A couple of years ago, organizations relied heavily on the traditional perimeter-based security model to protect their systems, networks and sensitive data. However, that approach can no longer suffice due to the sophisticated nature of modern day attacks through techniques such as advanced persistent threat, application-layer DDoS attacks and zero-day vulnerabilities. As a result, many organizations are adopting the zero trust approach, a security model based on the principle that trust should never be assumed, regardless of whether a device or user is inside or outside the organization’s network.

While zero trust promises to be a more proactive approach to security, implementing the solution comes with several challenges that can punch holes in an organization’s security before it’s even in place.

The core components of zero trust include least privileged access policies, network segmentation and access management. While best practices can help improve the behavior of your employees, tools such as the device trust solutions offered by Kolide — this article’s sponsor — will secure access to protected applications to build a resilient security infrastructure for an organization.

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Understanding zero trust

Zero trust isn’t only a set of tools or a specific technology; it’s a security philosophy that centers around the fundamental idea of not automatically trusting any user or system, whether they’re inside or outside the corporate network. In a zero trust environment, no user or device is trusted until their identity and security posture are verified. So, zero trust aims to enhance security by focusing on continuous verification and strict access controls.

Another key ingredient of the zero trust approach is that it operates on the principle of least privilege, meaning that users and systems are granted the minimum level of access needed to carry out their tasks. This approach cuts down the attack surface and limits the potential damage a compromised user or device can cause.

Core components of zero trust

Below are some key components of zero trust and best practices to make the most out of them.

Access management

Access management revolves around controlling who can access resources within an organization’s network. Here are some best practices for effective access management:

  • Implement viable authentication: Implementing viable multifactor authentication mechanisms helps to ensure that users are who they claim to be before being granted access to any resources within a network. A viable MFA usually involves a combination of two or more authentication methods such as a password, facial recognition, mobile authenticator or biometric checks.
  • Leverage OAuth tools: Access management in zero trust can further be enhanced using OAuth (Open Authorization) tools. OAuth is an open standard for access delegation that provides a secure way for users to grant third-party applications and websites limited access to their resources without sharing their credentials.
  • Employ device trust solutions: As an extra layer of protection between devices and company applications, device trust solutions like Kolide integrate with OAuth tools like Okta to ensure the identity of the user and security of the device during the authentication flow.
  • Implement role-based access control: RBAC is a crucial component of access management that involves assigning permissions to roles rather than individuals. With RBAC, it becomes easier for security teams to manage access across the organization and ensures that employees are assigned specific permissions based on their job functions.
  • Monitor user activity: User activities should be continuously monitored to detect anomalies and potential security breaches. Adopting user behavior analytics solutions can be beneficial in identifying unusual patterns of behavior that may indicate a security threat.

Least privilege

The principle of least privilege emphasizes that users and systems should have only the minimum level of access required to perform their tasks. Highlighted below are the best ways your organization can go about least privilege:

  • Deny access by default: Implement a default-deny policy, where access is denied by default and only approved permissions are granted. This approach reduces the attack surface and ensures that no unnecessary access is given.
  • Regularly review and update access permissions:A good least privilege practice involves reviewing and auditing user access to organizational resources to ensure that permissions are aligned with job roles and responsibilities. Such practice also includes revoking access once an employee leaves the organization or has no need for access.
  • Implement segmentation: Segmenting the network into isolated zones or microsegments can help contain the lateral movement of attackers within the network. Each zone should only allow access to specific resources as needed.
  • Least privilege for admins: Admins are no exception to the principle of least privilege. So, efforts must be made to ensure that the principle of least privilege cuts through administrative accounts. Doing this can help checkmate the possibility of insider attacks.

Data protection

The zero trust framework also emphasizes the need to secure sensitive data, both at rest and in transit, to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches. Here is how your organization can implement data protection:

  • Choose strong encryption: Implement strong encryption protocols using the best encryption tools. Encryption should cover data stored on servers, databases or devices and data being transmitted over networks. Use industry-standard encryption algorithms and ensure that encryption keys are managed securely with an encryption management tool such as NordLocker that provides centralized management.
  • Data classification: Data assets should be classified based on how sensitive and important they are to the organization. Apply access controls and encryption based on data classification. Not all data requires the same level of protection, so prioritize resources based on their value.
  • Implement data loss prevention: Deploy DLP solutions to monitor and prevent the unauthorized sharing or leakage of sensitive data. So, even if a user manages to gain unauthorized access to your organization’s data, DLP offers a mechanism for identifying and blocking sensitive data transfers, whether intentional or accidental.
  • Secure backup and recovery: Critical data should be backed up regularly. Also, ensure that backups are securely stored and encrypted at all times. Remember to have a robust data recovery plan in place to mitigate the impact of data breaches or data loss incidents.

SEE: We’ve chosen the best encryption software and tools for every use case. (TechRepublic)

Network segmentation

Implementing network segmentation is another way your organization can strengthen zero trust adoption. Network segmentation is the process of breaking an organization’s network into smaller, isolated segments or zones to reduce the attack surface. The tips below can make the process easier:

  • Go for microsegmentation: Instead of creating large, broad segments, consider implementing microsegmentation, which involves breaking down the network into smaller, more granular segments. With this approach, each segment is isolated and can have its own security policies and controls. It also gives room for granular control over access and reduces the impact of a breach by containing it within a smaller network segment.
  • Deploy zero trust network access: ZTNA solutions enforce strict access controls based on user identity, device posture and contextual factors. ZTNA ensures that users and devices can only access the specific network segments and resources they’re authorized to use.
  • Apply segmentation for remote access: Implement segmentation for remote access in a way that grants remote users access to only the resources necessary for their tasks.

Zero trust approach

In practice, implementing zero trust is not a one-off process. It’s an approach to security that may require a combination of technology, policy and cultural changes in an organization. While the principles remain consistent, the specific tools and strategies used can vary widely depending on your organization’s needs, size, industry and existing infrastructure.

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This is your go-to resource for the latest news and tips on the following topics and more, XaaS, AWS, Microsoft Azure, DevOps, virtualization, the hybrid cloud, and cloud security. Delivered Mondays and Wednesdays