Zero-Trust Security – Trust No One

Popularized by Forrester in 2009, the philosophy of “zero-trust security” is based on the belief that “security must be designed with the strategy, ‘Never trust, always verify.'” Simply put, we should assume that we are vulnerable inside and outside our network perimeter and that any attempts to move across our network should be met with significant resistance.

Zero-trust was defined more than a decade ago. However, many organizations still operate with a perimeter-first defense mindset, only offering protection from outside the network, and see its implementation as a sign of a successful and secure network. While this may have worked in the early days of tech, this is not a viable solution for today’s businesses, especially when you consider the amount of sensitive data companies handle on a daily basis.

The wake of COVID-19 has only escalated the need for zero-trust security as the workforce has redefined how and where it works – from the office, home, an Airbnb, etc. Pair this with the fact that most platforms and applications now operate on a cloud or cloud-hybrid model, and you have a network with thousands of touchpoints, far too many to guard with a simple perimeter defense security solution. 

Companies that decide not to implement zero-trust initiatives risk a high price. The latest data-breach report by IBM found that the average cost of a single data breach is over $4 million – the highest in the report’s history. By moving to zero-trust, verification is required at every access point to mitigate security threats and safeguard the network, applications, and data to only allow access to trusted users.

 Establishing A Zero-Trust Ecosystem

The first step to implementing zero-trust measures is finding a security partner specializing in zero-trust architecture. Look for a partner that can identify segments and microsegments important to your organization and who can help you ensure that security measures are implemented company-wide.

For example, if your organization has implemented a third-party application that supports HR functions (ex., payroll), these partners can help ensure that individuals with access to the third-party application will not be able to access any of the other segments of your organization without separate authorization, such as your timekeeping system. This places an additional barrier between your company’s private data and any phishing attempts that may try and slip in through an external application. 

Another component of zero-trust implementation is multifactor authentication (MFA). You’ve likely come across this type of security before when logging on to a social media platform or accessing sensitive personal data, like your 401(k) account. While it provides extra security, it can quickly become cumbersome to employees if they need to use it for every program or database they access during the workday. This is where implementing single sign-on (SSO) technology comes in, consolidating employee passwords and authentications and allowing them to access multiple resources through one secure channel.

From there, it’s essential to educate your employees and other key stakeholders on the security measures being taken to keep the company, its data and employees safe. Consider implementing a security operation center (SOC) that can help detect, prevent and respond to security breaches as well as run day-to-day tasks like executing anti-phishing tactics 24/7. And as security measures change, be sure to send out prompt internal communications to ensure that employees understand that the content and the data they work with is secure every step of the way.

To Stay Secure, Adaptation Is Key

While moving an organization from perimeter-based to zero-trust security is an important first step, adaptation is critical, as with any security measure. With new technology comes new risks. As these are defined, organizations and IT leaders must stay up to date to avoid a company-altering threat and must continue to communicate and educate employees regarding important updates.