What is the Zero Trust Model?
The cyber landscape of today is not the same as it was a couple of years ago. With the remote working trend, it has become quite complicated, especially in the data security aspect. As companies are trying to commingle the business with the home network, there has been an increase in the number of compromised credentials. Even though it is possible to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to protect your usernames and passwords, they aren’t enough to deal with the cybersecurity threat that we face. So, what can you do to tackle this? Let’s see
So, what is the Zero Trust model?
The Zero Trust model is based on the assumption that no application or user can be trusted by default. It establishes trust on the basis of contexts, such as user location and identity, requested service or app, endpoint’s security posture, etc. There are policy checks at every single step.
Every request is verified as though it originates from an open request. Before granting access, it will authenticate, authorize, and encrypt every access request. Based on this information, here are a few key points to know about the Zero Trust model:
- Absolutely no one can be trusted, regardless of whether it is from inside or outside of the organization.
- It assumes that a breach is underway.
- If anyone wants access to anything, specifically the shared resources, they have to go through three or maybe more authentication layers.
Many consider the Zero Trust model to be extreme. But today, you can’t take anything for granted or trust anyone, not even employees who have been in the organization for a long time.
Architecture of the Zero Trust Model
In the Zero Trust security model, the security policy is established through strict user authentication and least-privileged access controls. With this architecture, you have improved cyber threat defense, better user experience, and simpler network infrastructure. Its guiding principle — never trust, always verify — has been in place since the term ‘zero trust’ was coined by John Kindervag in 2010.
The policies of a zero-trust architecture are based on the role and location of the user, the requested data, and their device. This blocks any lateral movement or inappropriate access in the environment.
In order to establish this architecture, you need control and visibility over the users and traffic in your environment. This includes encrypting data, implementing strong multifactor authentication (MFA) such as one-time codes or biometrics, and monitoring and verifying traffic in the environment. eDiscovery software, like Casepoint, uses FIPS 140-2 compliant algorithms such as AES256. Military-grade encryptions are used for media drives.
In a zero-trust architecture, the network location of the resource isn’t considered the biggest factor while establishing security policies. It has moved away from rigid network segmentation and now focuses on protecting the data, services, and workflows using software-defined micro-segmentation. It enables you to keep them safe anywhere, regardless of whether it is stored in a data center or in a multi-cloud and hybrid environment.
Technologies Behind Zero Trust
A multitude of existing governance processes and technologies are used to secure the enterprise environment through the zero-trust approach. Enterprises leverage granular perimeter enforcement and micro-segmentation based on data to determine if the user, application, or machine seeking access should be trusted.
For this, the zero-trust architecture uses technologies such as IAM, multifactor authentication, file system permissions, encryption, and analytics. It also implements governance policies, such as providing the least amount of access needed by the user to complete their task. The architecture takes next-gen firewalls and network segmentation to put the data in segments and control what, who, when, and where someone connects.
Why You Need to Implement a Zero Trust Model
As per Check Point Research’s (CPR) 2022 Security Report, compared to 2020, cyberattacks against corporate entities increased by 50% in 2021. The most targeted sector is Education and Research, with organizations having an average of 1,605 attacks every week. In terms of year-over-year growth of cyberattacks, software vendors have seen an increase of 146%.
These figures demonstrate that organizations are in dire need of robust cybersecurity efforts. It is crucial to recognize that your existing approaches might not be enough. What you need is something better, and the zero-trust model can provide exactly that.
Is it Affecting Anything?
When the Zero Trust security model is implemented, it will affect everything related to IT, including:
Only legitimate devices must be allowed to access the network infrastructure. This includes hardwired servers, workstations, workless devices and more. No rogue devices, such as personal smartphones, should be given access to shared resources.
Now that a hybrid workspace is becoming mainstream, it is becoming more difficult to know if your remote employees are using only legitimate applications authorized by the IT team. It must be confirmed that only authorized applications are allowed to access the servers.
In cyberspace, the data that you collect, analyze, and store every day is the lifeblood of any organization. This can be personally identifiable information (PII) of your customers and employees or your intellectual property. If any of this falls into the wrong hands, you might end up facing a lot of financial and reputation damage. It is of paramount importance to ensure that you have multiple layers of authentication so that only authorized people can access the data.
Zero Trust framework affects not only the digital aspects of your business but physical infrastructure as well. So, if anyone wants to access the server located in your data center, it is crucial to vet them first. There must be at least three authentication layers, such as a unique ID number, a smart card, and a biometric modality like iris recognition or fingerprint.
One of the most common ways a cyberattacker breaks through the line of defense is by accessing the network line of communication and moving laterally. In order to avoid this, you need to remediate all possible vulnerabilities and ensure that only authorized employees can start a network communications path. As per the Zero Trust framework’s ‘Concept of Least Privilege,’ the remote workforce must only be given the least amount of access they need for performing their tasks.
Apart from this, you will also need Subnets, smaller segments created by dividing the network infrastructure. So, even if a cyberattacker manages to get through a layer of authentication, the chances of them breaking through the others will be greatly reduced.
How to Implement a Zero Trust Model Framework
Every organization has unique needs and will need a customized zero-trust model framework. However, there are three general stages for implementation that you should know about:
This involves getting an understanding of your resources and their access points. It will help you visualize the involved risks.
This stage covers detecting and stopping threats. In case of a breach that cannot be stopped, you must try to reduce its impact.
Regardless of resources and IT infrastructure’s location, it must be protected. Apart from this, you also have to focus on optimizing the user experience for security and IT teams and end-users.
Security Principles of the Zero Trust Model
There are certain key Zero Trust principles that your organization must work on:
Continuous verification refers to assuming that no devices, credentials, or zones can be trusted at any time. All your assets must be verified continuously. However, in order to make this work effectively, certain key elements have to be put in place:
- Deployment of a rapid, scalable, dynamic policy model – users, data, and workloads can often change. This means that the policy has to account for risk as well as IT requirements and compliance with the policy. The Zero Trust security model ensures that organizations are able to comply with specific requirements.
- Implementation of risk-based conditional access – With this, you will be able to ensure that workflow interruption occurs only when there is a change in the risk levels. This ensures continuous verification without affecting user experience.
In case there is a breach, you have to focus on minimizing its impact. The Zero Trust model limits the access paths for an attacker and the scope of credentials, giving you the time to mitigate the attack. Here are some ways to limit the radius:
- Least privilege principle – When using credentials, including the service accounts, it is important to give these credentials the least possible access. If their tasks change, their scope of access will change as well. Many cyberattacks use over-privileged service accounts because they are often given more access than they need and are not monitored.
- Identity-based segmentation – Maintaining network-based segmentation operationally as users, credentials, workloads, and data change can be challenging. Identity-based segmentation can help mitigate these challenge
Limit the Blast Radius
In order to make accurate and effective decisions, it is crucial to get data that is processed and acted on in real-time. Here are the different data sources that you need to focus on:
- User credentials – Human accounts, service accounts, privileged accounts, and non-privileged accounts
- Endpoint – Devices used for accessing data
- Workloads – Containers and VMs, including the ones used for hybrid deployments
- Other sources such as SSO, SIEM, Threat Intelligence, Identity Provider
Automate Context Collection And Response
The job of implementing the Zero Trust model for physical infrastructure requires you to put these practices in place:
- Identifying risky access processes and users and tracking their behavior
- Establishing identity assurance using a multifactor authentication process
- Limiting lateral movements at the facility
- Enforcing the least privilege at access points
Casepoint has implemented several levels of physical security controls to ensure that its information assets are protected. Every physical access to the data centers has multiple layers of authentication.
Request For Physical Examination
For the successful implementation of the Zero Trust model, you need to implement consistent monitoring practices that evaluate data movements, user behavior, data alterations, and network changes. Even though privilege restrictions and authentications are the foundation of zero trust, you must verify every action taking place within your infrastructure.
Advantages of the Zero Trust Model
Zero trust solutions use identity attributes meeting predefined trust principles, such as authorization requirements, to verify the services and applications accessing your resources. It reduces risk by uncovering the assets that are on the network and how they are communicated. Once you have established the baseline, a zero-trust strategy will eliminate overprovisioned services and software to reduce risks. It will also check every communicating asset’s credentials continuously.
Reduce Business and Organizational Risk
When you move to the cloud, you have to focus on challenges such as loss of visibility and access management. Even though cloud service providers offer security enhancements, workload security still is a responsibility that you have to bear. Having a zero-trust security architecture will enable you to implement security policies based on the communicating workloads’ identity and are tied to the workloads directly. This way, the security remains close to the assets that require protection. Even when the environment changes and you migrate to the cloud, the protection will remain constant.
Gain Control Over Cloud Environments
The Zero Trust security model assumes every entity to be hostile. It inspects and authenticates every user and device and only grants requests after assessing the permissions. As context changes, such as the data being accessed or the user’s location, this trust is reassessed.
So, if a cyber attacker manages to breach your network through a vulnerability like a compromised device, it won’t be able to steal or access your data. Also, since the framework doesn’t allow it to move laterally, there is no place for the attacker to go.
Reduce the Risk of a Data Breach
Zero trust shields the workload connections and the users from getting exploited or exposed. Thanks to this invisibility, maintaining compliance with privacy regulations and standards becomes easier. With the zero trust micro-segmentation, sensitive data, such as trade information, data backups, and personally identifiable information, will be protected. It involves establishing fine-grained controls for separating regulated data from non-regulated data. In case of a data breach or during an audit, you will have supervisor control and more visibility than you would have with flat network architectures.
Support Compliance Initiatives
With cloud environments and remote work on the rise, it is important to ensure that your security architecture meets their dynamic requirements from every angle. A Zero Trust model can help you address these requirements. Its ‘Never Trust, Always Verify’ approach gives your users a way to safely access your IT resources.