Nothing and no one can be trusted for data and privacy. A single leak can be catastrophic. Security and anonymity are of paramount importance and must be guaranteed. The stakes are high and so is the need for a Zero Trust Architecture.
What is Zero Trust Architecture?
A Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) is a strict no-trust approach to cybersecurity. It does not assume that a system is secure and makes every user -- internal or external, go through a multi-layer authentication process. The framework grants access to resources only after strict scrutiny and verification.
The rigid architecture is built on zero-trust principles, such as:
- Airtight access management
- Strict device and user authentication, and
- Strong segmentation
It has emerged as a strong alternative to the traditional models of network security and "castle and moat" architecture, which are inherently flawed in the face of today's increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. They trust anything and everything inside the network perimeter by default and misplace intense focus on external threats (recent incidents show insiders can do much more serious harm than external hackers).
A zero-trust architecture creates a far more secure environment that protects companies against unauthorized access to sensitive data and digital assets. It integrates robust security systems, sanitizes threat surfaces, and maximizes the use and authority of authentication. Here are the top best practices for implementing a zero-trust architecture in your organization:
Identify your data: A company's inability to locate its critical and sensitive data is an enormous threat to security. Unidentified data is an easy target for attackers and can be devastating to the company’s reputation and financial well-being. Hence, it's crucial to identify all data types and their locations, to ensure that they are secured appropriately. Track data movement across the organization and determine how it is stored.
You can't protect what you can't find.
- Define standard security protocols: Every data and organization has its own unique requirements. According to the sensitivity of the data, and the nature of the industry, define security procedures. Set security metrics and procedures for each type of information and clearly communicate how each set of data will be scrutinized and stored. Identify access points, determine who will have access to which information, and decide how many layers of information will be placed on top of the data. The treatment of data should be consistent across the organization, and all employees should be trained on security protocols.
Verify the User with Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): Gone are the days when passwords were enough to secure data. In today's sophisticated world of cyberattacks, passwords can be cracked easily, and hackers can impersonate the user. So, multi-factor authentication is a need and not a choice.
Access to information should be granted only after several unique pieces of proof of identity are presented by the user. The system should not discriminate against any type of user and should frisk them impartially.
Validate the Device: Just like users, devices should also be validated. Irrespective of its location, IP address, and type, each device should be checked for its authenticity and compliance with the security policy. To strengthen security, organizations can:
- Limit verified devices to specific network segments, rather than granting access network-wide.
- Enforce stringent security checks for devices and applications before they gain the access to protected resources.
- Update the software and firmware on the device and keep it up to date.
- In a protected environment, test security controls against the most prevalent attacks and malware families.
Choose the right tools: Invest in the right tool. As per the nature of work and data, choose the ones that meet the needs and comply with security requirements. Go for a comprehensive set of tools and software that are not only robust but also can be seamlessly integrated with existing infrastructure. From network security monitoring to endpoint protection to antivirus software, a firm should be equipped with all the tools and technologies that are needed to strengthen the Zero-trust architecture.
Some cybersecurity tools offer a comprehensive security suite with protection against many security vulnerabilities and threats, while other security solutions focus on specific threats or categories of vulnerabilities, such as network security, endpoint security, threat intelligence, firewall protection, intrusion detection systems, malware protection, vulnerability management, and external attack surface management among others.
The purchases should be done after considering the organization's needs, the type of data, and the security goals set forth by the company.
- Monitor and maintain: Zero Trust Architecture is an approach that needs to be continuously monitored and maintained. A company can't sit back and assume that the ZTA will do all the work. They need to keep a constant watch on the tools and processes. To better implement Zero Trust Approach, companies must make it a part of their culture. Security SOPs should be religiously followed at every step and closely monitored and maintained by the security teams. New employees should be trained and sensitized to the importance of Zero Trust. Educate employees about what the trust and privacy of the customers mean to the organization and why security is critical. They should also be apprised of the repercussions of any security breach or compromise of data.
The digital landscape is growing complex and vast, with new threats emerging daily. This paradigm shift, in the realm of cybersecurity, has created a conducive environment for the wide adoption of Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). Enterprises are abandoning the traditional trust-based security models and adopting an approach that is built on the premise of a 'never trust, always verify' principle. It puts strict access controls, continuous authentication, and network segmentation in place to minimize the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. Furthermore, Zero Trust Architecture provides a robust framework that promotes enhanced visibility and streamlined security management across the entire IT infrastructure. ZTA reinforces the importance of thorough security scrutiny for all interactions within a system and across the enterprise.