In the face of the rising cybersecurity threat, it makes sense for small businesses to utilize all the tools at their disposal to protect their assets and operations. One useful methodology that companies are increasingly adopting is known as the Zero Trust security model. In this article, we will give an overview of this interesting approach to cybersecurity.
What is the Zero Trust Security Model?
The Zero Trust security model is a holistic and effective strategic approach to cybersecurity that requires strict identity verification for every user and device trying to access your company’s network, whether they are outside or within your network security perimeter. In short, the Zero Trust model does not implicitly trust anyone, even users and devices that are inside the network.
This model is particularly useful for companies that have their data spread across cloud vendors, which makes it more difficult to control network security. In addition, this model also matches up well with the trend of companies to use more remote workers, which exposes networks to a greater risk of cyberattack. Another trend that has added to cybersecurity vulnerability is the growing use of the Internet of Things (IoT), which also exposes company networks to more threats.
The added layer of security offered by the Zero Trust model makes unauthorized access to sensitive data more difficult. This method works well against malicious insiders and gives protection from hackers that have penetrated the network security perimeter through stolen login credentials or other methods.
Security experts emphasize that one of the keys of adopting this model is to move your company mindset from only focusing on what is coming into your network to a much greater focus on monitoring what is traveling out of your network. This means constantly monitoring and assessing data coming out of your network to detect if a hacker or malicious insider has compromised your network and has gained access to sensitive company or client information.
Main Components of the Zero Trust Security Model
Cybersecurity experts break the Zero Trust Security Model down into the main components described below.
Continuous network security monitoring and validation
The model operates from the idea that no user or device can be automatically trusted and that bad actors can be operating both within and outside the network. As a result, the strategy calls for the regular verification of user identity and privileges as well as device identity and security. In addition, security experts recommend that logins and connections be set to time out periodically, which forces users and devices to re-verify their access to the network.
In addition, experts recommend the implementation and use of real-time threat detection as well as a comprehensive incident response plan to handle any cyberattacks.
Least privilege access
The concept of least privilege access is to give users only as much access as they need to complete their specific job responsibilities. By following this concept, companies minimize each user’s exposure to sensitive information and areas on the network. To carry this out effectively, your company will have to carefully manage user permissions.
Strict device access control
An important complement to careful user access is the recommended practice of device access control. To accomplish this, your company must make sure that all company devices are authorized, have an effective system in place that monitors how many devices are trying to access your network, and continuously monitor and assess all devices to ensure they are not compromised.
Microsegmentation is the practice of breaking up security perimeters into small zones to ensure separate access requirements for different parts of the network. For example, a company network with files living in a data center that utilizes microsegmentation may contain a variety of separate, secure zones that each require new authorization. The network is protected by this practice as a user or program with access to one of those zones will not be able to access any of the other zones without separate authorization.
Stopping lateral movement
Lateral movement refers to the situation when a bad actor moves freely within a network after gaining access to it. Most hackers seek to achieve this freedom of movement in order to steadily compromise other parts of the network away from their entry point. Their main goal is to increase the attack surface, which is the area that cyber criminals can leverage for attacks. The ability of hackers to move laterally makes it more difficult for a company to detect and contain a data breach.
By design, Zero Trust user and device access is segmented and has to be periodically re-verified, which stops lateral movement. As a result, if a bad actor gains access to one microsegment of the network, they will not be able to move into another microsegment. In addition, once the trespasser’s presence is detected, the company can quarantine the device or user account and cut off further access to the network.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and Encryption
A core piece of the Zero Trust security model is Multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA requires that users supply an additional piece of authentication with their password, such as a code number sent to another device like a mobile phone, in order to gain access to the network.
Security experts also recommend utilizing encryption technology for sensitive data as well as internal and external communications.
Challenges of Adopting the Zero Trust Security Model
Although the Zero Trust security model could be valuable for your organization, there are some challenges that companies must be aware of before adopting this approach. Security experts emphasize that one of the main challenges of Zero Trust is technical debt, which includes the cost of retrofitting systems and architecture and installing systems for enhanced monitoring of the network. In addition, there is the challenge of adapting legacy devices and systems for enhanced verification. It would also be a significant burden for some companies to move from silos of data, containing both sensitive and less sensitive data, to segmentation based on data.
It is also important to note that companies based on a DevOps culture, where their network architecture supports a large amount of collaboration and shared access accounts, would have more difficulty moving to a Zero Trust security model.
Consult with a Trusted IT Partner
The use of a Zero Trust security model could well enhance your organization’s cybersecurity efforts, but it is important that you consult with a trusted IT Support Partner, like Network Depot, to assist you in determining if this approach is right for you. A reliable IT partner will take the time to assess your unique cybersecurity challenges to help ensure that your company is optimally protecting itself against these significant threats. Your IT partner will offer your small business valuable advice and will implement any necessary solutions to help protect your organization against aggressive cybercriminals.