June 6, 2023
The Zero Trust framework has emerged as the leading security protocol for complex enterprises. According to ZTEdge, 80% of organizations have plans to embrace a zero-trust security strategy this year, and global spending on Zero Trust will more than double between now and 2025. This rapid growth comes more than a decade after Forrester’s John…

The Zero Trust framework has emerged as the leading security protocol for complex enterprises.

According to ZTEdge, 80% of organizations have plans to embrace a zero-trust security strategy this year, and global spending on Zero Trust will more than double between now and 2025.

This rapid growth comes more than a decade after Forrester’s John Kindervag first coined the term “Zero Trust” and nearly 30 years since the concept’s genesis was first published. Zero Trust has become so popular recently as organizations have seen its value in multi-faceted environments that feature cloud, on-premise, and legacy architecture.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the size of technology ecosystems was growing at an astounding clip thanks to the increased use of hybrid cloud solutions and Software-as-a-Service applications. The Covid-19 pandemic served as another catalyst with more remote workers further expanding services and networks, leaving enterprises with an untenable area to defend.

Zero Trust gives users the bare minimum of permissions to do their job. This helps ensure that if an account is compromised, the bad actor only has limited access and cannot easily move throughout your network. Zero Trust also goes beyond just users and provides protection for all connected devices to a network, including Internet of Things technologies like webcams, smart devices, smart televisions, and badge scanners.

Is Zero Trust Right for You?

Zero Trust works on the concept that no user should be trusted by default and by being very granular about defining and verifying exactly what resource any user or device is able to access. Since no online user can be fully trusted, they must provide identity verification, even if they’ve identified their identity in another part of the system.

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Organizations have long favored a perimeter security approach where the goal was to stop bad actors from entering the network altogether. This methodology primarily worked for closed, on-premises systems but could not scale to today’s enterprise needs. The complexity of current systems ultimately leaves gaps in security coverage that bad actors can hide and use to navigate through a network.

The most severe data breaches occurred because once the external attacker gained a foothold inside the corporate network — through a system vulnerability, compromised credentials, or a gap in the firewall – they became an internal user, able to access internal systems with minimal effort.

Zero Trust works to stop this type of internal movement. It increases the barriers users, servers, and software must navigate when operating in a larger enterprise, ensuring that only the right users have proper access to certain systems or data.

Many organizations were already on the road to Zero Trust, if even indirectly. As organizations migrated apps, data, and services to the cloud, the traditional perimeter security philosophy was disbanded. The move from boundary-based security to resource-based security means some of the tenets of Zero Trust have already been put in place.

Zero Trust in Practice

The SolarWinds breach remains one of the most devastating cybersecurity events in history. Russian hackers planted malware in some SolarWinds software which users downloaded and deployed. That vulnerability then leaked data out of the network and talked to malicious external servers.

Companies that leveraged Zero Trust could have reduced the blast radius. Even though they would have downloaded the malware, the SolarWinds software would have limitations on which servers it could communicate with. That would have reduced the servers the bad actors used to collect data.

The Benefits of Zero Trust

While Zero Trust enhances security posture, it provides ancillary benefits that aid technology leaders with other efforts. Along with improving security, Zero Trust can give enterprises:

  • A more accurate inventory of technology assets. A Zero Trust framework requires administrators to understand the users, devices, data, and applications included in their organization’s infrastructure. Leveraging Zero Trust requires they create this inventory and keep it up to date, which can aid in long-term planning.
  • Improved monitoring. Security tools popular as part of a Zero Trust framework, such as SIEM, security orchestration, and automated response paired with log and event analysis, can help identify security issues and provides insight to remediate them.
  • Smarter alerts. With Zero Trust, users have narrow access and administrators can see if an account continually attempts to access unallowed areas. Combined with the monitoring tools mentioned, Zero Trust provides a more intelligent structure to find suspicious activity.
  • Better end-user experience. Zero Trust allows organizations to use single sign-on (SSO) tools that can reduce the number of passwords they must use. With SSO, users can authenticate once to gain access to what they need while leveraging security best practices such as two-factor authentication. This helps eliminate password mismanagement and streamline user access.
  • Enhanced architecture flexibility. We continue to see IT enterprises grow at a rapid rate. Utilizing Zero Trust allows organizations to add new solutions and services without creating new security policies. Zero Trust enables technology leaders to add different cloud environments and understand they will not introduce any new vulnerabilities.

More than a BuzzWord

Security professionals constantly get sold on new products and solutions that promise to solve their problems. As we’ve learned over the years, these tools often patch specific vulnerabilities but only provide part of the security needed.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to security. Zero Trust offers a change in thinking that leverages a strict set of rules and guidelines to manage behavior. As we continue to see the technology footprint of organizations grow, Zero Trust will become paramount for enterprises that want to leverage cloud applications.

We find ourselves at a tipping point in cybersecurity. The pandemic spurred an already growing technology landscape that must have a proper defense. With proactive steps to move toward Zero Trust, technology leaders can leverage an old, yet new, idea that must become the security norm.

Related: Cyber Insights 2023 | Zero Trust and Identity and Access Management

Related: The History and Evolution of Zero Trust

Related: White House Publishes Federal Zero Trust Strategy

Related: Demystifying Zero Trust

Related: Universal ZTNA is Fundamental to Your Zero Trust Strategy