Key points we'll discuss
- A zero trust architecture offers the flexibility to safely manage security across complex cloud environments, regulatory requirements and workflows.
- It’s too labor-intensive to maintain a zero trust environment manually.
- Automation, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, can make it possible.
What is a Zero Trust model?
A zero trust architecture is a model for network security that calls for every user to be checked and validated against the access they are allowed in the system and the risk around the functions and data they are trying to access. Rather than establish a perimeter around the network and protect it with firewalls and passwords, a zero trust architecture establishes a continuous process of reaffirming trust in the user’s identity as that user moves through the system — at every point of access.
Zero trust is now considered the aspirational ideal for any security professional who wants to sleep well at night.
How does a Zero Trust model work?
Rather than establish a security perimeter around a network and trust any user who can log into it, a zero trust model assumes any user identity can be compromised. It uses multi-factor authentication (MFA) to improve security beyond the user name and password combination and applies a “least privilege” principle, giving the user the least access possible at every turn, and requiring additional validation before stepping up access privileges.
Zero trust security establishes trust every time a user tries to access an asset in the system by checking the asset against the user’s profile, the sensitivity of the asset being accessed and the context of the activity, such as the user’s location or electronic device, or whether that user’s job should even require that level of access. If the context cues don’t match, the user may be asked to revalidate their identity before proceeding.
Core principles of a Zero Trust framework
While there is no 100% effective protection, zero trust security has become popular because it addresses many of the challenges and demands that affect security at most organizations today. Zero trust principles acknowledge that silos in organizations have become porous and that work travels from one silo to another, so security needs to follow those workflows to keep all users safe.
Continual validation: As its name suggests, a zero trust model trusts no one. Every user must constantly be challenged by a check running in the background that matches the user to the activity, that user’s access and the level of risk before allowing them to continue across the network.
Reduced attack surface: Any zero trust architecture has to first assume that malicious access will happen and then find a way to limit the “blast radius” should an attacker breach the system. A commitment to least-privilege access is one way to make that happen; it limits how far a bad actor can get once inside the network.
Individual context-based access: Access policies need to factor in the context of user activity — the geolocation, device used, resource being accessed and other factors — in real time and adapt as needs and functions change.
How to implement a Zero Trust security model
Zero trust architecture has to be approached as a philosophy — as a mature and sophisticated way for organizations to look at their environment.
A few zero trust best practices can help:
- Know your assets
- Mitigate and optimize
- Automate as much as you can
The bottom line is, for today’s businesses faced with increased cyberthreats and demands for agility and speed, zero trust security offers a way to manage cyber risk. But a true zero trust model requires an ongoing commitment from the organization and support from a number of emerging technologies to make it happen.
About Plow Networks
Plow Networks is a leading IT services provider, connecting businesses to technology since 2012. With deep expertise in network, cloud, and end user support services, we partner with clients to leverage technology in ways that simplify operations and fuel growth. Plow Networks is based in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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