Understanding Zero Trust Security and Its Benefits

Publication date: Aug 18, 2021

Last Published: Sep 02, 2021

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Read Time : 6 minutes

Security is about who you trust. If you trust the wrong person, device, or application, you can experience a costly data breach and suffer long-term damage to your reputation. Your goal then is to trust only legitimate users and nobody else. The problem is that this goal has been getting harder and harder to accomplish as the traditional security perimeter is gradually becoming blurrier and blurrier.

When important business applications run in the cloud and employees work from a variety of different locations using work-issued and personal devices alike, deciding who to trust is anything but trivial. The problem is made even worse by the fact that 30 percent of data breaches today involve internal actors, typically employees that use legitimate credentials to access resources they have no business accessing.

But even though most organizations today operate very much different than they did just a decade ago, they still tend to rely on the same castle-and-moat approach to cybersecurity, which provides insufficient protection against modern security threats. The zero trust security model presents itself as a more effective alternative, one that can offer a lot to both large enterprises and small businesses.

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What Is Zero Trust Security?

As its name suggests, the main concept behind zero trust security is that no one should be trusted by default.

Instead, all connections, regardless of whether they come in or outside the organization’s network, are verified to access protected resources. The reasoning behind this concept is clear: since there’s no traditional network edge around which defenses can concentrate, all requests must be dynamically and continually assessed to ensure their legitimacy.

Instead, all connections, regardless of whether they come in or outside the organization’s network, are verified to access protected resources. The reasoning behind this concept is clear: since there’s no traditional network edge around which defenses can concentrate, all requests must be dynamically and continually assessed to ensure their legitimacy.

The traditional security model is often described with the castle-and-moat metaphor. The castle is the internal network, and the moat is the static security perimeter around it, created using a firewall and antivirus software.

Back when all devices were located in the same office building, running on-premise software that was used by the same employees to perform a set number of task, it was fairly straightforward to create a strong security perimeter to keep cyber threats at bay.

Today, 90 percent of organizations have moved away from a purely on-premise setup, and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that moving back is no longer an option. Instead, organizations need to adopt a security approach fit for the age of hybrid work and cloud computing, and zero trust security is an excellent choice.

The zero trust security model is described by NIST 800-207 and other industry guidelines, all of which highlight its ability to improve an organization’s overall information technology security posture, but there are many other benefits that make its implementation worth the effort.

What Are the Main Benefits of Zero Trust Security?

Organizations that implement the zero trust security model get to enjoy a number of important benefits that can help them not only protect their IT infrastructure but also better compete against existing industry rivals.

1. Enhanced Data Protection

The biggest benefit of zero trust security is that it delivers enhanced data protection by explicitly requiring verification from everyone trying to gain access to resources on the network and giving verified users only as much access as they need.

In practice, this means that a compromised device belonging to a remote employee won’t give cybercriminals unlimited access to the entire network and all other devices connected to it. In fact, it most likely won’t lead to any data breach whatsoever because zero trust security goes hand-in-hand with continuous monitoring, and best-in-class monitoring tools are able to spot anomalous behavior and issue a timely alert.

2. More Secure Remote Workforce

The Skybox Security 2020 report revealed that 73 percent of IT executives and security professionals worry about new vulnerabilities and risks due to the sudden shift to remote work—and for a good reason. Remote employees connect to the internet using their home Wi-Fi, keep work-related data on personal devices, and heavily rely on text-based communication, which exposes them to phishing and other cyber threats.

Zero trust security keeps remote employees secure by going beyond username and password authentication, which plays a role in 81 percent of data breaches. How? By requiring the right credentials to be presented by the right person and in the right context. This is akin to not allowing a complete stranger inside your house even if they have the right key.  

3. Continuous Compliance

It’s difficult to achieve and maintain compliance with certain data protection laws and regulations when anyone with the right username and password combination can freely roam your network undetected and unbothered.

Thanks to its emphasis on continual monitoring and validation, zero trust security produces a comprehensive record of all user account activity, making it easy to discover exactly who, when, and using which device accessed a certain specific resource. This seamless audit trail is worth its proverbial weight in goal during audits.

4. Greater Visibility

To implement the zero trust model, it’s necessary to have a good understanding of what users, devices, applications, and data make up the network. While the creation of an accurate infrastructure inventory does require some work at first, the visibility it produces helps with security-related matters as well as long-term planning.

By gaining visibility into users, devices, applications, and data, it also becomes much easier to enforce policies and detect when the same policies are not being adhered to.

5. Improved User Experience

End-users have never had a good relationship with passwords. Even though cybersecurity experts have been preaching password best practices for decades, and organizations have been trying to enforce them for just as long, users still create weak passwords, store them in an unsecured way, and share them in a plain-text form, just to name some of their biggest sins.

Zero trust security paves the way for the deployment of single sign-on (SSO) authentication, an authentication scheme that allows a user to log in with a single set of login credentials to multiple resources. Besides being more convenient, SSO also improves identity protection, relieves help desk workloads, and encourages software adoption.

Getting Started with the Zero Trust Security Model

The switch from the castle-and-moat approach to cybersecurity to the zero trust model is a daunting challenge, but one well worth undertaking.

We at OSIbeyond can help you combine advanced cybersecurity technologies, such as multi-factor authentication, continuous monitoring, and next-generation antivirus, to make the implementation of the zero trust model as painless as possible. Reach out to us for more information.

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