As businesses rely more on non-employees to perform critical functions, they must adopt an overarching system like Zero Trust to verify and control their access to applications and infrastructure. It is especially important as work-from-home (WFH) becomes the norm and BYOD risks business devices. Zero trust uses micro-segmentation to continuously authenticate users and verify devices, ensuring only those with the least privilege are allowed into the network. It also limits the blast radius in case a breach does occur.
Data Loss Prevention
With cyberattacks like phishing, DDoS, ransomware and DNS data exfiltration on the rise, enterprises must take a holistic approach to protecting their applications, infrastructure, data and customers. Zero trust security addresses these needs by leveraging a “never trust, always verify” methodology to secure identities, devices, applications and network access while providing visibility and automation. With the advent of WFH and BYOD, corporate infrastructure constantly shifts across geographic locations. It means that traditional location-based security technologies that rely on the company headquarters are no longer effective. A zero trust architecture can control the threat landscape by addressing the risks associated with the proliferation of unmanaged work-from-home (WFH) devices, wi-fi networks and other remote environments.
The core principles of zero trust security are continuous identity verification, device health verification, limited application access and end-to-end encryption. These controls can prevent lateral movement within the network by limiting the blast radius in case of an internal breach. They can also reduce the potential impact of external violations by enforcing strict policies on service accounts and preventing them from connecting to sensitive services or systems.
The access control system determines the level of privilege given to each authenticated user, device, or service. It is done through policies, encoding, authentication, authorization, logging and monitoring, and alerting. It is a critical component of zero trust that ensures devices and users are properly secured before they gain access to the private network. It requires each user and device to be verified as trusted before accessing the private network, regardless of location or inside or outside the corporate firewall. The model uses identity as the new perimeter and focuses on authentication rather than network addresses to continuously verify each user and device.
It also limits the impact of a breach should one occur because it minimizes lateral movement across the enterprise by controlling the scope of any data leak. The access control system can also apply granular attributes to restrict user access, such as vertical privilege escalation based on a user’s role or function within the organization. It allows only those with a clear need for complete network access to be granted full access.
As businesses shift to a cloud environment, they must consider how their infrastructure and data are protected. Zero trust offers a solution aligned with today’s security needs, including a more distributed work environment, the rapid adoption of a mobile workforce and ransomware threats. Least privilege access is a key security principle in a zero-trust setup. It allows users and devices to gain access only to those essential services, applications or infrastructure for them to do their jobs. It minimizes the number of points hackers could use to enter the network and saves time and resources by reducing the need for multi-factor authentication measures.
Traditionally, traditional networks trusted everything that came through their perimeter, but this approach put organizations at risk from internal actors using compromised credentials and lateral movement from untrustworthy hosts. A zero-trust architecture eliminates this threat by assuming the network is already breached and authenticating each user, device, application, service and workload before granting access. It is accomplished through a combination of micro-segmentation, least privilege, rich intelligence and analytics and a granular approach to enforcing policy at the network layer.
Zero trust requires a different approach to authenticate users, devices and applications. Instead of trusting things based on the network location (the castle-and-moat model), zero-trust networks rely on identity as the foundation for new perimeters and access control decisions.
A key element is continuously verifying access rather than just once when someone enters the network. That involves having a risk evaluation engine that profiles how users and user classes behave in your networks, including their typical interactions with cloud workloads, email and more. Then, a security policy is triggered, and if the profile matches a known threat, the request is denied.
In addition to preventing access, zero trust also limits the number of ways attackers can move laterally in your organization. That’s important, as compromised credentials are the leading cause of data breaches. Zero trust can eliminate lateral movement by limiting which systems, apps and data an attacker can access, even if they can compromise your authenticator. For instance, it can automatically block lateral movement from cloud deployments after a breach and limit which employees can access cloud data through their workstations.
A zero-trust security framework requires access to applications, data, and resources to be mutually authenticated and continuously validated for network security configuration and posture. It eliminates the moat attackers can use to gain access and provides a more mature security architecture for advanced threat protection as networks evolve to hybrid environments with distributed remote workforces.
In addition to reducing the amount of implicit trust required, micro-segmentation can reduce the attack surface by blocking threats from moving laterally in the network. It can prevent the devastating attacks from the 2021 software supply chain breach known as Sunburst, in which malware was delivered through a legitimate update process.
Segmentation can also help with granular access control, which can be difficult to implement with a VPN. VPNs work at a higher level of abstraction and only provide authentication but do not allow for the enforcement of specific permissions for individual workloads. However, with a zero-trust approach, micro-segmentation can significantly reduce the attack surface and limit damage from lateral movements by threats even after an initial breach.