What does zero trust mean?

Zero trust is a new security strategy that came into being in 2018. It provides information about what is known as “the breach risk” where organizations will see less cost to secure their data and infrastructure. This news has reportedly sent shock waves through the IT industry because it can be applied now, even before there’s a breach taking place or an attack on protection mechanisms.

What does zero trust mean

Zero trust is certainly trendy, but its definition appears to be somewhat elusive and it requires clarification. Zero trust is the concept of removing inherent network trust. Even if a device is on the “trusted” internal side of a firewall or VPN, it should not be trusted automatically.

Instead, you should focus on fostering trust in the various transactions taking place. You can accomplish this by constructing a context which analyses multiple signals. These signals are informational pieces, such as a device’s health or location, that can provide the confidence required to grant access to a resource.

In contrast to a more conventional architecture such as a walled garden, this is a VPN-based remote access architecture. This conventional method attempts to establish the all-important trust relationship at the point of network connection.

“Never Trust, Always Verify” is a crucial phrase when discussing zero trust. Once you have authenticated to the network in a walled garden architecture, you have access to all the services that reside there. Zero trust builds on this by always verifying service access requests and using a variety of context-building signals.

Adopting zero trust is part of a digital transformation journey: you’re modifying your environment to create end to end security. This helps in securing the online transactions and data, which prevents any cyberattacks from happening in digital world. It has all modern features like network segmentation, authentication mechanism etc., to facilitate the highest level of security across various operating systems and software platforms

A common misconception is that if you implement zero trust, you can remove your remote access VPN without compromising network security. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that straightforward. If you are confident in the identity of the user and device accessing your service, you may be able to provide access to your services with the same level of security as if you were using a VPN. However, you must first consider other security features the VPN offers that you may not have access to without it, such as the ability to remotely access legacy systems.

What is zero trust architecture?

Zero trust architecture is a security approach that provides defence against zero-day attacks and exploits. It also creates trust within the IT ecosystem by preventing malicious actors from accessing sensitive data, applications and networks. This process involves creating trust at low levels of the network architecture rather than high levels such as endpoints running operating system software.

What is a zero trust security model?

A zero trust network security model is a technique which aims to guarantee zero trust network access and remove all unnecessary dependency between the application layer and data centre. Zero trust network architecture focuses on security operations while reducing cost of customer by providing zero trust approach to protect your organization from any unauthorized intrusions at the same time you will be able to have assured performance, availability, scalability & efficiency.

What is zero trust security?

Zero trust security is a security policy used in the zero trust model. In this model, organisations with respect to their current security posture are assessed for risk exposure and vulnerabilities (themselves) as well as external network threats such as those from customers or suppliers. Based on that assessment, an organisation would then create zero trust policies identifying roles and access privileges of users based on threat perception.

Why adopt zero trust?

Now that we’ve established what a zero-trust architecture is, let’s examine its justification. Before committing to significant architectural changes, it is essential to understand the advantages and disadvantages of adopting zero trust. If you’re attempting to persuade your boss to approve new equipment or a new service, you’ll need a stronger argument than “everyone else is talking about it!” Before deciding whether or not to migrate to a zero-trust architecture, you must first comprehend the implications. If you haven’t carefully weighed the pros and cons, you may be setting yourself up for future problems; the benefits do not always justify the additional effort.

In addition, it is essential to ensure that any modifications to your architecture continue to mitigate the threats you’ve identified as relevant to your system. As Forrester Research say, cybersecurity is under perpetual evolution.

Advantages of zero trust

The most common types of attacks that modern enterprises face involve a compromised user account or device used as an entry point into a system. If you placed the majority of your security controls at the network’s perimeter, it would be exceedingly difficult to detect an intruder if they successfully breached this initial layer of defence.

In a zero-trust model, every action taken by a user or device is subject to a policy decision. This may not be visible to the user, but it enables the organisation to verify every attempt to access data or resources, making the life of an attacker extremely difficult.

Zero trust allows for contemporary working methods

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations have been forced to confront the difficulties posed by working from home. In addition to ensuring that employees have the necessary tools to perform their jobs, organisations must ensure that their data and devices are secure.

Zero trust enables strong authentication and authorization while reducing the network overhead of extending your corporate network into the homes of your users, as in the traditional VPN model.

Improve the user experience

Not all benefits must be related to security. A number of zero-trust security controls can significantly improve the user experience. Implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) across all of your enterprise services is the most obvious illustration of this concept. Users only need to enter their credentials once, as opposed to each time they use a different application. This is significantly more usable and therefore more secure.

Facilitate enhanced collaboration between organisations

The application of fine-grained access controls to your data can facilitate greater collaboration between organisations. Greater control over data access enables you to grant access to specific data knowing that only the intended audience can view the documents you have shared with them.

Improved visibility into the status of devices and services

Numerous organisations are shifting toward a greater reliance on web services. The majority of this traffic will be encrypted with TLS, making it difficult to inspect. Zero trust encourages the adoption of a host-based monitoring strategy. Enhancing your logging capabilities to include events from user devices and services provides a much more complete picture of what’s happening in your environment, enabling you to detect compromises with greater precision.

Zero trust challenges

Definition

Zero trust is neither a standard nor a specification that vendors can use to develop their products and services. It is a method for designing an architecture, so it can be difficult to determine whether you are doing the “right thing.”

Cost

As with any infrastructure change, migrations are typically accompanied by expenses. Direct as well as indirect. Examples of direct costs include new products, devices, and services. Indirect costs may include the training required to upgrade the skills of engineers. Numerous services have recurring expenses, such as licences and subscriptions. However, it is possible that these ongoing costs are less than the maintenance and refresh costs of your network’s existing services.

Disruption

Transitioning to a zero-trust architecture can be a highly disruptive process for a business. Due to the extent of enterprise-wide changes that may be required, migration to a “fully zero trust” model can take several years. Defining an end state for a migration is challenging when the target model may change during rollout.

Not every service or product is ready for zero trust.

As I mentioned at the outset of this article, zero trust is a relatively new concept in the mainstream. As a result, it is highly likely that you will encounter services that are incompatible with a zero-trust model because they are no longer under active development. A legacy payroll system that does not support modern authentication methods is an example of this. Due to the surrounding working practises, the products and services discussed here do not align with the zero-trust principles.

The above could be illustrated by a BYOD (bring your own device) architecture. Without invading the privacy of the user, it may be difficult to gain a high level of confidence in the health of the devices accessing your services and data. An additional example of this difficulty could be a network that is air-gapped and cannot access the internet to utilise many of the available cloud-based zero-trust services. In this case, maturity may also play a role, as technologies that resolve some of these problems may emerge in the future.

Vendor lock-in

Many zero-trust technologies require “vendor lock-in” to realise their full potential. This may restrict your future ability to migrate portions of your architecture to other services.

What’s next?

Hopefully, this blog has provided you with a clear understanding of the benefits and challenges of zero-trust migration. The topic of our next blog post will be assessing your users, devices, and services in preparation for zero trust, and the various approaches which Advanced UK can offer to ensure a smooth implementation.

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