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What is Zero Trust?

illustration of girl siting in computer looking for security errors
You’ve heard the saying: “Trust, but verify.” In this case, we never trust and always verify.

In today’s online world, your network is the lifeblood of your organization. You rely on its safety and efficiency at every point, from keeping remote workers connected to securely storing data. To keep this virtual architecture safe, cybersecurity tools and protocols are always evolving and it’s imperative that you keep pace.

 

The Zero Trust cybersecurity approach hinges on the fact that all network users must be continuously verified before being given any access to data or internal applications.

“Continuously verified” is the key takeaway here. Think of it this way: networks used to be much like a locked building. You present your credentials at the door, and you’re in (a “trust model”). Roam the halls, visit different wings… the place is yours. If this same building was secured with a Zero Trust approach, you’d need to present your credentials at the door, like the trust model, but then also at any other subsequent door, wing, or office you try to enter. Sure, you were allowed in, but that doesn’t  mean you now have free access.

With so much network traffic in motion these days, this cybersecurity model helps prevent cyberattacks at the network perimeter, isolate problems, monitor lateral movement, and minimize damage should an event occur.


 

How do Zero Trust security models work?

There are two components as you plan your Zero Trust strategy: securing individual users, and securing applications and infrastructure across your entire network. Here’s what it looks like.

 

Phase 1: Build a plan around your most critical assets

Phase 1 can actually be split into two steps: identifying your critical assets and data, then identifying specific users and what their level of visibility and access will be.

This exercise is a perfect kick-off since it acts as a catalyst for developing your Zero Trust plan. You have to have a clear bead on what’s most important and what clearance you’re offering on the user level. You can then structure and prioritize around this information, using it as a blueprint.

 

Phase 2: User integrity and multi-factor authentication

There are a number of security levers that can be pulled here, like risk-based multi-factor authentication. As an example, you may always need to provide a username and password to access a certain portion of your network. If you’re on a trip, however, and try to access that same information from across the country, it triggers a security alert because of your abnormal location and IP address, requiring extra verification steps.

Zero Trust also advocates the deployment of additional endpoint security measures, like a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) that follows the user and your device. This ensures a higher level of personal security regardless of your location.

 

Phase 3: Secure access to applications

Remember, the beauty of Zero Trust is that it doesn’t just watch the “entrances” to your network, but also watches for security breaches and red flags within the network itself. These measures include:

  • Putting specific controls on individual user actions
  • Leveraging analytics to make real-time access decisions
  • Watching for abnormal behavior within your applications
  • Maintaining application permissions, and ensuring that those permission levels are enforced

 

Phase 4: Secure your infrastructure

Zooming in on user-level policies and permissions is important, but so is zooming out to gain a comprehensive look at your Zero Trust approach on an infrastructure level. Cloud-based networks, supply chain, switches, routes, IoT (Internet of Things)… All of your hardware and software can be vulnerable. The ultimate goal is to eliminate cybersecurity threats completely, but at the very least this approach allows you to pinpoint risk early on, isolate, and reduce the “blast radius.”

As an added benefit, a Zero Trust approach is built on a thorough analysis of your system, users, and current security. This exercise can expose vulnerabilities and malicious actors that you might never have otherwise discovered (until it was too late).

 


 

Benefits of Zero Trust network access

Here’s a quick recap:
  •  Zero Trust evaluates the risk associated with each connection (this encompasses individual users as well as hardware and software within your infrastructure)
  • Allows you to control user identity: who has access to specific data and applications
  • Helps to prevent attacks because there is no single point of failure
  • Offers more holistic, comprehensive security protection
  • Security levels can be customized for different types of users and traffic within your network
  • Real-time monitoring of network activity, including a quick response to nefarious actions
  • The impact of cyberattacks and security breaches can be contained

 

Zero Trust use cases

Is Zero Trust the right approach for your organization? Here are a few examples of when it’s the perfect fit.

 

IT management made easier

Efficiencies can be layered in, especially when it comes to granting routine access requests without IT intervention (Privileged Access Management). This leaves more time to focus on critical concerns and threat monitoring.

 

Reduce network traffic jams

Building on our point above, Zero Trust reduces the need for an IT bottleneck. Routine access is granted immediately based on your user permissions; no more clogged VPN traffic.

 

Centralized security monitoring and improved security posture

With eyes on all your network assets, Zero Trust allows you to compile a storehouse of data. In turn, this translates to more in-depth analytics and key insights, letting your IT and security team work with greater efficiency than ever.

 

Secure cloud-based networks for remote access

Is your team scattered across a wide geographic area? You aren’t alone. The shifting landscape has created the need for a more agile, comprehensive security solution that reaches far beyond premise-based firewalls. The trust model just won’t cut it. Zero Trust is designed to build security protocols on the user level, making it ideal for remote environments.

 


 

The takeaway?

If you’re looking for ways to improve your network security without growing your IT team and infrastructure, all while adding huge efficiencies along the way, Zero Trust is an approach worth looking into. And if you haven’t partnered with an IT or cybersecurity team yet, now is definitely the time. It’s absolutely essential in today’s cyber environment.

Please reach out to our Teltek team with any additional questions. Contact us at Teltek! We’re here to help, and specialize in offering personalized IT services and solutions.

Teltek Blogger


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