By defaulting devices to the least privileged user roles within an organization, the zero trust security model is a top cybersecurity architecture. Throughout this blog post, we'll explore what zero trust security architecture is, how does it function, zero trust security use cases, and its principles.
Zero trust security architecture is a strategic approach to cybersecurity that eliminates implicit trust and continually validates the digital interactions of all parties. A zero trust architecture follows the "never trust, always verify" principle and enforces access policies based on context, including the user's role and location, their device, and the data they are requesting. This approach has many benefits, such as simpler network infrastructure, better user experience, increased cybersecurity, and improved IT governance. A well-tuned zero trust security architecture leads to simpler network infrastructure, better user experience, and improved cyber threat defense. Additionally, zero trust creates a culture of security where everyone is accountable for their actions, and access control is consistent across teams and organizations.
Assume everything is hostile by default, the fundamental idea of zero trust. It's a significant break from the centralized data center and secure network perimeter network security paradigm, which has been in use since the '90s. To create restrictions and verify what's trusted inside the network, these network architectures usually depend on authorized IP addresses, ports, and protocols to establish access control.
A zero-trust strategy, on the other hand, considers all traffic to be hostile, no matter how it got there. Workloads, for example, are unable to communicate until they have been validated by a set of authentication attributes, such as a fingerprint.
Due to the environment-agnostic nature of the protection, the zero trust model secures services and applications regardless of cross-network communication. This does not require any policy updates or architectural changes.
The principle of Zero trust is rooted in the principle of ‘never trust, always verify’. In a zero trust environment, the user is required to trust the digital asset at each stage of authentication. This trust is expressed through strong authentication methods such as two-factor authentication (2FA), digital certificates, and network segmentation. These methods help secure user access to devices, applications, files, networks, and other resources from a single open cloud directory platform. It also simplifies granular policies such as ‘least access’ security policies. Furthermore, zero trust security model secures user access to digital assets under the control of the enterprise by preventing access to untrusted digital assets or systems. It helps avoid accidental or malicious loss of data or disruption of services for users and customers.
The Zero Trust security architecture is based on the principle of continuous monitoring and validation. This ensures that user identity, privileges, and device identity are periodically verified and re-verified . This model makes sure that user access to data and systems can be tailored to their security needs. All while ensuring that inappropriate access is blocked. A zero trust architecture also helps reduce the overall cost of cybersecurity. It reduces the need for additional security controls such as access control lists and firewalls. Overall, a zero trust architecture can help improve cybersecurity by reducing risk and uncertainty while providing increased security for sensitive data and systems.
The principle of least privilege and zero trust security model complement each other since they both restrict access to resources. Zero trust security architecture seeks to establish trust through context - user's location, user's device security posture, exchanged content, and the requested application. By establishing trust through context, zero trust architecture can ensure that a malicious actor can only access what that user has permission to access and not necessarily the entire network. Least privilege access enables an organization to minimize the damage if an end-user account becomes compromised. Everyone in the organization should have the least amount of access they need. This minimizes the risk of data loss or misuse.
Zero Trust also requires tight controls over device access, in addition to enforcing limits on user access. Devices must be authorized. Also, all devices must be evaluated to guarantee they have not been compromised before Zero Trust systems can keep track of how many different devices are attempting to access their network. As a result, the network's attack surface is further reduced.
Microsegmentation is an approach that involves creating secure zones, protecting elements containing sensitive information, or providing access to malicious actors. It is beneficial for zero trust security model, as it can protect the rest of the network from threats. It is typically used in a network where sensitive data or services are present in multiple segments. This can be an organizational network, data center, and the cloud. By segmenting the network, IT can ensure that data is only accessed from secure locations and cannot be compromised. Microsegmentation is an effective way to protect data from potential threats and enable secure access across an organization's various assets. By creating zones within a network, organizations can ensure that sensitive data or services are protected and cannot be breached.
Zero trust security architecture is designed to contain attackers and prevent lateral movement by segmenting access and requiring periodic re-establishment of trust. Zero Trust authentication continuously monitors user behavior and validates proper privileges and attributes. Its architecture also enforces the principle of least privilege, limiting lateral movement within the network model. By enforcing consistent authorization policies for all users, Zero trust helps reduce the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data and systems.
Zero trust security places a high value on multi-factor authentication (MFA). Simply providing a password does not suffice. Additional authentication factors such as possession or inherence need to be applied as well. For example, a complete example of 2FA on a web service would include both passwords and OTPs sent to the users' mobile devices.
Zero trust solutions terminate all applications and services from communicating until their identity attributes are verified. These attributes need to fulfill defined trust criteria, such as authentication and authorization standards. By continuous credential checks of every communicating asset, the zero trust security model further reduces risk.
Every entity is deemed hostile, according to the concept of least privilege. Before "trust" is granted, every request is inspected, permissions are assessed, and users and devices are authenticated. As the context changes, such as the user's location or the data being accessed, this "trust" is constantly reassessed. An intruder gaining access to your network via a hacked device or vulnerability will be unable to access your data if zero trust is applied. Moreover, the attacker will have nowhere to go since the zero trust model creates a "safe segment of one" with no possibility of lateral movement.
All user and workload connections are protected by zero trust shields, preventing them from being exposed or exploited. As a result of its concealment, it is simpler to demonstrate compliance with privacy norms (such as PCI DSS and NIST 800-207). With fine-grained controls to distinguish regulated and non-regulated data, you may build perimeters around certain kinds of sensitive data by implementing zero trust microsegmentation. This can apply to payment card data and data backups. Microsegmentation provides greater insight and control than the over-privileged access of many flat network architectures during audits or in the event of a data breach.
When it comes to security, the zero trust security model operates on the principle of maintaining strict access controls. This also includes those already inside the network perimeter. This approach was created based on the realization that traditional security models operate on the outdated assumption. This implied that everything inside an organization’s network should be implicitly trusted. By implementing layered security controls, you protect applications, data, and network assets. All while drastically reducing risks from malicious insiders and compromised accounts.
Some of the benefits of zero trust security include:
Zero trust security architecture is based on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” In order to achieve zero trust, all devices and users in the network must be continuously verified for trustworthiness. This verification process is performed by verifying the user against known access policies. Some examples are their role and location, the device they are using, and the data requested. If a user doesn't meet these access policies, they are not trusted, and access to that resource is blocked. In order to protect data and resources from unauthorized access, strict user authentication and least-privileged access controls are enforced. Automated context collection and response use behavioral data from the entire IT stack for the most accurate security measures. The main principles of the zero trust security model are:
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