What is Zero Trust Security?

By Phoebe Fasulo

Posted on Aug 3, 2020

Way back in 2010, John Kindervag, Principal Analyst of Forrester Research, founded the Zero Trust Network model. Now, over a decade later, corporate executives around the world are increasingly implementing this innovative system as the need to protect enterprise systems and sensitive data significantly grows.

But what exactly is Zero Trust Security and how can it help your organization protect itself against cyber attacks? Let’s take a deep dive into this sophisticated system to see how it can benefit your enterprise.

What is a Zero Trust Security concept?

The Zero Trust Security method is based around the belief that companies should not automatically trust every person and device both inside or outside its perimeters. Rather, this model requires stringent identity verification for everyone and everything trying to access resources on a private network.

A Zero Trust system continually and dynamically assesses trust each and every time a device or a user requests access to its network. Instead of using a specific, single technology method, Zero Trust utilizes a holistic approach to network security that incorporates a dynamic concoction of principles. This approach greatly prevents the risk of cyber attackers from taking advantage of perimeter weaknesses to gain entry, and, once inside, move laterally to access sensitive data.

Traditional IT network security was founded on the Castle-and-Moat method. In this type of security concept, it’s tough to obtain access from outside the organization’s network. However, every person and device inside of the network is trusted by default. The issue here is that once the cyber attacker has network access, they have complete freedom to exploit everything inside.

This vulnerability is only magnified by the fact that enterprises no longer keep all of their sensitive data in one single location. Today, it is often spread across cloud vendors, making it harder to have a single security control for the whole network.

Zero Trust requires extensive verification from every user and device trying to access resources on the network. This added layer of security has been proven to significantly decrease data breaches. In fact, a 2019 study by Radware and Merrill Research found that the average cost of one data breach was over $4.6 million. Considering this staggering figure, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that numerous enterprises are now chomping at the bit to adopt a Zero Trust Security policy.

What are the principles behind the Zero Trust method?

The Zero Trust Security philosophy assumes that no machine or user, both outside and within a network, should be trusted automatically. Additionally, another Zero Trust Security system principle is least-privilege access. This means that a user is only given as much access as they need. Think of it like the army giving troops information on a need-to-know basis. This vastly reduces every user’s exposure to sensitive data.

Micro-segmentation

Many Zero Trust networks use micro-segmentation. This practice divides up the security perimeters into smaller zones to maintain separate access to different components of the network. For instance, a network that has files living in one data center that uses the micro-segmentation method may contain a dozen secure, separate zones. A device or user with access to only one of these zones won’t be able to access any of the other zones without separate approval.

Multi-factor authentication

Another core value of Zero Trust is multi-factor authentication (MFA). This means that more than one piece of evidence is mandated to authenticate a user. Simply entering one password is not enough. A common MFA application is a 2-factor authorization (2FA) that Google utilizes. In addition to entering their password, users who enable 2FA must additionally enter a special code sent to their mobile phone, thus providing two separate pieces of evidence to prove who they claim to be.

Benefits of a Zero Trust methodology

Here are some benefits for businesses that use a Zero Trust Security network:

  • Better protection over sensitive data: Enforcing a Zero Trust Security solution ensures that only authorized and authenticated devices and users gain access to your network, mitigating sensitive data exfiltration.
  • Gaining visibility into organization traffic: Visibility is the cornerstone of verification. Utilizing a Zero Trust policy enables your security team to see exactly who and what is accessing the network, from where, and at what time.
  • A streamlined security solution: Zero Trust is implemented in the cloud. This allows organizations to use a single service to secure all of their data, devices, applications, and users.

How SecurityScorecard’s Atlas helps with a Zero Trust policy

SecurityScorecard’s Atlas aligns cybersecurity risk questionnaire responses with security ratings, providing an instant 360° view of cybersecurity risk and automatic validation of responses, enabling companies to objectively pinpoint risk.

With the power of these two products combined, your enterprise can evaluate the security posture of your third and fourth-party ecosystem and collaborate with your business partners to maintain a secure ecosystem.

Your third party ecosystem is a part of your extended enterprise. By verifying third-party vendors from the get-go and continuously monitoring them, your business will trust but verify your partners. This empowers your organization to cherry-pick only qualified, secured vendors that meet the standards you hold yourself to, and prevent cyber threats.

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