Organizations today face a wide range of cybersecurity challenges that leave them vulnerable to complex risk; the rapidly evolving and sophisticated nature of cyber threats, the increasing complexity of IT environments, the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, the need to comply with regulations and standards, the rise of insider threats, and the difficulty in securing remote workers and cloud-based resources.
In response, more organizations are adopting a Zero Trust model, enabling them to leverage a comprehensive and adaptable security framework to better protect against a wide range of threats while also providing an enhanced user experience.
Approximately 97% of organizations currently have a Zero Trust program in place or intend on implementing one within the coming 12 to 18 months. Additionally, 96% of cybersecurity decision-makers perceive Zero Trust as vital to their business’s success.
However, organizations struggle with Zero Trust implementations. According to Gartner only 10% of large enterprises will have implemented mature and quantifiable Zero Trust programs by 2026, an increase from less than 1% today.
When implemented appropriately according to existing security programs, business challenges and digital maturity, Zero Trust can drastically strengthen an organization’s risk management position and minimize exposure to threats.
What is Zero Trust?
As a security model, Zero Trust assumes that all users, devices, and applications are untrusted and must be verified prior to being granted access to resources within a network. In the simplest terms, it’s a “trust only after verification” approach to cybersecurity; users are awarded access privileges solely for the exact resources they need.
Traditionally, network security was based on the concept of a trusted perimeter, where a firewall was used to block unauthorized access from outside the network. But with the rise of cloud computing, cross-platform mobile devices, and remote work, this concept is obsolete as it’s no longer effective against modern cyber threats.
Today the focus is on verifying security for every access request to a network, application or resource - no matter the user’s location or device.
Key principles of a Zero Trust model:
- Requires all network traffic to be verified and secured, regardless of whether it originates from inside or outside the network.
- Involves multiple layers of security controls, such as identity and access management, network segmentation, data protection, and continuous monitoring.
- Requires organizations to authenticate and authorize users, devices, and applications before granting access to resources.
- Access decisions are based on a combination of factors, including user identity, device type, location, behavior patterns, and the sensitivity of the resource being accessed.
- Minimizes risk and improves overall security posture by assuming that attackers are already inside the network and attempting to move laterally to access sensitive data.
- Requires networks, devices, and users to be constantly monitored for any signs of suspicious activity.
- Automated tools are used to detect and respond to security threats in real-time.
- Can be implemented via various security technologies and practices, including encryption, micro-segmentation, multi-factor authentication, and security analytics.
- Can be applied to both on-premises and cloud environments, and used to secure a wide range of resources, including data, endpoints, and applications.
- Is not a one-off implementation, but rather a continuous process of identifying and mitigating security risks over time.
Why are Organizations Moving to Zero Trust?
The rise of cloud computing, remote work, and mobile devices has blurred the boundaries of the traditional network perimeter, making it more difficult to protect against threats that come from both inside and outside the network.
Some of the key drivers behind the growing adoption of Zero Trust include:
Increased cybersecurity threats
The frequency, sophistication, and interconnection of cybersecurity threats, including social engineering-driven scams, makes it more difficult for organizations to defend against attacks. For example, there were 422 million victims of data breaches and personally identifiable information (PII) exposures in 2022, an increase from 294 million the previous year.
The acceleration of digital transformation initiatives has led to a corresponding surge in cloud adoption, mobile workforce, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that has eroded confidence in the ability of traditional security models to secure these new technologies and devices.
Many industries are subject to stringent compliance regulations, like HIPAA and PCI-DSS. This requires the implementation of robust security controls to prevent data breaches; limit access to sensitive data; secure cloud environments; provide a clear audit trail of all user access to sensitive data; identify possible vulnerabilities and take proactive measures to address them; and detect and respond to security incidents in real-time.
The pandemic-induced acceleration of remote work models makes it more challenging for organizations to control access to resources. Employees often access company resources from their personal devices, or public or unsecured networks, increasing security risks.
Insider threats, whether malicious or unwitting, pose a significant risk to modern organizations. For example, 31% of businesses suffered from at least one user falling victim to a phishing attack in 2022, and 16% of users exposed sensitive data via connections to high-risk hotspots. Business email compromise (BEC) attacks also rose last year by 81%, with 98% of employees failing to report the attack.
Improved user experience
Organizations are looking to enable more flexible work experiences by ensuring access to resources from anywhere, at any time. A more agile, context-aware, and risk-based approach to access control can improve the user experience while still maintaining strong security, and enable businesses to attract and retain top talent via a modern, user-friendly work environment.
The Journey to Zero Trust
Implementing a Zero Trust model can be challenging due to the complexity of IT environments, lack of visibility into what needs to be protected, comprehensive policy requirements for user access, implementation of diverse security controls, user experience considerations, and the need for continuous improvement.
Below are the typical steps involved in the transition to Zero Trust:
- Evaluate current environment: Assess your current environment and identify any dependencies on your on-premise Active Directory (AD) infrastructure. Determine what resources are currently integrated with AD and how they will be affected by the migration.
- Identity & access management: A robust identity and access management (IAM) solution must be implemented to ensure only authorized users and devices are accessing resources. Choose cloud-based IAM services, like Azure AD for example, which features authentication, single sign-on, multi-factor identification, role-based, access control, self-service password management, and integration with other Microsoft cloud services, like Intune. This functionality also eliminates the need for a traditional domain controller.
- Network segmentation: Networks should be segmented to limit resource access only to those who need them. This may involve creating micro-segments or using network virtualization technologies to isolate workloads.
- Data protection: Data needs to be protected from unauthorized access and exfiltration; this can include using encryption, data loss prevention (DLP), and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.
- Endpoint protection: Endpoints must be safeguarded from malware and other threats, which can involve using endpoint management solutions, like Windows Autopilot and Microsoft Intune. The latter, for instance, enables device configuration, policies for device security, and ensures that devices are up-to-date with the latest security patches.
- Continuous monitoring: Networks, devices and users must be continuously monitored in real-time for any signs of suspicious activity via security measures such as behavioral analytics tools.
- Cloud security: Cloud environments need to be secured using similar Zero Trust principles, including leveraging cloud access security brokers (CASBs), identity federation, and other cloud security tools. A cloud security assessment can be valuable in identifying areas of exposure and planning for future challenges.
Transitioning to a Zero Trust model is a significant change for any organization, and it requires an intentional approach to ensure that it’s implemented correctly. Support from a top tier Microsoft consultant, like CloudServus, can be incredibly valuable by delivering expert guidance, identifying potential risks, and minimizing operational disruption.
The modern risk landscape requires a new approach towards cybersecurity. Don’t hesitate to connect with us at CloudServus to start implementing your Zero Trust model with confidence and maintain a strong security posture over time.