The zero trust security approach has gained traction for its effectiveness in improving organizations’ resilience against emerging cyber threats. In this article, we outline five up-to-date statistical facts which make the case for zero trust.
Don’t know how to implement zero trust security in your organization? Learn five simple steps to get you started with zero trust without major investments.
Why implement zero trust?
Conventionally, organizations have secured networks with the help of firewalls, VPNs, DMZs, and other traditional measures. The users inside this protected perimeter are often considered trusted and given access to all resources by default. However, immoderate trust increases the risk of insider attacks.
Zero trust assumes that no one inside or outside your network can be trusted by default. Such an approach requires verifying the identity and trustworthiness of users and devices before providing access, even if these users and devices seem trusted. Additionally, each access request is evaluated on the need-to-know principle, meaning that a user is only given access to the assets they need to perform their job.
Forrester outlines the following three principles of zero trust:
Applying zero trust to your organization’s security brings the following benefits:
1. Enhanced visibility of user actions with your resources
Zero trust necessitates categorizing and taking a meticulous inventory of all network resources. This empowers your organization to get a clearer picture of who accesses specific data and systems, know the reasons behind their access, and tailor security measures to your data protection needs.
2. Reduced attack surface
Shifting the security focus from your network perimeter to individual resources minimizes your organization’s susceptibility to hacker attacks compared to traditionally protected networks, thereby shrinking the attack surface.
3. Fast identification and response to security threats
Implementing a zero trust security strategy involves deploying robust monitoring and logging solutions for tracking asset states and user activity. These solutions help you take a proactive approach towards security threats to enable swift incident identification and response.
4. Decreased risk of security breaches
Strict access controls and continuous activity monitoring promoted by zero trust minimize the opportunities for external and internal attackers to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to your organization’s sensitive resources.
5. Improved cybersecurity cost efficiency
Implementing a zero trust strategy can reduce your spending on organizational cybersecurity and the need to deploy multiple security tools. Identity management, access control, and network segmentation required by zero trust minimize the attack surface and options for a malicious actor. This way, even if you suffer a security breach, it’ll be less damaging and costly for your organization.
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5 facts that call for the adoption of zero trust
Next, we’ll look at five major statistical facts to help you decide whether it’s worth implementing zero trust principles in your organization.
1. Organizations are increasing their use of zero trust
Implementation of zero trust security principles is an ongoing and constantly growing trend.
Gartner predicts that “10% of large enterprises will have a mature and measurable zero trust program in place” by 2026, “up from less than 1%” in 2023.
As for partial zero trust implementation, the PWC’s 2023 Global Digital Trust Insights Report states that 36% of CISOs have started implementing zero trust components, while another 25% will begin in the next two years.
Here are some more statistics on how the use of different zero trust technologies has changed between 2021 and 2023:
The increasing use of zero trust is an indicator of its effectiveness and a growing recognition of the evolving cybersecurity landscape, where traditional perimeter-based defenses are no longer sufficient to protect organizations against sophisticated threats.
2. The zero trust market is expected to grow
Considering that demand creates supply, the market of zero trust will also grow in the upcoming years.
MarketsandMarkets foresees the growth of the global zero trust security market from $31.1 billion in 2023 to $67.9 billion by 2028.
According to Gartner’s 2023 Market Guide for Zero Trust Network Access, the zero trust network access (ZTNA) market has continued to mature and grow rapidly. Gartner claims an 87% year-over-year increase in the ZTNA market between 2021 and 2022 and a 51% increase between 2022 and 2023.
The growing zero trust market means that there will be plenty of solutions to choose from, allowing you to select the most suitable toolset to meet the objectives of your cybersecurity strategy, your organization’s specific needs, and the requirements of industry regulations.
3. Zero trust network access will replace VPNs
Unlike VPNs, ZTNA solutions allow you to restrict access to specific assets rather than granting full network access. This way, ZTNA can provide your organization with more granular management of user access, reduce the attack surface, and minimize lateral movement by cybercriminals within your network.
An increased focus by end-user organizations on zero trust strategies/cloud adoption — and a desire to provide more secure and flexible connectivity for hybrid workforces — is heightening interest in the zero trust network access (ZTNA) market.2023 Gartner® Market Guide for Zero Trust Network Access
Thanks to this more efficient approach to cybersecurity, ZTNA solutions are rapidly replacing traditional VPNs. According to Gartner, “at least 70% of new remote access deployments will be served predominantly by ZTNA as opposed to VPN services, up from less than 10% at the end of 2021.”
4. Zero trust can save you money
The cost of the average data breach in 2023 reached an all-time high of $4.45 million, which is 2.3% more than in 2022, according to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 by IBM Security. However, zero trust can help organizations reduce this cost.
The depth of zero trust adoption also influences the average cost of a data breach. Organizations with a mature deployment of zero trust security architecture had an average data breach cost of $3.45 million, while those in the early stages had to pay on average $4.96 million for a data breach, which is a $1.51 million difference.
Whether your organization is just beginning to adopt the zero trust model or has been relying on it for years, further development reduces the impact of data breaches and their costs for your organization.
5. Zero trust solutions can reduce the chance of a data breach
In addition to reducing the average cost of a data breach, zero trust can help you reduce the chance of data breaches happening in the first place.
According to a study by Forrester Consulting, implementing zero trust solutions can help your organization enhance cybersecurity defenses and reduce the chance of experiencing a data breach by 50%.
Data from the Forrester Consulting research study mainly focused on zero trust solutions from Microsoft. However, it’s logical to assume that similar statistics apply to other zero trust solutions on the market, as zero trust principles are universal.
Follow along with the next section to find out how to implement zero trust architecture in five steps.
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5 steps to start implementing zero trust
To begin adopting zero trust, it’s not necessary to fundamentally change the structure of your organization’s cybersecurity. Instead, you can simply implement core zero trust practices and technologies that will not require major changes in your organization.
It’s worth mentioning that your organization may already possess zero trust elements. Hence, the job of your security personnel is to make these elements work together to ensure a holistic implementation of zero trust.
Without further ado, these are your organization’s first steps toward implementing zero trust:
1. Identify what needs to be protected
Understanding your organization’s digital assets and their significance to your operations is the first vital step you can take to implement zero trust architecture. By identifying what needs protection the most, you’ll better understand how your organization’s assets and processes are interlinked to prioritize your security efforts more effectively.
Consider taking the following steps:
- Make a detailed inventory of your organization’s digital assets, including data, applications, devices, and cloud infrastructure elements.
- Categorize these assets based on how sensitive and critical they are to your organization’s operations.
- Document the correlation between job positions and what resources they need access to for proper functioning.
Identifying critical assets can also be part of a security risk assessment, which can help you detect vulnerabilities, prioritize risks, and prepare for potential threats.
2. Limit access where possible
Restricting user access to your organization’s resources helps minimize the attack surface and ensures that only authorized users can interact with sensitive assets. Even if an attacker compromises a user account, their malicious actions will be limited.
Consider applying the principle of least privilege, which implies restricting users’ access to only what is necessary to perform their direct job duties. Additionally, create an access control policy defining how to establish, document, review, and modify access in your organization. Identity management and privileged access management (PAM) solutions are your organization’s technical means to limit access to your resources.
Finally, conducting regular user access reviews can help you ensure that access permissions align with changes in employees’ job responsibilities.
3. Segment your network
The next step is to isolate smaller parts, or segments, of your network to prevent lateral movement for cyber threats. With this approach, even if one segment is compromised, it’s hard for a threat to spread to other parts of the network.
You can take it a step further and implement micro-segmentation, which provides better compliance with zero trust principles. Similar to network segmentation, micro-segmentation isolates your network but does so more granularly, at the individual workload or application level. This granularity also enables your organization to create highly specific security policies and controls.
Micro-segmentation adheres to the zero trust security approach by presuming that no network traffic, even within trusted network segments, should be automatically trusted. Therefore, every communication is thoroughly inspected and verified.
4. Implement multi-factor authentication
Passwords alone are no longer sufficient to protect user accounts. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) allows you to verify user identity, thus ensuring that a password has not been compromised by a third party.
MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to complete additional authentication steps, such as entering a one-time passcode, answering a security question, or scanning a fingerprint. With MFA, even if someone manages to compromise user credentials, they won’t be able to use the account without a second authentication factor.
Therefore, consider enforcing multi-factor authentication to protect access to the most critical systems, applications, and data in your organization.
5. Establish continuous activity monitoring
Continuous monitoring of user activity inside your network is essential, as it helps you detect threats in real time and take immediate action.
User activity monitoring (UAM) solutions provide the ability to track how users interact with sensitive data and critical systems, which helps eliminate the ineffective trust-by-default approach. Activity monitoring, on the other hand, implies switching to the verify-and-monitor model, where users are not trusted blindly. User actions and behaviors are continuously monitored and verified.
When selecting a monitoring solution, consider choosing one with automatic incident response capabilities. This allows you to react to threats promptly and minimize possible damage.
See how Ekran System can help you adopt zero trust in the next section.
Implementing zero trust principles with Ekran System
Ekran System is a full-cycle insider risk management platform designed to deter, detect, and disrupt human-related security risks.
If you are looking for how to implement zero trust principles in your organization, Ekran System can get you covered, allowing you to:
- Granularly manage and limit access to sensitive assets with the help of PAM capabilities, one-time passwords, and manual access approval.
- Manage user identities and verify them with two-factor authentication to ensure users accessing your data are who they claim to be.
- Monitor and record user activity inside your IT infrastructure to enhance visibility into how users interact with your data and systems.
- Anonymize monitored user data to enhance privacy and reduce reliance on trusting user data to your system administrators.
- Receive real-time notifications about user activity and promptly react to risky behavior with Ekran System’s comprehensive alerting and incident response system.
You can use Ekran System as a single solution to cover your entire IT infrastructure. We support on-premise, cloud (SaaS), and hybrid deployments across a variety of operating systems and platforms, including Amazon Workspaces, MS Azure WVD, and VMware Horizon.
Unlike traditional perimeter-based security approaches, zero trust provides flexibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness in fighting modern cyber threats. To enhance protection against cyber attacks, organizations need to follow the trend of implementing zero trust principles into their security strategies.
The five steps described in this article can help your organization start adopting a proactive zero trust approach to security. Collectively with the rich insider risk management capabilities of Ekran System, these practices will help you minimize the chances of security breaches and swiftly respond to any anomalies, ultimately enhancing your organization’s overall cybersecurity posture.
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