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Cast-Iron Security: Fit for the Future with Zero Trust Architecture

As digital landscapes rapidly evolve, cyberthreats are becoming increasingly sophisticated – and traditional security approaches are often no longer able to safeguard sensitive information and critical systems and infrastructure. In fact, disruption due to cyberattacks has risen by 200% over the past five years – driving up unscheduled downtime and associated costs.

Organizations now need a new security model that can adapt more effectively to ever-changing challenges – protecting people, devices, apps, and data, no matter where they’re located. That model is called zero trust.

Zero Trust 101

Basically, zero trust is a cybersecurity approach that leverages appropriate tools to control and monitor entire architectures. What sets zero trust apart is its underlying principle: “never trust, always verify”. Accordingly, organizations that deploy the approach treat every user, device, and application as a potential threat until proven otherwise.

By providing a combination of strategy, processes, and automated tools that verify transactions, enforce least-privilege access, and apply advanced threat detection and response, zero trust simplifies and enhances security considerably.

The Idea Behind Key of Zero Trust

In line with the “never trust, always verify” principle, all access to the network and its resources – whether by devices, applications, or users – is controlled. These controls encompass various layers, including identity and access management (IAM) and network controls.

For example, before devices, apps, or users access resources, they must first authenticate themselves and prove their identity. Other approaches geared to ensuring security include continuous monitoring, behavioral analysis, and encryption.

Laser-Focused Security

But this is no one-size-fits-all solution. Controls differ in strength depending on the importance of the protected data and/or asset and its risk level. This helps ensure that organizations target their security efforts and resources efficiently and focus on safeguarding the most valuable and sensitive assets.

Another key concept of zero trust is network microsegmentation. As the name suggests, this entails dividing networks into small, self-contained segments. Segregating data in this way ensures that users can access only the resources they need for their tasks. What’s more, microsegmentation confines the impact of breaches or cyberattacks to these individual data segments, protecting the rest of the network.

Enforcing Enterprise Policy: Key Components of the Zero Trust Model

Enterprise security policies are pivotal in zero trust architectures. And this is reflected by the key components of the model.

The first of these is the policy engine, which is responsible for the decision to grant access to a resource. In addition to the enterprise security policy, the policy engine leverages input from external sources, such as continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) systems and threat intelligence systems.

The next component is the policy administrator, which is responsible for establishing or shutting down the communication between a user and a target within the system. The action it takes depends on the decision of the policy engine.

And the final policy-related component is the policy enforcement point, which is responsible for enabling, monitoring, and, if necessary, terminating connections between a user and an enterprise resource.

One typical example of a zero trust policy in action is multifactor authentication (MFA). This applies to every access request and ensures that access is granted only after a number of verification factors have been successfully provided.

Greater Security, Lower Costs, Enhanced Transparency

Adopting a zero trust approach offers many benefits. As mentioned, by increasing controls across their network and customer data, organizations can enhance security while reducing risk. This, in turn, can improve their reputation, attracting customers.

By reducing the number of successful cyberattacks, zero trust architectures also drive down costs. A recent expert study found that deploying dedicated Microsoft solutions to implement a zero trust strategy reduces the chance of a data breach by 50 percent.

And thanks to continuous monitoring, a zero trust approach also increases transparency and understanding when it comes to user access and traffic across the network.

A Long-Term Commitment: Implementing a Zero Trust Strategy

If you’re thinking about establishing a zero trust strategy, there are some things you should be aware of from the get-go. First, it’s important to realize that zero trust is a long-term effort that progresses incrementally. In other words, a big-bang implementation simply isn’t an option with a strategy of this kind.

In view of this, I recommend starting out by focusing on easy wins and prioritizing the remaining tasks based on your specific business goals. That being said, an implementation roadmap for zero trust will usually include the following steps:

  • Implement identity and device protection, encompassing multifactor authentication, least-privilege access, and conditional access regulations.

  • Enroll endpoints in a device-management solution to ensure devices and apps are up to date and meet organizational requirements.

  • Deploy an extended detection and response solution to detect, investigate, and respond to threats across endpoints, identities, cloud apps, and emails.

  • Protect and govern sensitive data with solutions that provide visibility into all data and apply data loss prevention policies.

Shape Up for the Challenges of the Future

As cyberthreats continue to proliferate, zero trust architectures offer CXOs an approach to cybersecurity that’s both proactive and adaptable. By prioritizing continuous verification, stringent access controls, and dynamic responses, organizations can effectively nip new threats in the bud.

While establishing a zero trust architecture isn’t a quick fix, when CXOs weigh the potential benefits against the implementation challenges, it’s clear that zero trust is much more than just a tech concept; it is a powerful strategic paradigm shift that puts security center stage without sacrificing innovation and growth.

Questions? Ideas?

If you’d like to find out more about implementing a zero trust strategy and how this could benefit your business, feel free to contact me directly. And if you have your own ideas about or experience with zero trust approaches, leave a comment below.

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