John Kindervag, who was once a prominent analyst working with Forrester Research Inc., created the Zero Trust Network. It became popular in 2010. Now, more than a decade later, this mentality of Zero Trust is being implemented. The technologies that are used to make the Zero Trust network function are part of the mainstream.
Businesses are feeling extreme pressure to protect their data. Cyber criminals are becoming sophisticated in their attacks. The traditional forms of cyber security are not producing the same results. Cyber criminals adapt, so cyber security must adapt as well.
What Is Zero Trust?
Cybercrime Ventures predicted that the total cost for cybercrime committed globally will reach $6 trillion by 2021. In many ways companies are continuously trying to protect themselves from the rapid growth of cybercrime, and the Zero Trust model is one of them.
Just like the name implies, Zero Trust is a concept that is founded on organizations not automatically trusting anything, be it inside or outside its perimeters. Everything must be verified if it wants to connect to a system before it gets access.
This takes security to a different level. We are not just talking about common cybersecurity practices like two factor authentications, investing in VPN service with a strong encryption, or the use of strong passwords. We are talking about a strategy that at its core means no one and nothing gets trusted. Network access is denied until the network is able to identify the individual or the device that is trying to gain access. This would include access to machines, IP addresses, and other aspects of the network.
When one looks at the cyber crime statistics, it’s understandable why this approach to cybersecurity has become so popular. Cybersecurity is costing the world trillions of dollars every single year. Data breaches not only put an organization’s information and that of its client’s at risk, they also put the organization’s reputation at risk.
There are several organizations that, in the wake of a cyber attack, have had to permanently close their doors. They could not afford the cost of litigation, loss of revenue resulting from loss of reputation, and the expense in trying to compensate individuals who were affected by the breach. While Zero Trust may seem extreme, from the vantage point of business owners and government agencies, added levels of security are a small price to pay for the benefits.
A Concept That Requires a Change in Thinking
Zero Trust information security requires a change in the way that information security was thought of. Previously, the idea was that a business would protect their information in the same way a kingdom would protect its castle. You put a moat around the castle, you put in a drawbridge, and you have to build a huge wall. In order to get access to the castle, anyone would need to pass through a series of security checks. However, once they have passed all of the security checks and are on the inside of the castle, they would be considered trustworthy.
Evidence clearly shows that this approach to technology and security doesn’t work. Some of the biggest data breaches in recent history happened because hackers were able to gain access inside corporate firewalls. Once they were inside, they could move through without any resistance or any questions.
The evidence has shown that one of the biggest weaknesses with IT is that there are too many default connections. There’s too much trust. Really, that trust is at the heart of the Internet. It offers the ability to share everything all the time. However, that is a major point of weakness. If everything is trusted, it’s challenging to change anything as far as security is concerned.
Why Traditional Security Measures Have Failed Post COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has struck another blow to traditional data security. As mentioned, the traditional way of thinking is to protect everything outside the castle but trust everything inside. Now that everyone is working from home, there is no longer a castle.
Individuals are working from all over. Organizations are going from having a corporate data center to using cloud services. Many organizations are seeing the benefit of having a hybrid service or some of their data is on premise, and other pieces of data are in the cloud. Users are accessing data from a variety of locations around the globe and using a variety of devices.
This change has emphasized the importance of the Zero Trust model. Instead of trying to protect the entire castle, the goal now is to protect each and every asset. Before gaining access to any data, the user must prove who they are or a device must prove that it is trustworthy.
Zero Trust technology relies heavily on other technologies that are already in play. These include identification access management, multi-factor authentication, encryption, analytics, and orchestration. It relies on governance policies that give users the lowest level of access needed to accomplish the task they are assigned to do. As with all things IT, Zero Trust is not just a collection of technology. It is a mindset that affects the way an organization views its data and how the data should be protected.
How Zero Trust Affects the Way Users Are Treated
All of the protection offered with a Zero Trust model happens at the application layer. Users are unable to access lower layers. This minimizes the attack surface.
This is a great tool in the world of remote working. With all users, whether they are working remotely, they are inside the network, or they are accessing the cloud, the data is treated the same. Every single user needs to be authenticated prior to getting access to servers or data.
There is no one-size-fits-all Zero Trust model. The best approach for an organization will vary based on the nature of their systems, where they store their data, and the services that they are providing. Many security experts believe that it’s best if Zero Trust is implemented incrementally. The first things they should address are the most valuable data assets and the most vulnerable users. This allows an organization to secure the highest risk first.
The Zero Trust approach can help organizations protect their systems in a way that traditional perimeter security is unable to do. Adapting to the Zero Trust approach is not something that happens overnight. It requires preparation. Organizations must first identify the assets and the access control requirements that are essential for operation. They want to allow their employees access to what they need to do their job but nothing more.
Businesses have been successful when they start small and protect their most sensitive assets and services and then build out with time.