An explanation of industry terms that is a quick read, and knowledge base.
What is Zero Trust?
As a security framework, the zero trust methodology requires all users, both within and outside a specific network, to be authorized and validated on an ongoing, per-use basis for security configuration and posture before being allowed to access in-network applications and data. A zero-trust approach is a framework for securing infrastructure and data by assuming that there is no traditional network edge and that no entity attempting to gain access can be trusted by default. The networks involved can be local, based in the cloud, or hybrid with resources anywhere.
How does Zero Trust work?
In a traditional network security strategy, the focus is centered on keeping attackers or threat vectors barred from the network itself. However, users and devices already inside the network still create vulnerabilities. This traditional approach can involve firewalls, VPNs, access controls, IDS, IPS, SIEMs, and email gateways, all building multiple layers of security that must be breached from the edge.
In contrast, zero trust assumes that internal users and devices have already compromised the network. Therefore, it must verify each user or device to ensure that they are not attackers. Zero trust establishes strict identity verification for anyone seeking access or resources on a network, even if they’re already within the network perimeter.
Zero Trust can limit a user’s access once inside the network, preventing an attacker who has accessed a network from enjoying lateral freedom to move throughout the network to access additional applications and resources.
The first step in zero trust is identifying critical and valuable data, assets, applications, and services to prioritize creating and applying security policies. The next step is recognizing the users, application usage, and policy enforcement.
Why is Zero Trust important?
Zero trust security is a considerable departure from traditional security efforts that automatically trust users and endpoints within an organization’s perimeter. Since this puts the organization at risk from malicious internal actors and compromised credentials or user devices, the rise of cloud-based operations and digital transformation has led to that model being shelved and considered obsolete.
When zero trust was created, it was based on the realization that traditional security models could no longer operate based on the implicit trust of users and devices. This was developed to handle insider threats and malicious actors who have gained network access and circumvented legacy security controls.
Benefits of Zero Trust
Benefits of the zero trust network security approach include:
- Reduced risk – Zero trust reduces risk by revealing activity within the network and monitoring how assets are communicating, establishing a baseline of allowed exchanges. This strategy further reduces risk by eliminating overprovisioned software and services and continuously checking the credentials of all communicating assets.
- Greater network control – With zero trust security, policies are applied based on the identity of communicating workloads and tied directly to the workloads themselves, keeping security close to the essential assets that must be protected. This protection then travels with the workload and remains constant no matter if the environment changes.
- Mitigation of data breaches – Zero trust assumes that all entities are inherently hostile, both within and outside the network. Every access request is inspected and authorized while users and devices are dynamically authenticated before anyone gains trust. That trust is also constantly evaluated and can be blocked, limited, or revoked. Without that trust, an attacker can’t access or steal data.
- Easier compliance – Zero trust can shield all user and workload connections from online activity or access, keeping them from potential exploitation and exposure. This helps streamline compliance with privacy standards and regulations. During audits or in the event of a data breach, this approach can provide more comprehensive visibility and control.
The Common use cases for Zero Trust
Zero trust has been used to secure digital transformation and has been implemented in a range of complex issues. Any organization can take advantage of zero trust architecture in multi-cloud, hybrid, and multi-identity environments, securing unmanaged devices and protecting legacy systems and SaaS apps.
Zero trust is essential in helping to defend against threats such as ransomware and identity compromise, supply chain attacks that often involve unmanaged devices and remote users, and insider attackers.
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