Zero-Trust Network

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Many organizations are adopting a zero-trust network. As an added layer of security, it helps prevent data breaches. But what is zero-trust security?

A zero-trust network isn’t something new. It’s been around since 2010 when John Kindervag, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc, created the model. Core principles include:

  • Examination of all default access controls
  • Deployment of preventative measures relating to identity, endpoint, data, and application process
  • Enabling of real-time monitoring to identify and prevent attacks
  • Aligning to a security strategy

Principles of a Zero-Trust Network

A traditional IT network trusts users and endpoints inside the network by default. If you’re outside the network, however, access is limited. This approach to IT security is often called castle and moat. The downside to this approach is that when a cyber-attack breaches your network, your network is exposed.

As mentioned, a zero-trust architecture is about a holistic strategy alignment and not necessarily focused on the technology. It’s another component in your overall digital transformation. As such, zero-trust requires organizations to approach security with a different mindset. It’s no longer sufficient to believe a firewall delivers adequate cybersecurity. Zero trust places a focus on users already inside your network.

More than 80% of cyber-attacks involve credentials use or misuse within the network. As a result, a zero-trust architecture trusts no one either inside or outside the organization. Anyone attempting to access information from the network requires verification. Equally important, zero-trust assumes no network edge – networks can operate in the cloud, locally, as a combination, or hybrid with resources and users located anywhere.

A zero-trust network doesn’t rely on a specific technology. Instead, it incorporates various principles and technologies for layered protection. It requires continuous monitoring and validation to confirm that users and devices have appropriate privileges and attributes.

Real-Time Visibility Is Core to a Zero-Trust Architecture

In addition to ongoing monitoring, real-time visibility is essential to detect, investigate, and remediate intrusions. Real-time tracking also improves your organization’s “breakout time.” Breakout time refers to when a device is first compromised and when the intruder can move laterally to other network systems.

Real-time visibility needs to capture a broad range of checks such as:

  • User identity and credential
  • Number of privileges of each credential on each device
  • Endpoint hardware type and function
  • Location
  • Firmware versions
  • Operating system versions and patch levels
  • Installed applications
  • Detection including suspicious activity and attack recognition

In short, identity protection and device discovery sit at the core of a zero-trust architecture. Consequently, that demands repeated confirmation of credentials and protections to those credentials like greater password security, account integrity, and organizational policies.

ZTNA versus a VPN

Although a virtual private network (VPN) has been the gold standard for network access, cloud-based solutions riddle a VPN with vulnerabilities, especially man-in-the-middle attacks. Last year, for example, cybercriminals launched vishing scams designed to access sensitive information through VPNs.

A VPN takes a perimeter approach to security. But once a user gets inside that perimeter and into the network, it opens up broad access. That puts your data, applications, and IP at risk.

The other considerable risk with a VPN is that it assumes anyone or anything accessing the network is trusted. Zero-trust network access (ZTNA) doesn’t do that. No user or devise is authorized. Plus, even a user accesses one area of the network, he or she doesn’t automatically receive access to other areas of the network. Access is as needed and based on least privilege controls.

Compared to a VPN, a zero-trust network is more scalable and affordable. Plus, it integrates readily with single sign-on (SSO) platforms. It also allows for the configuration of access control policies for permissions based on user privileges and devices. For that reason, ZTNA applies readily to a cloud services environment are users are already identified.

Remote work and the pandemic accelerated many companies’ move to a zero-trust network. According to Pulse Secure, 60% of enterprises moved their timelines for implementing a zero-trust architecture up last year. Most companies doing so enjoy good levels of success.

What’s Included with a Zero-Trust Network?

It starts with a simple treatise – there’s no trust for devices or users. This principle reduces exposure to sensitive data.

Reduced exposure is fortified by segmenting your network into zones. Separate parts of the network are given independent access and protected by a security perimeter. Each security perimeter guards a small zone.

Zero trust security routinely deploys multi-factor authentication or MFA. MFA typically uses two-factor authentication where users enter their password and receive a code sent to another device. That code allows access to the network. Alternatively, a product like Duo Mobile sends a message to a mobile device, and the owner approves access.

Other technologies used to increase protection include orchestration, identity access and management (IAM), identity protection, encryption, scoring, endpoint security, and file system permissions. Governance policies are also critical to its success.

Finally, zero-trust security controls device access. Every device must be authorized and monitored. In combination with the other security measures mentioned, it reduces the attack surface of your network.

What Are the Benefits of Zero-Trust Security?

Reducing your attack surface benefits your business. Zero-trust accomplishes that via a range of actions like identify verification, behavioral analysis, micro-segmentation, endpoint security, and least privilege controls. These added layers of security support the continuing expansion of endpoint devices within organizations. Plus, remote workers demand an approach focused on borderless security.

So, what benefits does a zero-trust network deliver?

1. Visibility: Zero-trust requires discovering and classifying devices on your network. As such, you’ll increase your visibility into your inventory of users, devices, applications, and services. You’ll also be able to fix any network errors because you can pinpoint the issue to an exact location. Security breaches are also easier to detect.

2. Compliance: Because your networks are segmented and less complicated, achieving compliance and meeting regulatory controls is less taxing. Only the required network segment needs to be in scope. Auditors have greater insight into your organization’s data and how its protected. In addition, it’s easy to create a perimeter around sensitive data to regulate it.

3. Digital Transformation: Zero trust’s segmentation allows for new services without hindering productivity. IT teams, for example, can adopt more effective use of IoT devices while reducing the attack surface of those devices. Application and data security policies enjoy central management, and automation tools migrate policies as required.

4. Cloud and Container Control: Cloud service providers have a great measure of control over your workload security. Zero-trust, however, identifies those workloads, so security remains close to the assets requiring protection. Consequently, security protection travels with the workload but remains unchanged despite environment changes like IP address, ports, or protocols.

5. User-Experience: Zero trust security allows single sign-on (SSO) tools to reduce end-user password management. SSO also organizes what resources users and devices can access. As a result, users can authenticate once to gain access without password mismanagement. In addition, SSO provides greater security for cloud-based solutions.

6. Remote Workers: With a zero-trust network, identity comprises the perimeter. It controls users, devices, and applications seeking access. You’ll gain protection for workers and data regardless of location.

Are You Ready for a Zero-Trust Network?

If you’re looking for a way to improve your cybersecurity, a zero-trust architecture may be the answer. It requires assessing your organization, cataloging your assets, implementing preventative measures, and constant monitoring. That’s a lot to tackle.

We offer cybersecurity services near you throughout PA, MD, and Delaware that can help. Our multi-layered approach with managed detection and response software plus a Security Operations Center (SOC) helps close the door to cyber threats.

Talk to a cybersecurity company that focuses on prevention. Our cybersecurity solutions virtually eliminate your chances of a successful cyber-attack.

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