Zero Trust Model: Can Trusting No One Be the Answer to Your Cybersecurity Problems?

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When trying to create a safe network, organizations usually use a classic perimeter strategy. This strategy presumes that all users, devices, and endpoints inside the perimeter are trusted by default, and only outsiders are treated as a potential threat.

 

But today, more and more companies are implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, hiring remote employees, using cloud services and storage, and granting access to their networks to third-party vendors and subcontractors. In such an environment, the real threats come from within the network, increasing the risk of access misuse and devastating data breaches caused by insiders. Securing remote access and ensuring a high level of perimeter protection isn’t enough anymore.

 

One possible solution to ensuring a better level of protection against insider threats is the so-called zero trust security model. In contrast to the classic perimeter model, this model doesn’t identify trusted users, devices, or endpoints based on the network they belong to. Instead, the zero trust model is ruled by the motto never trust, always verify. It treats both insiders and outsiders as untrusted sources.

 

So what is zero trust security and how can you benefit from implementing this model within your corporate network?

 

What is zero trust?

 

The term zero trust was first used by Forrester experts when describing a new security model in which users and devices were no longer split into trusted and untrusted groups. Basically, the zero trust model is designed to reduce the risk of insider threats by significantly reducing unwarranted trust.

 

In the zero trust security model, you grant access – to critical applications, data, and endpoints – only to those users and devices that have already been authenticated and verified. This approach is based on three essential steps:

 

  • Verifying users when they log in to the system
  • Validating devices before they connect to the network
  • Managing privileged access

Key factors of zero trust model

 

User verification can be ensured with the help of such tools as multi-factor authentication (MFA). Each time someone tries to access sensitive data, you have to make sure that the user requesting permission is who they claim to be.

 

User behavior monitoring and analysis may also be helpful in verifying legitimate users and detecting insider threats. For instance, a login at an unusual time or from a suspicious location should be treated as a sign of a possible cybersecurity problem.

 

Also, the least privilege approach must be applied wherever possible in order to make sure that no one can access data or assets they don’t need to do their job.

 

But how exactly can you build a zero trust security regime or at least implement some of its elements in your current IT infrastructure? In the next section, we provide some tips on zero trust networking.

 

Building a zero trust network

 

The zero trust security model for enterprises shifts the perimeter of the corporate network from the external borders to the actual endpoints, systems, and users.

 

Implementing modern identity and access management (IAM) best practices is an essential part of building a zero trust network. There are several IAM tools that can help you successfully implement a zero trust approach within your network:

 

  • Next-gen access (NGA) – With the help of NGA capabilities, you can secure end user access credentials and validate every user who tries to access the network. By analyzing a wide range of data including identity, location, time, and device operating system, NGA can determine whether a particular end user can be verified immediately or requires an additional level of verification through MFA.
  • Privileged access management – Privilege misuse is one of the key risk factors for the cybersecurity of modern enterprises. When building a zero trust network, you need to pay special attention to privileged users. In addition to the least privilege approach, you can use role-based access controls (RBAC) and attribute-based access controls (ABAC) to make sure that users of your network get appropriate granular permissions.
  • Shared account personalization – When several people use the same credentials for accessing a shared admin account, it’s difficult to identify who does what. Furthermore, you need to make sure that the user attempting to log in to a shared account has the appropriate access permission. This problem can be solved by adding a second layer of user identity verification for shared accounts.
  • One-time passwords – To ensure an even higher level of protection for your critical assets, you can use one-time passwords, granting access upon request. Security experts in your organization can consider each request individually and decide whether to grant or deny access.

 

At the same time, there are two important things you should keep in mind when trying to create a zero trust organization: flexibility and trust granularity.

Key factors of zero trust model

Flexibility. First, while applying security controls is a must, you’d better do it only when and where it’s really necessary. Protect your most important and valuable data and your most critical systems first. Don’t waste your resources on something that doesn’t require additional protection.

 

The biggest challenge with this part of implementing a zero trust security approach is to distinguish critical and sensitive assets from less important ones.

 

Trust granularity. Secondly, you need to build your network by enforcing granular perimeters and leveraging micro-segmentation based on user, location, and data. You need to be able to see and understand who accesses what and whether they’re using an appropriate connection method.

 

Build your zero trust network with Ekran System

 

The zero trust security model is challenging to implement, but you can easily do it with the help of Ekran System. Our platform offers a wide range of identity and access management capabilities:

 

 

With the help of Ekran System, you can ensure access granularity and get a higher level of visibility within your network.

 

Conclusion

 

Threats caused by insiders remain one of the main cybersecurity risks for today’s enterprises. A zero trust security model may be a possible solution to this problem.

 

The main benefit of a zero trust model is the reduced risk of insider threats. By reducing unwarranted trust, you can better protect your critical data. Plus, in a zero trust network, even if one account or endpoint is compromised, the rest of the network should remain secure.

 

As for the cons of a zero trust model, the main one is the complexity of implementing it. Fortunately, you can implement this model step by step, starting from increased protection of your most valuable data and systems.

 

A zero trust network architecture is built from the inside and requires the use of modern IAM capabilities, including PASM, MFA, and the least privilege approach. Ekran System provides most of the capabilities you need for ensuring the necessary level of access control and insider threat prevention.

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