Modern threat actors, from cybercriminals to nation-state actors, have improved their tenacity, stealth, and subtlety, allowing them to routinely breach network perimeter defenses. These threat actors and insider threat actors have been successful in jeopardizing and harming economic and national security by taking advantage of their access. When defending dispersed enterprise networks from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, even the most skilled cybersecurity experts face challenges. In order to provide unified-yet-granular access control to data, services, applications, and infrastructure, organizations need a better way to secure their infrastructure.
Adopting a Zero Trust security model and the mindset necessary to deploy and operate a system engineered according to Zero Trust principles can better position cybersecurity professionals to secure sensitive data, systems, and services as they defend increasingly dispersed, complex enterprise networks from sophisticated cyber threats.
Zero Trust is an “assumed breach” model to help cybersecurity architects, integrators, and implementers combine various but related cybersecurity capabilities into a unified engine for cybersecurity decision-making. To minimize risk and enable strong and quick responses, Zero Trust principles must permeate most of the network and its operations ecosystem. To achieve the cybersecurity results that a Zero Trust solution can provide, organizations should fully embrace this mindset required for planning, allocating resources, and operating under it.
What is a Zero Trust Security Model?
“Zero Trust” is an integrated cybersecurity and system management strategy based on the understanding that threats can exist inside and outside conventional network boundaries. It also includes a security model and a set of system design principles. For determining access and other system responses, a Zero Trust model eliminates implicit trust in any element, node, or service and necessitates continuous verification of the operational picture using real-time information from multiple sources.
The Zero Trust security model constantly restricts access to only what is necessary and keeps an eye out for suspicious or malicious activity because it assumes that a breach is inevitable or has probably already happened. To concentrate on safeguarding crucial assets (data) in real-time within a dynamic threat environment, Zero Trust integrates thorough security monitoring, granular risk-based access controls, and system security automation coordinated throughout all aspects of the infrastructure. The least-privileged access principle can be used for every access decision in this data-centric security model, allowing or denying access to resources depending on various contextual factors. Systems built on the principles of Zero Trust should be better able to deal with current threats, but implementing such a system requires careful planning to avoid compromising security posture. The NSA is still keeping an eye on the innovations that might support a zero-trust approach, and it will offer more advice as needed.
Zero Trust principles must permeate most aspects of the network and ecosystem to minimize risk and enable robust and prompt responses. Before beginning a Zero Trust path, organizations—from chief executives to engineers and operators—must comprehend and commit to the Zero Trust mindset.
Zero Trust principles
A Zero Trust solution is based on the following principles and operational capabilities:
- Never trust, always verify – Consider every user, gadget, application, or workload, and data flow to be unreliable. Utilizing dynamic security policies, authenticate and expressly authorize each to the least privilege necessary.
- Assume breach – Consciously manage and protect resources under the presumption that an enemy is already present in the area. By default, deny and carefully review each user, device, data flow, and access request. All configuration changes, network traffic, and resource accesses should be logged, examined, and monitored for irregularities.
- Verify explicitly – Using multiple attributes (including dynamic and static) to derive confidence levels for access decisions to various resources should be done consistently and securely.
Purpose of Zero Trust
Understanding and managing how users, processes, and devices interact with data is the core goal of Zero Trust. A tuple is the combination of the user, device, and any additional security-relevant contextual information (such as location, time of day, or previously recorded user or device behavior) used to determine access is required. For this tuple to contain accurate information, both the user and the device must be explicitly authenticated. The access request’s tuple is examined by the Zero Trust decision engine, which then compares it to the security policy for the requested data or resource. It then decides whether to grant access after considering the risks. To be included in future analytics for suspicious activity, it sends a log entry of that access request and decision. Every individual access request to a sensitive resource goes through this process, which can be repeated periodically during prolonged access to a resource.
Due to several issues, it may be difficult to implement Zero Trust in enterprise networks. The first potential issue is a lack of total enterprise support, which could come from leadership, administrators, or users. Any solution must fully embrace the mindset required for Zero Trust to be effective. The advantages of Zero Trust will not be experienced in that environment if leaders are unwilling to invest the resources required to create and maintain it, if administrators and network defenders lack support or the necessary skills, or if users are permitted to violate the policies. Following the integration of fundamental or intermediate Zero Trust capabilities into a network, further, development is required to mature the implementation and reap the full benefits.
Scalability of the capabilities is crucial given the pervasive need for Zero Trust to be applied throughout the environment. As the access to the resource is used, access control decisions that may have previously only been made once for each access will now be made continuously, necessitating a strong infrastructure for making, enforcing, and logging these access decisions. Additionally, network components like data tags and extra network sensors previously not considered in access control decisions may be crucial components that must be reliable and consistent.
Another crucial requirement is to adhere to the Zero Trust security model’s philosophy and use it consistently over time. Administrators and defenders may become worn out by consistently enforcing default-deny security policies and presuming a breach is happening. However, if the Zero Trust strategy fails, its cybersecurity advantages will be greatly reduced or eliminated.