always verify,” so your endpoint security solution should continuously check and assess users, applications, and devices to ensure that only valid ones are given access.
In addition to monitoring the security posture of on- and off-network endpoints, a strong endpoint protection solution should also ingest threat intelligence from firewalls into an integrated platform to gain contextual awareness of what’s happening in your entire network. This will give your security team the full picture of what attackers are trying to do and enable you to write more sophisticated defenses against them. Combining an endpoint protection solution with a Zero Trust firewall enables simple, automatic, secure remote access that verifies users and devices. This provides the best experience for your workforce while enabling you to implement Zero Trust in your security architecture confidently.
Network segmentation is an old security best practice that divides networks into logical units to limit access and reduce attack surfaces. IT teams have long implemented network segmentation through virtual local area networks (VLANs), firewall rulesets, and application layer firewall policies to logically separate applications, devices, and users in flat computer networks.
Zero trust takes a different approach by defining a new, smaller “perimeter” around data assets that need protection. The zero trust model focuses on the most critical information and how it communicates. It provides the highest security controls around the data assets adversaries are targeting and only allows communication between these areas after completing a verification process.
As a result, zero trust reduces the attack surface and helps organizations mitigate cyber risks. Organizations can also improve breach containment and speed up the response to and remediation of breaches. Zero trust can also help with regulatory compliance, providing granular control of communications between systems subject to regulations and reducing the risk of non-compliant usage.
Zero trust micro-segmentation enables companies to logically separate workloads, applications, and resources without impacting productivity. This makes it easy for IT teams to implement granular security policies and controls for each segment.
Zero trust requires strict access control to prevent confidential data, personal information, and intellectual property from falling into the wrong hands. Access control provides the security infrastructure needed to continuously verify user identity, devices, and their connectivity to an organization’s network. A robust policy ensures that the proper access privileges are granted and denied to applications based on attributes, environmental conditions, and history.
Access control also helps to keep users and systems from compromising other systems or networks by ensuring that any device, user, or system can only access one application at a time. This minimizes the opportunity for attacker lateral movement and makes it much more difficult for attackers to attack a target successfully. It is important to note that an access control strategy must be able to handle a wide range of threat actors, including the most advanced adversaries.
A zero-trust approach must also ensure that it does not create “security fatigue,” where users are constantly asked for credentials, passwords, and OS patch checks that could impact productivity and the employee experience. It is essential to strike a balance between security and the ability of employees and contractors to get their work done.
Authentication is the process of verifying an individual’s identity. Before authorization, it is necessary to determine if the person can access specific data and systems in an organization’s network. It also prevents lateral movement inside the network by assessing context and policy adherence. This approach prevents attackers from using credentials to move laterally and maximizes the damage done by breaching the system.
Once an attacker can gain authentication, they can access multiple systems within the organization and exploit vulnerabilities. Zero trust emphasizes the principle of least privilege to ensure that users are only given access to the systems they need to perform their job duties. This minimizes the impact if an attack does succeed and helps limit the “blast radius” of the attacker’s activity.
Zero trust requires a strong foundation that includes microsegmentation, MFA, and endpoint protection. A variety of solutions can implement each of these elements. However, implementing all these layers of security is complex. Identity and access management (IAM) solutions provide a strong core technology organizations should consider leveraging to implement Zero Trust in their environment.