Zero Trust

  • Lisa Fröhlich
  • July 14, 2023

Table of content

    Zero Trust

    Zero Trust marks a new way of thinking in IT security. With this IT security approach, the focus is on protecting the boundaries of the company. Here, the focus is on verifying the trustworthiness of each individual data flow, because no actor in a network is trusted without reservation.

    The Zero Trust security model relies on network segmentation, strict access controls and granular review of data flows to provide effective protection against cyber threats. It is based on the premise that no one is trusted blindly and that all access requires careful authentication. At its core is the concept of “least privilege access”, where users or user groups are granted only the privileges they actually need – no more and no less.

    This means that people who want to access the network, data and other corporate resources must continuously authenticate their identity. This security solution ensures that no access is granted to corporate resources until the user’s credentials have been validated and the user has been authorized.

    What is Zero Trust?

    The term first appeared in a doctoral thesis by Stephen Paul Marsh in 1994, but it received renewed attention in 2010 thanks to analysts at Forrester. “Trust is good, control is better” – “Zero Trust” is an IT security concept that aims to continuously control and verify all applications, users and devices.

    The concept is based on fundamental distrust of any user and any resource on the network. This contrasts with the traditional security approach, which is based on perimeter security strategies.

    What principles characterize Zero Trust?

    The following principles characterize the approach:

    1. Distrust of everyone: No actor, be it a user, a device or an application, is fundamentally trusted.
    2. Verification before access: Every access requires authentication to ensure that the actor is actually authorized.
    3. Granular access control: Access to resources is based on individual permissions and policies specific to each user, device or application.
    4. Continuous monitoring: Network traffic and activities are continuously monitored to detect and respond to suspicious or deviant behavior patterns.

    How is Zero Trust implemented?

    First of all, implementing Zero Trust requires careful planning and step-by-step prioritization. There is no standardized solution, as Zero Trust encompasses various protection measures and best practices.

    The method is implemented in several steps. At the very beginning, there is an inventory to identify and verify all participants in the network. This means that in addition to all participants, the surface to be protected must also be defined. This includes sensitive data, resources, applications and services. One of the key questions here should be: Which resources have the highest need for protection?

    In order to build a Zero Trust architecture, the data flow in the network must also be mapped. This is the only way to adequately monitor network traffic and the connected devices. Transparency is crucial here, so that users and computers can be authenticated and verified accordingly.

    Then a architecture is built in which the zero-trust principles are implemented. This architecture enables micro-segmentation and the establishment of micro-perimeters for specific devices. Specific access policies are created to filter traffic and allow only authorized access.

    The Zero Trust security model ensures that data and resources are inaccessible by default. Users can only access them under certain conditions. Verification and authorization should use hardware-based security keys for multi-factor authentication, as these are more secure than one-time passwords sent as SMS or email.

    Zero Trust is an ongoing process. To ensure that those principles are adhered to and potential security risks are identified and remediated, the network is continuously monitored and maintained. This is the only way to ensure effective protection.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of Zero Trust?

    Zero Trust offers a number of benefits. By strictly auditing and controlling every access, potential security vulnerabilities can be minimized. It enables finer granularity in assigning access rights, which increases security and reduces the risk of data loss or unauthorized access. Zero Trust can also facilitate compliance with data protection regulations by closely monitoring and logging data flows.

    Another benefit is flexibility and scalability. Because Zero Trust does not rely on a specific location or network, organizations can securely manage resources across multiple locations, cloud environments or IoT devices. This enables organizations to work remotely and support decentralized teams while maintaining a high level of security.

    In addition, it improves visibility and transparency across the network. By closely monitoring and controlling every data flow, organizations can analyze traffic, identify suspicious activity and proactively address threats. This contributes to early detection of attacks and rapid response.

    Despite these advantages, there are also challenges and potential disadvantages to implementing Zero Trust. For one thing, the effort and complexity involved in implementation are higher. For another, setting up a Zero Trust architecture requires careful planning. What is the defined area of protection? What are the right security controls and access policies? These and other questions must be addressed up front, which may require updating existing infrastructures in addition to resources and expertise.

    Additionally, user experience is currently lacking. Every access must be authenticated. This can lead to delays, so user productivity can be impacted. To drive adoption of Zero Trust, it is important to strike a balance between security and usability.

    Why is Zero Trust important?

    Despite these challenges, Zero Trust is important to keep pace with today’s complex and ever-evolving threats. Traditional security approaches based on trust in the network perimeter are no longer sufficient.

    Data and applications are no longer centralized, but distributed across multiple cloud platforms. The modern way of working, where we access the network from different devices and locations, brings productivity benefits but also poses security risks. Threats today can come from both inside and outside the organization.

    In addition, cybercrime has evolved. Hackers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to obtain credentials and exploit security vulnerabilities. Cloud environments and the decentralization of many digital processes provide a large attack surface. More and more companies are falling victim to cyberattacks, and data breaches are on the agenda.

    Zero Trust ensures that every access to sensitive data and resources is carefully checked and controlled, regardless of where users or resources are located. With this key concept, companies can effectively protect themselves and minimize the damage caused by security incidents.

    Zero Trust alone is not enough

    Even if the use of Zero Trust is the right thing to do, you should also use a reliable network and web security service to defend against DDoS and other attacks quickly and accurately. This is how you effectively strengthen your company’s cyber resilience at all levels.

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