Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

What is Zero Trust Security and How to Implement It?

The traditional security models are no longer completely reliable. The dynamic technology and threat landscapes necessitate a different security..

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The traditional security models are no longer completely reliable. The dynamic technology and threat landscapes necessitate a different security model that is adept at handling the complexities of modern-day businesses. The Zero Trust model is an optimal security framework for modern businesses that rely heavily on the cloud and mobility and is recommended by industry guidelines such as Gartner’s CARTA, Forrester eXtended, and NIST 800-207.


Fortunately, the Zero Trust model is an augmentation of existing security architectures and does not require a complete overhaul of your existing security systems. It can be built iteratively using the technologies and security systems you already have in place.


In this blog post, we introduce you to the concepts of the Zero Trust Security framework, its importance, and how to implement the ZT model.

What Is Zero Trust Security?

Zero Trust is a security architecture that does not trust devices by default, even if they were previously verified or are connected to the organization’s local area network (LAN). In this security model all users, irrespective of their location- in the local network or working remotely, are continuously authenticated and authorized before being given access to applications or data. Zero Trust is sometimes also known as “perimeter-less’ security as it does not recognize the traditional network edge as networks can be local, in the cloud, or a hybrid giving users access to resources from anywhere at any time.

 

 

Modern businesses operate in an increasingly heterogeneous environment consisting of interconnected network segments, SaaS applications, cloud-based infrastructure, connections to remote environments, and connections to non-traditional infrastructures, such as IoT devices. Due to these complexities, the traditional security approach of trusting devices within a local network or those connected via a virtual private network (VPN) makes little sense.

The Zero Trust framework fits perfectly with the security requirements of cloud-first and mobility-driven modern businesses. It promotes mutual authentication irrespective of the location and granting of access privileges based on device identity and device health in addition to user authentication. Zero Trust security policies depend on the real-time visibility of user attributes so that access requests can be continuously vetted before granting access to corporate resources.

Why Is Zero Trust Security Important?

The traditional security approach focuses on keeping attackers out of the network. Such an approach is vulnerable to compromised devices or users that are already inside the network. Network security controls such as firewalls, VPNs, access controls, email gateways, etc. are all defenses on the perimeter of the network and offer little protection inside the network. Zero Trust offers an effective way of protecting an organization’s widespread IT infrastructure by combining a wide range of techniques such as Identity and Access Management (IAM), endpoint security, segmentation, multi-factor authentication, behavioral analysis, and least privilege controls.

 
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A threat actor with the correct user credentials could infiltrate the network and gain access to critical resources despite an array of network security measures. Zero Trust mitigates many of the security risks by assuming that the network has been compromised. It, therefore, requires users and devices to prove that they are not attackers through strict identity verification even if the user is part of a trusted network. In addition to added security, Zero Trust also enables you to limit user access once inside the network. This can be crucial in preventing malicious infiltrators from moving laterally to network segments, applications, and resources.

Modern-day businesses have a large number of endpoints within their network, including cloud-based servers, virtual machines hosted on the public cloud, and a wide variety of SaaS applications. In such a diverse infrastructure environment, it is virtually impossible to establish and maintain secure perimeters. In such a complex environment, where the traditional security systems can get overwhelmed, the Zero Trust security framework ensures that devices and users are evaluated even if they have passed authentication protocols at the network perimeter.

In addition, organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on a global workforce that works remotely and this makes a borderless security framework a necessity. On one hand, the Zero Trust security framework deters most attackers from targeting your network and on the other hand, in the event of a security breach, it helps contain breaches and minimize potential damage by limiting their access.

 
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What Are The Main Principles Of Zero Trust Security

As we saw in the previous section, the traditional security approach of trusting users and devices within a “secure” network or from a “trusted” source can be problematic especially in a cloud-heavy environment. Therefore, the Zero Trust framework significantly differs from traditional network security, which followed the “trust but verify” principle.

According to the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), a Zero Trust architecture is designed and deployed using the following basic principles:

  1. All data sources and computing services are considered resources.

  2. All communication is secured regardless of network location.

  3. Access to individual enterprise resources is granted on a per-session basis.

  4. Access to resources is determined by dynamic policy—including the observable state of client identity, application/service, and the requesting asset—and may include other behavioral and environmental attributes.

  5. The enterprise monitors and measures the integrity and security posture of all owned and associated assets.

  6. All resource authentication and authorization are dynamic and strictly enforced before access is allowed.

  7. The enterprise collects as much information as possible about the current state of assets, network infrastructure, and communications and uses it to improve its security posture.


How To Implement Zero Trust?

Every organization has unique security needs, so there is no one size fits all solution. However, the following steps will definitely help you in developing and implementing a Zero Trust model:

1. Define What Needs To Be Protected

As we mentioned earlier, the IT infrastructure is getting more and more complex every day. This makes accurately defining the attack surfaces an inexhaustible task.

 
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Therefore, focusing on attack surfaces is not a viable strategy in the long term. With the Zero Trust model, the focus is rather on what needs to be protected, i.e. the “protect surface”.

Therefore, as a first step, you need to identify and define your “protect surface”. This usually encompasses the data, applications, assets, and services that are critical for your organization. Once you have defined your protect surface, you can implement security controls as close to the surface as possible to create a secure micro perimeter. This also ensures that the most critical data gets the highest level of protection within your security architecture.

2. Map The Transaction Flows

Knowing how data moves in your network helps you determine how best to protect it. So the next step in implementing a Zero Trust model requires you to gain contextual insight around the interdependencies of your data, applications, assets, and services (DAAS). You can start by creating a directory of all assets, including cloud services, and map their transaction flows. Understanding how your DAAS interact with each other will give you valuable content, enabling you to implement security controls that protect the data rather than hindering operations.

3. Create A Zero Trust Network 

A Zero Trust security model relies on a wide variety of techniques and technologies to prevent breaches and minimize their damage. It is likely that you may already have a number of security controls so in most cases, Zero Trust will be an augmentation of your existing architecture. Here are a few recommended security measures:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication such as 2FA is essential for achieving Zero Trust. This serves as an important security layer for user verification both inside and outside the organization network.

 
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  • Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and Access Management is another critical element of Zero Trust. IAM systems identify, authenticate, and authorize users who access the organization’s IT resources. In addition, it also validates the hardware and software needed to access the resources. This makes managing access and privileges at scale a whole lot easier.

  • Least Privilege Principle (PoLP)

The principle of least privilege is another key element of Zero Trust. This principle requires that a user be given access to only the information and resources that are necessary for performing their job functions. It is a foundational step in protecting privileged access and a security best practice. However, this is not a one-time exercise and the privileged accounts must be reviewed periodically for changes as users move to different groups and functions.

  • Microsegmentation 

Segmentation based on user groups, geographical location, functional groups, etc. can help prevent unauthorized lateral movement within the organization’s network. This also allows you to apply different policies, encryption, authentication, etc. depending on its criticality and level of security required.

4. Create Zero Trust Policy

Once you have created a Zero Trust network, you need to establish guidelines for implementing and maintaining the Zero Trust framework. Having a clearly documented granular view of the strategy, systems, processes, and procedures enable you to better enforce the policies.

When creating Zero Trust policies to whitelist resources, consider the following:

  • Who really needs access to a resource?

  • What application is used to access the resource?

  • When is it being accessed?

  • What is the destination?

  • Why is the resource being accessed?

  • How is the application accessing the resource?

 
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5. Monitor The Network Continuously

Real-time monitoring is crucial to a company’s ability to detect and remedy network intrusions. The time between when an intruder enters the network and when they can move laterally to other segments and systems on the network is extremely critical. The earlier the intrusion is detected, the better the chances of halting the intrusion.


Zero Trust is an iterative model, i.e. you keep improving the system incrementally. Additionally, identity challenges need to occur in real-time; password attacks and hacking attempts against critical systems also need to be stopped or challenged as they occur. Real-time monitoring, inspecting, and logging provide valuable insights into how to improve network security over time.

Conclusion

Modern businesses are increasingly reliant on mobility and cloud-based applications, making the business technology environment highly complex and vulnerable to cyberattacks on multiple fronts. Once trusted corporate networks and business perimeters are no longer safe from malware, ransomware, and data breaches. This increased exposure to risk necessitates a notable departure from the traditional “verify, then trust” model.

Protection is nowadays required in a borderless environment wherever the applications, data, users, and devices are located. A Zero Trust security architecture is a necessity because:

  • Users and devices are no longer tied to a “trusted” enterprise network, making traditional network perimeters redundant,

  • New technology and new business processes have brought greater business risk,

  • The traditional security model is not capable of handling advanced threats inside the corporate perimeter.

A Zero Trust security architecture is one part of your comprehensive security strategy. It must be complemented by a holistic security strategy, which incorporates a variety of security systems such as endpoint monitoring, detection, response capabilities, and a security-conscious culture to ensure the safety of your networks.

Are you concerned about the security of your IT systems? Are you using cloud-based applications and/or allowing remote work? Have you implemented Zero Trust security architecture? Reach out to us by clicking the button below and our systems engineering team will help you secure your entire network and systems.

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By: Hari Subedi
Title: What Is Zero Trust Security And How To Implement It
Sourced From: www.itjones.com/blogs/2021/10/15/what-is-zero-trust-security-and-how-to-implement-it
Published Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2021 08:00:00 +0000

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