What is zero trust, and does your business need it?

Security - Computer security

Today’s interconnected world means that threats can come from anywhere – even from within your own network. As more users log into professional accounts from their personal devices, the risk of sensitive data being exposed grows as well.

This is where zero trust comes in: a cyber security model based on trusting no user, and verifying every permission request and access point to protect your resources and assets.

The process of implementing and maintaining a zero trust model is complex one, and to decide if your network and business will benefit from it, you need to better understand the concept and principles.

What is zero trust?

Zero trust is a security model that focuses on the prevention of all possible threats. It is based on the assumption that everything is potentially malicious and therefore requires thorough investigation before trusting any entity.

Some of the largest Australian businesses have suffered data breaches that affected millions of their customers; one of the biggest was that of Canva, whose 2019 breach impacted an estimated 139 million users.

As the threat of data leaks and breaches grows, zero trust is becoming more popular among companies, because it gives them the ability to protect themselves from these types of threats. 

With a zero trust model, your company has greater assurance against compromise by any middlemen or third parties who may have malicious intentions. 

Pros of adopting zero trust

Greater network control: Zero trust enables you to control your entire IT environment, from physical servers, to the cloud platforms, to remote user access.

Manage all user permission: By automatically assuming that every network user is potentially malicious, you can tighten and simplify your cyber security while simultaneously treating all devices and users the same way, with an equal blanket of limited permissions across the board.

Reduce malware and ransomware access: By implementing zero trust, even if viruses or cyber-attackers get past your defences, their movements will be limited to the scope the compromised users have access to.

Cons of adopting zero trust

Affects user productivity: When users must constantly seek approval and permission to access certain data or domains, it slows their work. This also means they must seek permission to collaborate with other users and share certain information with them, further slowing progress.

Ongoing management of users: Users must be monitored closely, with access granted only as necessary. This is a time-consuming task that may go beyond employees; third-party vendors and even clients may request access to your business’ data, meaning your zero trust policy will need specific permissions for each group.

More devices and apps to manage: These days, most users will have several devices – PCs, phones, or tablets – that they work from. Each device will need securing and monitoring, and further access permission will be required every time a user activates a different device.

Principles of zero trust

The central principle of zero trust is to automatically assume that every user poses a threat to your business. Use the following four principles to maintain compliance to zero trust.

Identify: All of your applications and systems must authenticate and rely on a single, authoritative source of identity to authorise and authenticate users. Regardless of where a user is accessing a system or application, they must be able to authenticate, have their second factor, and be re-authenticated regularly.

Control: Whenever human resources need to be managed, apply controls and checks where they are needed, and adhere to the principle of least privilege, which states that users should only have the most basic capabilities to do their jobs. For example, only human resources employees should have access to the human resources system if it is solely for their use. Everyone else should not have access, even if the chances of them accessing are considered minimal.

Analyse: An insider threat or malicious actors may steal legitimate credentials, keeping track of all network and system activity, and regularly examining and inspecting it to verify what occurs after an authentication. MDR (managed detection and response) and EDR (endpoint detection and response) should be used to scrutinise network and system activity.

Secure: Constantly monitor your network for points of vulnerability, starting with the moment data is generated and finishing with the moment it is destroyed. Focus on protecting your most important data in this process.

Zero trust management policy

To make sure your network is secure, you must enforce a zero trust management policy. This must address two major issues: establishing zero trust management, and safeguarding your resources and assets.

The management can be divided into three sections: automation and orchestration, used in conjunction to construct dynamic policies, co-ordinate all the tech, and set everything up.; visibility and analytics, which maintain oversight of the network, preventing problems and detecting breaches if or when they occur; and APIs, which gets data out of one system and into another.

The resources and assets that need safeguarding can be split into five groups: 

People: the users and admins who require and request access to your network.

Data: one of your most critical assets to secure.

Devices: PCs, phones, laptops, and any other virtual machines used by you and your users to work.

Workloads: the applications and tools used to access data, generate reports, and perform any other duties for your business.

Networks: communication channels of internet, email, WiFi, and any others.

Do you need zero trust?

For companies that are adopting zero trust, the task of managing user access and device administration is significant. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and resources to make sure it is implemented properly, with minimal impact to user experience and productivity.

The cyber security consultants at RODIN can advise you on the right security solutions for your business. Talk to them today and discover what you need to keep your networks secure.

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