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Zero Trust Security Model: Definition and Core Principals

Philip Robinson
| Read Time 10 min read | Updated On - June 28, 2023

Zero Trust Security

With the rising frequency of cyberattacks, a robust system that maintains a risk-free digital environment is urgently needed. In a world where data breaches are common, firms are always on the verge of releasing sensitive information, making cybersecurity best practices crucial. Therefore, this is where zero trust security comes into play.

Zero Trust helps organizations create the most secure environment possible, reducing the likelihood of any security compromise.

Zero Trust Security is an entire security strategy that argues that no user or device can be trusted by default. This method ensures that all users and devices undergo verification and are monitored continuously, lowering the risk of security breaches and protecting critical data and systems.

In this article, therefore, we examine the definition of the Zero Trust Model and take you through its core principles, how zero trust security works, the stages of implementing Zero Trust, and the benefits of choosing Zero Trust Architecture.

What is Zero Trust Architecture?

A Zero Trust Architecture complies with the principle “never trust, always verify.” This guiding concept has existed since John Kindervag created the term at Forrester Research. A Zero Trust Architecture imposes access control to prevent unauthorized access and lateral movement inside an environment and guidelines based on context—including the user’s position and location, device, and data sought.

Establishing a zero trust architecture necessitates control and visibility over the environment’s users and traffic, including encrypted traffic; monitoring and verification of traffic between parts of the environment; and strong multi-factor authentication (MFA) methods other than passwords, such as biometrics or one-time codes.

Critically, in a Zero Trust Architecture, a resource’s network location is no longer the most crucial aspect of its security posture. Instead of inflexible network segmentation, software-defined micro-segmentation protects your data, processes, services, and other assets, allowing you to keep them safe wherever, whether in your data center or dispersed hybrid and multicolor settings.

How does Zero Trust Security work?

The underlying idea behind Zero Trust is straightforward: consider that everything is hostile by default. It represents a significant change from the network security architecture based on the centralized data center and protected network perimeter, which has been used since the 1990s.

These network architectures rely on trusted IP addresses, ports, and protocols to build access restrictions and check what’s charged within the network, often including anybody joining through remote access VPN.

A Zero Trust Approach considers all traffic to be hostile, even if it is already inside the boundary. Workloads, for example, are prevented from communicating until a set of qualities, such as identity or fingerprint, validates them.

Identity-based validation policies provide greater security with the workload wherever it communicates, whether in the public cloud, a hybrid environment, a container, or an on-premises network architecture.

Zero Trust protects applications and services even when they communicate across network environments since it is environment-agnostic, needing no architectural modifications or policy updates. Zero Trust Securely links users, devices, and apps across any network using business policies, allowing safe digital transformation.

Core Principles of the Zero Trust Model

Zero Trust is more than user identification, segmentation, and protected access. It is an approach for constructing a cybersecurity ecosystem. The following is at its core.

  1. Verify and authenticate: The Zero Trust model assumes that every access attempt, whether inside or outside the network, is potentially an attack. Therefore, all users, devices, and traffic must be verified and authenticated before granting access to any resources.
  2. Least privilege access: The principle of least privilege access means that users should only be granted access to the resources needed to do their duties and nothing more. This reduces the risk of attackers exploiting unnecessary access rights to move laterally within the network.
  3. Assume breach: The Zero Trust model assumes that attackers have already breached the network perimeter and therefore implements strict access controls and continuous monitoring to detect and respond to crucial security threats.
  4. Segment the network: The network is divided into smaller, more granular segments, and access controls are applied at each component. This helps to contain any security breaches and limit the impact of attacks.
  5. Monitor and inspect: Continuous monitoring and inspection of network traffic, user activity, and device behavior are critical to the Zero Trust model. This helps detect anomalies and potential security threats and enables rapid incident response.
  6. Enforce policy: Security policies must be consistently enforced across all architectural layers, from the network perimeter to the individual application, data, and workload levels.
  7. Use a least-trust network model: The Zero Trust model assumes that no user, device, or network should be automatically trusted and therefore implements strict access controls and continuous monitoring to reduce the risk of security breaches.

Stages of implementing Zero Trust

Implementing a Zero Trust model is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Each stage is critical for ensuring the model’s success and protecting against security threats.

Visualize the organization

The first step towards implementing a Zero Trust Security model is for an organization to visualize all of its components and how they interact with one another. This necessitates a detailed examination of the organization’s resources, use, and dangers.

For example, the finance department may need to access a database containing private client data; weaknesses in that connection represent inherent dangers.

This visualization and assessment process should be ongoing since an organization’s resources and the requirement to use those resources will change as the organization expands.

Similarly, the relevance and risk associated with these components will shift. Therefore, organizations aiming to deploy a Zero Trust network should begin with what they believe will be the most critical and vulnerable areas when the framework’s adoption begins.

Mitigate risks and concerns

Considering potential vulnerabilities, as well as all the threats that may exploit them and the pathways an attacker could take, were discovered in the previous stage, the mitigation phase tackles those issues in the order of importance.

During this phase, an organization will automatically build procedures and technologies to assist in discovering new vulnerabilities and threats. There should also be systems that automatically eliminate threats or, if that is not feasible, lessen the impact of the expected outcome as much as possible (for example, by restricting the data that would be exposed).

Optimize execution

During this stage of implementing the Zero Trust framework, organizations will attempt to expand their procedures and protocols to embrace all elements of IT. The organization’s complexity and the resources invested in the Zero Trust implementation process will determine this rollout’s speed.

Most importantly, when the framework expands to encompass additional areas of the organization’s infrastructure, it is carefully evaluated to ensure effectiveness and usability. Organizations that fail to prioritize the user experience while implementing security frameworks such as Zero Trust will face non-compliance and lower productivity at scale.

Benefits of Choosing a Zero Trust Architecture

A Zero Trust framework increases security for organizations undergoing digital transformation and aids in the future-proofing of organizations planning to embrace and remain in the cloud. As a result, Zero Trust is especially crucial for software as a service (SaaS) organizations and developing enterprises across industries. It benefits organizations that must accommodate distant workers or sustain a multi-cloud environment. Among the many benefits are:

Effective access control

Zero Trust prevents attackers and limits their access to programs, data, and networks by combining endpoint security, identity verification, least privilege rules, micro-segmentation, and other preventative approaches. Whereby makes it one of the most effective organizational access control methods.

Borderless strategy

The number of endpoints within a network rises as remote working becomes more popular worldwide, and infrastructure extends to accommodate cloud-based servers and apps. This complicates the effort of monitoring and maintaining a secure perimeter. The Zero Trust method overcomes this challenge by providing equivalent security for any number of devices and users.

Greater insight

As suppliers monitor, manage, troubleshoot, patch, and update equipment, a cloud-based Zero Trust approach can improve visibility into network traffic. The model should include information on endpoint security hygiene and authenticators.

Reduced risk

A Zero Trust architecture decreases an organization’s attack surface by restricting user access and segmenting the network. As a result, the methodology minimizes the time it takes to identify breaches, allowing organizations to reduce harm and data loss.

A more efficient user experience

Because access controls and risk assessments can reduce the need to re-authenticate throughout the day, Zero Trust can improve user experience. Mechanisms such as Single Sign-On (SSO) and robust MFA decrease the need for complicated passwords to be remembered.

Regulatory compliance

The Zero Trust architecture facilitates compliance with numerous internal and external laws. The Zero Trust architecture simplifies audits by protecting every user, resource, and task, making compliance with PCI DSS, NIST 800-207, and other standards much more manageable.

How Lepide Helps Implement Zero Trust

The Lepide Data Security Platform helps organizations implement a Zero Trust Architecture by providing the following capabilities:

Continuous Monitoring: Lepide provides continuous monitoring of all critical assets, including servers, workstations, applications, and databases, to detect any potential threats or anomalies.

User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA): Lepide uses UEBA to analyze user behavior and detect suspicious activity, such as data exfiltration or privilege abuse.

Access Control: Lepide allows organizations to implement fine-grained access controls and authorization policies, which restrict access to sensitive data and resources based on the principle of least privilege.

Data Classification: Lepide helps organizations classify their sensitive data based on its value and risk, which enables them to implement appropriate access controls and data protection measures.

Risk Assessment: Lepide provides a risk assessment module that enables organizations to identify and prioritize their security risks and vulnerabilities, which helps them implement appropriate security controls and mitigation strategies.

Audit and Compliance Reporting: Lepide provides audit and compliance reporting capabilities that help organizations demonstrate compliance with various regulatory requirements, e.g., HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.

If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help develop and maintain a robust Zero Trust security model, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.

Conclusion

In today’s threat landscape, organizations must implement a security model that can provide strong protection against cyber-attacks. Zero Trust is an emerging security model emphasizing access control and data protection, regardless of location or device.

Implementing a Zero Trust architecture can assist organizations in improving their security postures, lowering risk, and streamlining security management. With the help of Lepide, a compliance technology that assists organizations in implementing a Zero Trust Architecture, organizations can significantly reduce their attack surface and protect critical assets and resources by implementing strong access controls, segmenting the network, and using encryption and authentication.

However, implementing Zero Trust can also present challenges, such as complexity, cost, and resistance to change. To mitigate these challenges, starting with a clear understanding of the organization’s assets and security requirements and taking a phased approach to implementation is essential. It’s also important to involve all stakeholders, including business leaders, IT teams, and end-users, in the implementation process and to provide appropriate training and education.

Philip Robinson
Philip Robinson

Phil joined Lepide in 2016 after spending most of his career in B2B marketing roles for global organizations. Over the years, Phil has strived to create a brand that is consistent, fun and in keeping with what it’s like to do business with Lepide. Phil leads a large team of marketing professionals that share a common goal; to make Lepide a dominant force in the industry.

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