The rapid pace of technological innovation has led to the development of numerous new and emerging technologies that have the potential to transform the way we live and work. These technologies, however, present new and significant challenges for organizations, particularly cybersecurity. Organizations must adopt a proactive and comprehensive approach to security to address these challenges. One of these, recognized as industry-standard best practices, is the principle of the zero-trust model.
Zero-trust is a security model that assumes every user and device is a potential threat, regardless of location or device status. This approach addresses the growing security challenges posed by cloud computing, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT). In this model, organizations must implement stringent security policies and controls to protect their sensitive data and systems against cyber threats.
The core principles of zero trust
- Verify before granting access: One of the key principles of zero trust is to verify the identity of every user and device before granting access to sensitive data and systems. As the old saying goes, “If you’re name’s not down, you’re not coming in.” This can be achieved through the use of multi-factor authentication, encryption, and other security technologies. Multi-factor authentication requires users to provide two or more forms of identification, such as a password and a fingerprint, to access sensitive data and systems. Encryption helps to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access and tampering. Knowing who should have access to what – and establishing a benchmark of their regular activities – is a robust and recognized solution for discovering anomalous activity that could be the by-product of a breach or the actions of an insider threat.
- Limit access based on least privilege: Another key principle of zero trust is to limit access to sensitive data and systems based on the principle of least privilege. This means that users and devices should only have access to the data and systems they need to perform their job functions, and no more. For example, an engineer may need access to application data to perform their job, but they should not have access to sensitive financial data. Organizations can use this technique to drastically reduce the risk of security incidents and data breaches.
- Continuously monitor and analyze: In a zero-trust model, organizations must constantly monitor and analyze their network and systems for signs of suspicious activity. This can be achieved through the use of intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, and other security technologies. Visibility is critical to understanding what applications and accounts have access to what. Intrusion detection and prevention systems help to detect and prevent cyber attacks by analyzing network traffic for signs of suspicious activity. Firewalls help to protect networks from unauthorized access by blocking incoming and outgoing traffic based on predefined security rules. Anything that’s not “normal” activity should be flagged and investigated accordingly.
- Segment the network at a granular level: In a zero-trust model, organizations must segment their network into isolated security zones to limit the scope of potential security incidents. This can be achieved through the use of microsegmentation. While network segmentation divides a network into smaller, isolated subnetworks, each with its own security controls, microsegmentation goes a step further. Often seen as zero-trust best practices, microsegmentation creates even smaller security zones within a network, allowing for a more granular and effective approach to security. Through segmenting the network, organizations can reduce the risk of lateral movement, where a cyber attacker moves from one part of the network to another to gain access to sensitive data and systems.
- Automate security responses: In a zero-trust model, organizations must automate their security responses to ensure quick and practical answers to security incidents. This can be achieved through the use of security information and event management (SIEM) systems and other security technologies. SIEM systems help to centralize and analyze security-related data from multiple sources, allowing organizations to quickly and effectively respond to security incidents. By automating security responses, organizations can reduce the risk of data breaches and minimize the impact of security incidents. Automated practices, like lateral movement protection, ensure protection is in place and any breach has minimal impact across the network environment.
The zero trust core principles provide a comprehensive and practical approach to securing sensitive data and systems against cyber threats. Through following these bet practices, organizations can protect their sensitive data, applications, and systems and maintain the security and integrity of their technology environments.
Implementing the zero-trust model requires organizations to adopt a culture of security that prioritizes protecting sensitive data and systems. This way of thinking should be driven by senior leaders and supported by all employees, from the C-suite to the front line. Organizations must also regularly review and update their security policies and controls to ensure they remain effective and relevant in the face of evolving cyber threats.
In today’s rapidly changing technology landscape, organizations must adopt a proactive and comprehensive approach to security to stay ahead of cyber threats. By following the 5 core principles of zero trust, organizations can ensure the protection of their sensitive data and systems and maintain the security and integrity of their technology environments.