Taking a “Trust but Verify” Approach
Historically, many organizations have had a perimeter-focused security model. This model is similar to that of a castle, where a perimeter wall keeps the potential attackers out, while everything inside of the perimeter is considered “trusted”. Under this security model, cybersecurity defenses are deployed at the network perimeter and inspect inbound and outbound traffic to block potential threats before they can cause harm to an organization.
However, this security model has its issues. Like a castle, if someone inside the perimeter is a threat, then the defenses provide no protection against them. Additionally, any resources outside of the protected network perimeter – including an organization’s cloud infrastructure, remote workers, etc. – are not protected at all.
A zero trust security model is designed to eliminate the security risks associated with a perimeter-based model. Instead of blindly trusting anyone within the perimeter, access requests are granted on a case-by-case basis. These decisions are based upon role-based access controls, where a user’s or application’s permissions are derived from their role and responsibilities within the organization.
Technologies Behind Zero Trust Architecture
A zero trust security strategy breaks the process of managing user access into two stages:
- User Authentication: A zero trust architecture is founded on the concept of strong user identity verification. Role-based access controls are tied to user identity, so strongly verifying the identity of a user is of paramount importance.
- Access Management: After a user’s identity has been verified, it is necessary to ensure the user is authorized to access the resource. This includes ensuring that access controls cannot be bypassed, which would allow unauthorized access to resources.
Implementing a zero-trust architecture requires a few technologies:
- Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM solutions are designed to define and manage the permissions associated with user accounts within an enterprise network. IAM solutions make the decisions of whether to allow or deny an access request in a zero trust architecture.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Password-based authentication is insecure due to the common use of weak or reused passwords and high probability of credential compromise. Strong user authentication in a zero trust architecture requires MFA to ensure user identity.
- Endpoint Protection: A compromised endpoint may allow an attacker to use an authorized user’s session to gain access to protected resources. Strong endpoint security is essential to protecting against compromised accounts.
- Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA): Telework is becoming increasingly common, making it necessary to implement zero trust as part of secure remote access. ZTNA technologies enable continuous monitoring and applying the principles of a zero trust architecture to remote connections.
- Microsegmentation: Perimeter-based network firewalls are not enough to implement zero trust security. Internal network segmentation is essential to enforcing zero trust policies within the enterprise network.
- Visibility and Analytics: A zero trust architecture includes components that continually monitor, correlate and analyze logs for signs of compromise, for instance phishing, compromised credentials, etc.).
Main Benefits of Zero Trust Security
Zero trust security is designed to restrict unauthorized access to corporate resources by enforcing role-based access control policies, micro-segmentation and monitoring. This provides a number of benefits to an organization, including:
- Reduced Cybersecurity Risk: Cybercriminals rarely gain immediate access to their objective, and, instead, must move laterally through the network from their initial entry point to their goal. Zero trust security makes this lateral movement more difficult by restricting the access that any account has to resources on the network. This makes an attack easier to detect and decreases the attacker’s probability of success.
- Improved Network Visibility: With a perimeter-focused security model, an organization largely has visibility into network traffic at the network perimeter. With a zero trust architecture enforced by micro-segmentation, it can achieve a much more granular level of visibility. This both improves detection of cyberattacks and can help with network optimization.
- Simplified Regulatory Compliance: Data protection regulations commonly require organizations to prove that access to sensitive data is limited based upon need-to-know. With a zero trust architecture, an organization can easily enforce these access controls and demonstrate compliance to regulators.
Deploying Zero Trust Security
Implementing zero trust security can dramatically decrease an organization’s cyber risk. Additionally, this model can help to improve threat detection and increase visibility into an organization’s internal network.
However, designing and implementing an effective zero trust architecture is a multistage process. To learn more about how to implement zero trust, check out A Practical Approach to Implementing Zero Trust Security. You’re also welcome to watch this webinar to see how Check Point Infinity can help to easily and effectively implement a zero trust architecture within your organization.