Most people understand the reasoning and the reality behind a zero trust model. While historically, a network perimeter was considered sufficient to keep attacks at bay, today this is not the case. Zero trust security means that no one is trusted by default from inside or outside the network, and verification is required from everyone trying to gain access to resources on the network. This added layer of security has been shown to be much more useful and capable in preventing breaches.
But how organizations can move from a concept or idea into implementation? Using the same tools that are developed with 15-20 year old technologies is not adequate.
There is a growing demand for IT resources that can be accessed in a location-agnostic way, and cloud services are being used more widely than ever. These facts, on top of businesses embracing broader use of distributed application architectures, mean that both the traditional firewall and the Next Generation are no longer effective for risk reduction.
The other factor to consider is that new malware and attack vectors are being discovered every day, and businesses have no idea where the next threat might come from. It’s more important than ever to use micro-segmentation and micro-perimeters to limit the fallout of a cyber attack.
How does applying the best practices of zero trust combat these issues?
Simply put, implementing the zero trust model creates and enforces small segments of control around sensitive data and applications, increasing your data security overall. Businesses can use zero trust to monitor all network traffic for malicious activity or unauthorized access, limiting the risk of lateral movement through escalating user privileges and improving breach detection and incident response. As Forrester Research, who originally introduced the concept, explain, with zero trust, network policy can be managed from one central console through automation.
The Guardicore principles of zero trust
At Guardicore, we support IT teams in implementing zero trust with the support of our four high level principles. Together, they create an environment where you are best-placed to glean the benefits of zero trust.
- A least privilege access strategy: Access permissions are only assigned based on a well-defined need. ‘Never trust- always verify’. This doesn’t stop at users alone. We also include applications, and even the data itself, with continuous review of the need for access. Group permissions can help make this seamless, and then individual assets or elements can be removed from each group as necessary.
- Secure access to all resources: This is true no matter the location or its user. Our authentication level is the same both inside and outside of the local area network, for example services from the LAN will not be available via VPN.
- Access control at all levels: Both the network itself and each resource or application need multi-factor authentication.
- Audit everything: Rather than simply collecting data, we review all the logs that are manually collected, using automation to generate alerts where necessary. These bots perform multiple actions, such as our ‘nightwatch bot’ that generates phone calls to the right member of staff in the case of an emergency.
However, knowing these best principles and understanding the benefits behind zero trust is not the same as being able to implement securely and with the right amount of flexibility and control.
Many companies fall at the first hurdle, unsure how to gain full visibility of their ecosystem. Without this, it is impossible to define policy clearly, set up the correct alerts so that business can run as usual, or stay on top of costs. If your business does not have the right guidance or skill-sets, the zero trust model becomes a ‘nice to have’ in theory but not something that can be achieved in practice.
It all starts with the map
With a zero trust model that starts with deep visibility, you can automatically identify all resources across all environments, at both the application and network level. At this point, you can work out what you need to enforce, turning to technology once you know what you’re looking to build as a strategy for your business. Other solutions will start with their capabilities, using these to suggest enforcement, which is the opposite of what you need, and can leave gaps where you need policy the most.
It’s important to ensure that you have a method in place for classification so that stakeholders can understand what they are looking at on your map. We bring in data from third-party orchestration, using automation to create a highly accessible map that is simple to visualize across both technical and business teams. With a context-rich map, you can generate intelligence on malicious activity even at the application layer, and tightly enforce policy without worrying about the impact on business as usual.
With these best practices in mind, and a map as your foundation – your business can achieve the goals of zero trust, enforcing control around sensitive data and apps, finding malicious activity in network traffic, and centrally managing network policy with automation.