We've all likely heard about zero trust architectures being the next major step in network security, but what exactly do we understand about it? And, more importantly, why should you be interested in this new concept?
Traditional IT network security is based on the castle-and-moat concept. In castle-and-moat security, it is hard to obtain access from outside the network, but everyone inside the network is trusted by default. The problem with this approach is that once an attacker gains access to the network, they have free rein over everything inside.
The term "Zero Trust" was coined back in 2010 by an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. when the foundational model for this concept was first introduced. A few years down the line, Google made headlines by announcing the implementation of Zero Trust security in their network, sparking increased interest within the tech community.
In 2019,Gartner identified Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) as a fundamental element within secure access service edge (SASE) solutions. The primary challenge in implementing zero-trust lies in reaching an understanding of what it truly encompasses. At its core, the concept of zero-trust represents a cybersecurity framework that challenges the traditional assumptions surrounding data security and encourages a re-evaluation of existing concepts. More simply put: traditional IT network security trusts anyone and anything inside the network. A Zero Trust architecture trusts no one and nothing.
1.Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation:
The fundamental philosophy of Zero Trust network security assumes the presence of potential attackers both inside and outside the network. Consequently, no users or devices should be automatically trusted. Zero Trust involves the continuous verification of user identities, privileges, and device identities and security. User logins and connections are periodically timed out, making sure users and devices must be re-verified continuously.
2. Least Privilege:
Another key principle of Zero Trust security is the practice of granting users only the minimum level of access they require, just as they do in the military where personnel receive information on a need-to-know basis. This approach minimizes each user's exposure to sensitive areas of the network. Implementing least privilege involves meticulous management of user permissions.
It is important to note that VPNs might not well-suited for implementing least-privilege authorization, as they provide users with access to the entire connected network upon login.
6. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is one of the core components of Zero Trust security. MFA requires more than a single piece of evidence to authenticate a user, demanding additional verification beyond a password. An example commonly seen in practice is 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) used on platforms like Facebook and Google. In addition to entering a password, users who enable 2FAfor these services must provide a code sent to another device, such as a mobile phone.
3. Device Access Control:
Beyond controlling user access, Zero Trust mandates strict control over device access. Zero Trust systems must monitor and authorize all devices attempting to access the network while continuously assessing them to ensure they remain uncompromised. This further reduces the network's attack surface.
Zero Trust networks employ micro-segmentation, which involves dividing security perimeters into smaller zones to maintain separate access for distinct parts of the network. For instance, a network with files residing in a centralized datacenter utilizing micro-segmentation may have numerous isolated, secure zones. Access to one zone does not grant access to others without separate authorization.
5.Preventing Lateral Movement:
In network security, "lateral movement" refers to a hacker’s ability to navigate within a network after gaining initial access. Detecting lateral movement can be challenging, even if the initial point of entry is discovered, as the attacker may have already compromised other parts of the network.
Zero Trust is designed to confine attackers to prevent lateral movement. Due to segmented and periodically re-established access, attackers cannot easily move across different microsegments within the network. Once an attacker's presence is detected, the compromised device or user account can be quarantined and disconnected from further access. In contrast, in a traditional castle-and-moat model, if lateral movement is possible for the attacker, quarantining the initially compromised device or user has limited effectiveness, as the attacker may have already infiltrated other areas of the network.
Numerous organizations are adapting their business models to meet the evolving demands of their customers. In doing so, they are offering innovative and more digital experiences to customers, all the while accommodating a globally dispersed workforce. Recent developments, like the pandemic, have only accelerated the pace of this digital transformation. Suddenly, organizations find themselves dealing with a multitude of people connecting from their home computers, beyond the control of traditional IT departments. This dispersion of users, data, and resources across the globe brings significant challenges in establishing quick and secure connections. Moreover, the absence of a traditional on-premises infrastructure for protection leaves employees' home environments susceptible to potential breaches, thereby endangering the business.
Adding to the complexity, many enterprises currently rely on a fragmented collection of security solutions and tools that lack seamless integration. Consequently, security teams find themselves dedicating more time to manual tasks, lacking the necessary context and insights to effectively reduce their organization's vulnerability to cyberthreats. The surge in data breaches and the implementation of stringent global regulations have further exacerbated the complexities of network security.
In this landscape where applications, users, and devices demand rapid and secure access to data, an entire industry of different security tools has emerged to safeguard these assets. The concept of zero trust has emerged as a solution to address the security requirements of this data-centric hybrid cloud environment. Zero trust offers organizations adaptive and continuous protection for users, data, and assets, along with the capability to proactively manage and mitigate threats. In essence, the philosophy of "never trust, always verify" seeks to envelop security around every user, device, and connection for every transaction. Adopting a zero trust framework also empowers defenders to gain comprehensive insights into their security operations, enabling consistent enforcement of security policies and faster, more precise threat detection and response.
Nevertheless, for Zero Trust to benefit, security teams across the company must reach a consensus on priorities and align their access policies. Securing all connections across the entire business, encompassing data, users, devices, applications, workloads, and networks, is essential. Implementing such an architecture requires a thought through strategy and roadmap, along with the integration of security tools tailored to achieve the specific business-focused outcomes.
Enhanced Suitability for Modern IT Environments:
The Zero Trust philosophy aligns better with contemporary IT landscapes compared to traditional security methodologies. Given the broad spectrum of users and devices accessing sensitive data, and the distribution of data across internal and external networks (including cloud storage), it does make more sense to operate under the assumption that no user or device can be inherently trusted. This approach acknowledges the potential vulnerabilities that may exist, rather than relying solely on preventive security measures to cover all potential gaps.
Reduction in Attack Surface:
The greatest benefit of implementing Zero Trust principles lies in its capacity to significantly reduce an organization's attack surface. By scrutinizing and limiting access, Zero Trust ensures that only authorized entities gain entry, thereby minimizing the potential points of vulnerability.
Containment of Breaches:
Zero Trust excels at reducing the damage in the event of a security breach. Through micro-segmentation, breaches are confined to isolated areas, limiting their impact and making the process of recovery more cost and time-effective.
Mitigation of Credential Theft and Phishing Threats:
Zero Trust bolsters security by requiring multiple authentication factors, thereby mitigating the risk associated with user credential theft and phishing attacks. This multi-layered authentication approach enhances the overall resilience of the security system.
Elimination of Perimeter-Reliant Threats:
Traditional perimeter-based security measures can be bypassed by sophisticated threats. Zero Trust negates this vulnerability by verifying every access request, ensuring that even devices that are challenging to secure and update, such as IoT devices, adhere to stringent security protocols.
In summary, adopting Zero Trust principles offers organizations a more adaptable, robust and timely security framework that actively addresses the evolving threat landscape while minimizing the potential impact of security breaches.
A network detection and response system, like Muninn AI Detect and AI Prevent, gives you full insight and overview of all your network activity in real time. In case a hacker has made it past a network's firewall, any suspicious activity will be identified by Muninn AI Detect. Muninn AI Prevent is able to isolate the device the attacker is operating from within milliseconds and thereby prevent any lateral movement and further harm.
If you would like to know more about our products and how we can help you to level up your cybersecurity, get in touch with us.
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