Anybody working in cybersecurity has heard the term "zero trust" floating around for some time now, but its definition isn't always clear. At its core, zero trust is a security framework that keeps your infrastructure secure and safe from threats. However, there's no shop-bought fix for implementing zero trust – there's so much more to it than that.
"The most important thing to understand about zero trust is that it is not a product," says Steve Malone, VP of Product Management at Egress. "It's not something you can buy from a single vendor. Zero trust is a security methodology, a framework of technologies and best practices that an organization needs to define and adopt across their IT environments over time. Think of it as a healthy and ongoing paranoia."
No single solution
Zero trust is something that has to be built into the DNA of an organization at every point. It's about adopting the policy that there is no trust and that anyone who works with sensitive information within a business should be authorized or otherwise validated before they are given access to certain data or apps, regardless of their location or manner of accessing that information. This is zero trust.
It's the ideal – even necessary – solution for today's way of working, with the ongoing rise of remote working, hybrid working, and bring-your-own-device policies. Plus, digital transformation is driving enormous volumes of data to the cloud, creating the need for new, innovative layers of security. The problem comes when vendors attempt to create their own definitions of zero trust, leading businesses to believe there's just one solution.
"Some organizations have a difficult time implementing a zero trust strategy," Malone adds. "The biggest mistake I see is security teams misunderstanding what a true 'zero-trust approach' means. Some organizations believe that zero trust can be achieved using individual security solutions here and there to provide a 'quick fix' to the problem. However, zero trust is about more than deploying individual solutions."
The problem with outdated security models is that they are often based on the assumption that whatever lies within an organization's network is inherently trustworthy, and that's not always the case. Not only can a business's own workers have malicious intentions, but external threat actors are always looking for weaknesses within an organization. A lack of zero-trust-level security leaves doors open for issues like these.
Removing the guesswork
When done correctly, a zero-trust architecture implemented end-to-end removes any guesswork. Establishing one for your business requires transparency, visibility, and control across the organization's entire environment. It enforces access policies at every level to ensure inappropriate access is denied, and data is kept safe. Types of security that should be implemented to achieve zero trust include:
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
- Monitoring between areas of the digital landscape
- ID verification
- Robust cloud technology
All these security measures combined should constantly work to keep your business and its data safe. It's not about assuming the worst will happen but, as Malone explains it, maintaining a "healthy and ongoing paranoia." When security breaches can invoke huge fines and impact your business's reputation, a little paranoia is a small price to pay.
As technology constantly evolves, so do cybercriminals and their methods. There are infinite ways to steal information now, and having any kind of security weakness practically invites it. No security strategy is perfect, of course, but zero trust is a highly effective way to ensure your organization is the closest to perfect that's possible. It dramatically reduces the attack surface and lessens the potential impact and fallout of a cybersecurity breach or attack. Plus, zero trust is the best way of managing cloud security, as it means no faith is placed in any connection without verification.
Organizations lacking zero trust should put their faith into this system and pour in the effort required to achieve it for the sake of future-proofing themselves. This requires the right mindset, as the human element is vitally important here. "People, process, and technology are the three core pillars of a solid zero trust strategy," says Malone, "so it's critical that organizations properly invest in making sure each one is considered, planned, implemented, and maintained."
He concludes: "Don't be fooled by the snazzy name: zero trust is not just another buzzword – nor a single product. It's a critical security initiative."