What Are the Principles of Zero Trust Architecture?

Perimeter security is no longer the ultimate solution for IT functions. Enterprise IT teams now need an additionally flexible architecture that focuses on devices, services, and users.

The zero trust model was designed to address the current and future cybersecurity threats by assuming that none of these focus areas, whether within or outside the company network, should be trusted.

By implementing the fundamental principles of the zero trust model, you can leverage it fully to enjoy immense benefits such as a substantially reduced attack surface, enhanced monitoring, and better visibility. 

What Does Zero Trust Entail?

In essence, the framework requires authentication, authorization, and continuous validation of all users for security posture and configuration before granting or maintaining access to data and applications. This includes those within and outside the company’s network. The assumption is that the traditional network edge doesn’t exist, and they can be on-premise, in the cloud, or hybrid.

Industry standards like CARTA, Forrester eXtended, and NIST 800-207 define the framework as the optimal approach to handling the current security hurdles facing the cloud-first, remote-based work systems.

The framework’s execution requires a combination of advanced technology like identity and access management (IAM), multi-factor authentication, next-gen endpoint security, and identity protection. Before connecting them to applications, you must also consider data encryption, email security, endpoints, and assets hygiene verification.   

Experts also consider it an essential departure from the traditional “trust but verify” approach, which trusted endpoints and users within the company perimeter. But this can place the organization at risk of rogue credentials and malicious internal actors that allow wide-reaching access by compromised and unauthorized access.

Therefore, you must constantly monitor and validate that devices and users have the correct attributes and privileges. You must also know all your privileged and service accounts and establish control over their connections.

The Key Principals of the Zero Trust Architecture

Pay attention to the following five principles to ensure successful adoption of the zero trust model in your long-term IT strategy:

Know Your Security Surface

Your company’s network protect surface comprises all devices, users, services, data, and the network through which the sensitive data moves. One of the main attractions of the zero trust model is that this surface now extends beyond the corporate LAN protections.

Nowadays, traditional edge or perimeter security tools lack the same reach because most data flows don’t enter the corporate network. This change has forced cybersecurity solutions to serve beyond the typical network edge, getting closer to data, apps, and devices. You must also supplement manual inventory processes with automated service and asset inventory tools to identify the priority areas.

The tools can also help you understand the location of the vital resources and their access authorization. Understanding your surface also helps security architects understand where to implement security tools.  

Know the Available Cybersecurity Controls

After mapping the surface, you must learn about the available security controls. Most of the available solutions will likely be helpful during zero trust implementation. However, they may use a legacy perimeter architecture blueprint or may be deployed at the wrong place.

Combining the evaluation exercises with the protect surface map enables the network security team to see the areas requiring repurposing or redeployment to reach new locations in the expanded surface.

Deploy a Modern Architecture and New Tools

Though helpful, existing cybersecurity tools may not guarantee a complete zero-trust architecture model. You’ll need additional tools that deliver extra layers of protection on the sections deemed vulnerable during implementation. Fortunately, modern security tools can pick up the slack where legacy security tools fall short.

The most essential zero trust framework tools include network micro-segmentation, multi-factor authentication, and the use of single sign-on to secure access control to data and apps. Furthermore, you can use advanced threat protection solutions to identify developing cyber threats and combine cybersecurity policies and resources throughout the protect surface.

Apply Detailed Policy

After deploying the necessary tech, your security team must now focus on putting the tools to use. You can accomplish this by developing a zero-trust policy that you can apply to the different security tools.

In essence, these rules grant access to different company resources by following stringent standards requiring authorization access when necessary. They outline the users, apps, and devices that access the services and data and when.

After creating high-level policies, you’ll then configure your devices to align with the permit policies.

Monitor and Alert

This principle dictates that you conduct the necessary monitoring and leverage alert tools that offer security teams sufficient visibility into the effectiveness of the security policies and whether attackers have exploited the loopholes in the framework.

Notably, nothing can be entirely secure even after deploying a zero-trust framework. You must always use tools to capture malicious activities in real-time and stamp them out. You should also conduct root cause analysis that identifies and fixes any cracks within your current security posture.

Final Thoughts

Creating a robust zero trust architecture is challenging and requires continuous effort. However, it’s not a must that you apply all the principles simultaneously. Instead, begin with small steps:

  • Sort all your resources.
  • Deploy suitable verification mechanisms.
  • Only grant the user privileges required at the moment.

This way, you can be sure of excellent results.

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