In today’s digital age, businesses have been pushing the notion of outsourcing more and more IT security controls to cloud providers in order to reduce costs and efforts. However, a recent study conducted by The Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Palo Alto Networks found that 64 percent of organizations who outsource at least one activity to a third-party vendor are implementing zero-trust models for their most sensitive data.
More than ever, enterprises and organizations must face the reality of evolving cyber threats. The question remains: How is your company responding to these threats?
In this blog post, we will be discussing what is zero-trust model, its core principles, and why implementing it is imperative for enterprise security.
What is a Zero Trust Model?
In the past, systems were built as if everything can be trusted. However, as the security landscape has changed and evolved into one of the constant cybersecurity threats, this approach has become unmaintainable. The new trend is to trust nothing or no one. This is known as a Zero Trust model. It is a departure from the traditional model in which we assume a user is who they say they are and grant them full access to our systems and applications. The Zero Trust Model was introduced in 2002 by Charles Henderson and Eric Cole at Cisco Systems. It is based on the principle that “if you can’t trust your users or devices, then logically you must assume that they are malicious.” This shift from an assumption of trust toward one of distrust has profound implications for how we access and secure data.
In practice, this means that we no longer assume that a password is sufficient to validate a user but add multi-factor authentication to provide additional checks. Instead of granting access to all devices on the corporate network, users are allowed access only to the specific applications or data that they need.
Zero Trust Guiding Principles
The Zero Trust model has three principles which guide and underpin how security is implemented. These are:
1. Verify explicitly
Verification means that there is not a default trust relationship between users and systems. Instead, the user must explicitly request access to a resource or system, and this request must be accompanied by evidence that the user is who they say they are. Therefore, always authenticate and authorize based on the available data points, including user identity, location, device, service or workload, data classification, and anomalies.
2. Least privileged access
This means that each user is granted the absolute minimum set of privileges necessary for them to perform their job. Limit users with just-in-time and just-enough access (JIT/JEA), risk-based adaptive policies, and data protection to protect both data and productivity.
This helps prevent accidental or malicious misuse of corporate assets by users.
3. Assume breach
The third guiding principle is that every single user within an organization can be assumed to be malicious until proven otherwise—this includes employees, contractors, partners, and suppliers alike—and all security measures should be put in place to protect against this possibility as much as possible. As a result, segment access by network, user, devices, and application. Use encryption to protect data, and use analytics to get visibility, detect threats, and improve your security.
The Benefits Of Zero Trust Models
There are several reasons why zero-trust models are gaining popularity. First, they help companies implement more effective cybersecurity practices. While this all sounds good in theory, it has real-world implications as well: if your company is compromised by a cyberattack, you can rest easier knowing that your data is secure from malicious actors.
Second, zero trust models can help with compliance requirements. If you’re dealing with HIPAA regulations or other laws that require you to protect sensitive information about customers or employees, implementing a zero-trust model is an easy way to ensure compliance with those regulations without having to worry about compliance issues later down the line when something happens (like an employee accidentally downloading malware onto their work computer).
Thirdly, using a zero-trust model means reducing risk for your business by allowing employees access only when needed and limiting access when not required (for example: allowing employees to access only their own information).
Finally, since this approach protects against both internal threats like malware infections as well as external threats like phishing attacks and ransomware, you can rest assured that your data is safe.
So, let’s sum it all up. You, the organization, and your assets have value. The Zero Trust model makes sure that your value is maintained by preserving the integrity and security of your assets, while still allowing them access to all of the critical information and capabilities they need to be functional. It levels the playing field, forces everyone to abide by a single set of rules, and strengthens corporate defences in every area of IT. Bottom line? The Zero Trust model ensures that you’re getting the most security money can buy from your investments in IT. And now you know why it’s called Zero Trust.
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