Zero trust requires strict controls on users and devices. Authenticating users and assessing devices to ensure they have basic security hygiene and aren’t a known threat is key. Another principle is continuous verification, reassessing permissions constantly based on contexts like user identity, device health, service or workload, and data classification. It provides visibility unaffected by network constructs, enabling protection to travel with the workload.
Principle of Continuous Verification
Never trust anything; always verify it. Constantly authenticate and approve access depending on user identification, location, device, data sources, service, and workload, among other data points. Zero trust principles assume a breach has already occurred. It reduces the blast radius of damage by segmenting access, reducing the attack surface, verifying end-to-end encryption, and monitoring in real time. Traditional security approaches were built around a trust model, automatically trusting users and devices within the perimeter, leaving them vulnerable to internal actors and compromised credentials. This model needed to be revised with the rise of digital transformation, accelerating work from anywhere, and cloud migrations changing how and where we work.
For your network environment to be secure and protected from the most cutting-edge cyber attacks, you must adopt a new way of thinking and integrate different cybersecurity solutions. It includes identifying sensitive or valuable information caches, mapping common data flows, and defining granular access control policies to ensure the least privilege per request in a network viewed as compromised. This framework combines risk-based multi-factor authentication, advanced threat protection (including IPS/IDS, next-generation endpoint and robust cloud workload technology), dynamic context collection, and automation of the 5 W’s (who is trying to access what, from where, with what device, why and how). Zero trust will allow you to safely enable your employees’ mobility and flexibility while protecting your most important business data and systems when implemented correctly.
Principle of Least Privilege
The principle of least privilege is one of the fundamental pillars of Zero Trust security. It applies to human and non-human (machine) access and ensures that each user is only granted the minimum permissions required to execute approved tasks. It minimizes the cybersecurity exposure gap created by identity sprawl and privileged access. The more access a user has, the more damage a malicious actor could cause if their account is compromised. For example, if attackers gain access to a rogue IT administrator’s account with full domain access, they can cause catastrophic data breaches and malware infections. It is why adherence to the principle of least privilege is so critical for admin accounts.
Least privilege enables organizations to prevent privilege creep by reviewing and limiting access continuously. It reduces the number of accounts that can be breached and allows organizations to show compliance with industry and federal regulations. To implement the principle of least privilege, Zero Trust utilizes risk-based multi-factor authentication, identity protection, next-generation endpoint and workload technology to verify and consider access on a case-by-case basis. It provides a continuous verification process that limits the “blast radius” of potential damage if a network is viewed as compromised and enables more granular access control decisions to be made for each request.
Principle of micro-segmentation
Zero trust security and micro-segmentation work together to create a comprehensive network security model that enables organizations to implement granular access controls, limit lateral movement, and continuously verify everything. This approach provides a robust defense against modern threats and vulnerabilities.
Microsegmentation defines a set of rules that govern how systems communicate with each other within the same segment. It can be done using network-based, overlay or software-defined technologies (such as a virtual firewall). Network-based segmentation uses physical and virtual devices like load balancers, switches, and software-defined networking to enforce security policies. Overlay and software-defined network technology use virtual overlay networks, application layer firewalls, and other software to define a micro-perimeter around critical applications. Cloud-native security controls use the capabilities built into each platform to provide segmentation and policy enforcement.
The granular access control that micro-segmentation delivers facilitates the application of the principle of least privilege. It also reduces the attack surface by isolating potential threats into specific segments, reducing the risk of a compromised device or user account affecting many systems and users.
In addition, it can help simplify policy management by connecting pre-defined policies to individual application workloads rather than having a single security policy that applies to an entire server or host. It is especially important for modern cloud environments, where a single server may host multiple workloads or applications.
Principle of Automatization
In addition to deploying the zero trust framework, organizations must deploy monitoring and alerting tools to capture when malicious activities occur. It enables security staff to quickly stamp out attacks and determine whether the zero-trust framework has been exploited or has cracks. Continuous verification is a core principle of zero trust because it provides the visibility needed to ensure access is granted appropriately. It is particularly important as networks evolve and connect new devices, applications and data to those existing systems. The system must be able to continuously inspect and record network traffic information to confirm that access is legitimate.
The security framework must also be able to enrich that data and provide identity and context to enable more precise analysis. It is critical since human analysts are not well suited for reviewing large volumes of data and determining whether it is safe to allow access. A successful zero-trust implementation requires advanced technologies, including risk-based multi-factor authentication, next-generation endpoint security, robust cloud workload security, and encryption. A zero-trust architecture must also incorporate behavior-based threat analytics and continuous verification of users, devices, zones and credentials. It enables the security infrastructure to defend against today’s most sophisticated cyber threats as effectively as possible.