What Is the Zero Trust Approach
23
Feb

What Is the Zero Trust Approach? Is It an Effective Model?


After almost a year of working from home, many are slowly realizing that their cyber defense strategy is no longer enough. In fact, according to Zscaler’s 2021 VPN Risk Report, expanding security threats have prompted various organizations around the world to steer from virtual private networks to a zero trust approach.

Zero Trust becomes strategically important when it signifies that nothing should be trusted before verifying — TRUST only AFTER VERIFYING. It is a security concept that demands all users — both outside and inside the organization’s network — are authorized, authenticated, and continuously validated before gaining access to an organization’s data and applications. This approach uses two- or multi-factor authentication, identity and access management (IAM), and endpoint security technology to validate the user’s identity and ensure system security.

Having said that, Zero Trust will only work in favor of those organizations that can continuously monitor and validate user rights and privileges. One-time authentication will not be enough as risks and user attributes are constantly changing. Thus, enterprises must constantly validate their users before allowing access to critical data and applications.

If you or your organization is concerned about the skyrocketing rate of security threats and are seeking ways to keep malicious actors out, you’ve come to the right place. This blog will guide you through the ins and outs of zero trust architecture and how it can help protect what’s most important to you — your data.

What Is Zero Trust Architecture?

Coined in 2010 by John Kindervag, the term “Zero Trust Network” or “Zero Trust Architecture” only rose to popularity in 2017 when CIOs, CISOs, and other corporate executives started implementing it to protect their networks from more sophisticated cyberattacks.

Every organization has a few types of data, assets, applications, and critical services, which are collectively known as “protect surface.” These surfaces are unique for every enterprise and have to be protected in any case of attacks. Once the protect surface gets identified while implementing Zero Trust, an enterprise can track the movement of user traffic across the organization’s network and understand who the users are, what are they using, and how are they accessing the DAAS, i.e., data, assets, applications, and services within the organization. The organization can set controls and define access rules by creating a micro perimeter around the protected surface, which moves along with the protected surface. The micro perimeter can be created by creating a firewall that will allow only trusted users to access the protected surface.

A concrete Zero Trust policy should be in place around the organization’s protect surface, after which it can monitor user activities and their movement across the networks, both inside and outside the enterprise system.

Why Is Zero Trust Important?

Imagine a closed network, such as an organization’s workspace, where every device is inside the premises and every user is accessing the data and applications within its borders. In this scenario, it is relatively easy for the organization to prevent its network from unauthorized access, thus safeguarding its digital assets from cyberattacks. But in today’s world, users and devices are not always in a closed network and use various external networks to access data and applications. This increases the risk of vulnerability to a great extent, placing the enterprise’s assets at risk of exposure.

Zero Trust is one of the most effective ways to restrict unauthorized access to a network by insisting on multi-factor authentication, identity verification, micro-segmentation, and endpoint security. This ensures an extra layer of security is always present on the enterprise’s network, no matter how many endpoints increase and the enterprise infrastructure expands.

Case Study 1

The Edward Snowden case is a leading example of why organizations should not ignore security measures even for their internal users. He was a subcontractor with the NSA and had authentic access credentials. But because of not having a Zero Trust framework in place, he was never asked to re-authenticate himself in the future after his first access grant to the network. This allowed him to download sensitive materials.

Had there been a Zero Trust policy in place, this could have been prevented, or at least the activities would have been known to take necessary actions.

Case Study 2

The recent and now infamous 2021 SolarWinds phishing attack that left hundreds of U.S. government agencies compromised is now suspected to be one of the largest and most sophisticated attacks the world has ever seen. The attack, which was identified as a nation-state malware attack, was carried out via an elaborate phishing attack.

A recent statement by Microsoft affirmed that their services had not been used to directly attack others and that “there was also no evidence of access to our production services of customer data.” The statement also goes on to advise others that a few fundamental changes to their approach to security must be accepted for their safety.

First, “Adopt a Zero Trust mindset,” which Microsoft describes as “all activity — even by trusted users — could be an attempt to breach systems.”

How to Implement the Zero Trust Security Model?

Effective implementation of the Zero Trust security model will help curb attacks and endorse a culture that prioritizes data security at all levels, both inside and outside the enterprise network. The following are few techniques that are used to implement Zero Trust:

Microsegmentation

Microsegmentation, as the term suggests, focuses on dividing security perimeters into smaller zones with separate access requirements at every zone. For example, instead of putting all the data in one place with a single access, it can be stored in multiple locations. A person or system with complete access to the data will have to possess separate access at individual zone levels as well.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Considering the basic Zero Trust principle of “Never Trust, Always Verify,” we can take a step ahead and say “Never Trust, Always Verify, Verify Again.” Only following one-step authentication will not be enough in today’s world where we have devices interlinked and multiple entities at stake. Thus, multi-factor authentication (MFA) becomes of utmost importance. MFA requires more than one authentication factor, such as:

  1. Knowledge factor (e.g., username, password, PIN)
  2. Possession factor (e.g., ATM card, mobile phone, smart card)
  3. Inherence factor (e.g., biometrics, finger scan)
Learn how to build the best security model for your business from industry expert Vandana Verma, Global Board of Directors at OWASP and Security Solutions Architect at IBM:

https://www.eccu.edu/zero-trust-and-you-how-to-build-the-best-security-model-for-your-business/

Zero Trust in the Security Operations Center

You need to be prepared with knowledge of Zero Trust, along with several other crucial models followed in SOCs worldwide, to ensure that there are no compromises in data security at any communication or transaction level. Set yourself up for a bright career in a Security Operations Center by enrolling for EC-Council’s Certified SOC Analyst certification program. In just three days of training, the course covers every aspect of data security and emphasizes a practical approach when handling compromise events.

References:

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