Zero Trust and GSA Zero Trust Playbooks

December 8, 2022

A recent draft of the Zero Trust Maturity Model, published by the GSA’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, provides a framework for zero-trust strategies. The agency also plans to release six zero trust playbooks addressing key topics, including the adoption of a zero-trust mindset, cybersecurity risks, and risk assessment methodologies. Learn more about Zero Trust and GSA Zero Trust Playbooks.

ColorTokens’ Xtended ZeroTrust Platform

ColorTokens delivers Zero Trust proactive security to government agencies and enterprises using its cloud-delivered platform. The platform is based on the NIST Zero Trust framework, and provides unified visibility, micro-segmentation, and endpoint protection. Its zero-trust approach reduces the attack surface and allows organizations to avoid disruption while preventing tomorrow’s threats.

Government agencies are prime targets for cyberattacks. Their networks and critical infrastructure are at risk of compromised, especially since they handle sensitive data related to U.S. national security. To address this challenge, ColorTokens’ products provide 24/7 breach prevention services. ColorTokens’ Xshield micro-segmentation protection and complete visibility of applications’ dependencies can minimize the attack surface and help agencies enforce compliance with cybersecurity regulations.

ColorTokens’ zero trust solution reduces the attack surface in just a few days, whereas traditional security solutions take weeks to achieve this goal. This multi-award-winning solution has deployed in organizations across many industries, including legal firms, airports, metro rail projects, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing.

I’ve had a positive experience working with Colortokens. They listened to my needs and delivered a zero-trust security solution. Their GUI is user-friendly and provides excellent reporting. Additionally, Colortokens’ technical team is responsive and provides good support. Their endpoint product provides exceptional application-level protection and actively updated.

CISA’s Zero Trust Maturity Model

CISA has published a draft of its Zero Trust Maturity Model to help government agencies implement zero-trust security. The model outlines several paths to zero-trust security. Read on for more information. This document has three stages, with increasing levels of protection and complexity. The Traditional stage characterized by manual and proprietary processes, while the Advanced stage involves centralized visibility and control, least-privilege access controls, and cross-pillar coordination.

The Zero Trust Maturity Model drafted in June by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. It designed to help federal agencies comply with the executive order and develop zero-trust architectures. It has distributed to federal agencies and made available for public comment until Oct. 1, 2021. Depending on the feedback, CISA will make updates to the model.

The CISA Zero Trust Maturity Model designed for government agencies, but it applies to organizations in any industry. The model emphasizes proactive identity management and continuous monitoring. In contrast, a traditional maturity level characterized by static security policies and manual configurations, while an optimal maturity level employs automated attribute assignment, dynamic policies, and observed triggers. Agencies can use the model to select the right security solutions for their environment.

The Zero Trust Maturity Model can help agencies decide which pillars to prioritize for implementation. Federal agencies should focus on the following five pillars when determining their Zero Trust maturity level:

GSA’s digital identity risk assessment playbook

Recently the General Services Administration (GSA) released a digital identity risk assessment playbook. This document designed to help agencies improve security, manage identity, and migrate to the cloud. The playbook is a compilation of best practices from the Federal Identity Risk Management Standards (FIRMS) and OMB Memo 19-17.

The playbook divided into three sections. First, it covers the basics of digital identity risk assessment. The second part provides a list of key factors to consider. The zero trust playbook contains five essential steps to establishing trust and establishing security controls. First, a company or organization must determine if the system is secure.

Zero Trust and GSA’s digital identity assessment playbook should guide agencies on how to determine their level of risk and ensure compliance with federal cybersecurity requirements. Agencies should implement MFA at the application layer. They should also enforce policies to keep their data safe. In addition to implementing FIRMs, agencies should consider other recommendations such as using the Zero Trust Maturity Model.

The DIRA process should applied to all agency information technology systems. This process is a streamlined, standardized process that involves the identification of overall system data types. The information security officers and business owners then create a Digital Identity Assessment Statement (DIAS) by analyzing data from the system. The playbook also includes examples of templates and policies.

TIC 3.0 is a federal cybersecurity initiative focused on improving network and perimeter security. It is a collaborative effort among several federal agencies. Volume 3 of the TIC 3.0 Security Capabilities Handbook includes guidelines and best practices for managing risk in federal information systems.

OMB’s TIC guidance updates

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is planning to finalize Trusted Internet Connections 3.0 guidance soon, so that agencies can start ramping up new use cases and modernize their network infrastructure. The updated guidance will introduce a multi-boundary approach to network security. The draft guidance published in September by the Office of Management and Budget, and it fleshed out in December by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The draft guidance is currently open for comment until January 25, and a final version expected to release within a year or so.

The new guidance will help agencies make the transition from perimeter-based security to zero-trust security. It will help agencies implement security measures that are closer to data and establish trust zones, while allowing flexibility to integrate SaaS technology and remote employees. The revised guidance recognizes that perimeter-based security no longer works in today’s world, as malicious actors have become increasingly adept at stealing credentials.

The new zero-trust guidance builds on the work of the CISA’s Applying Zero Trust Principles to Enterprise Mobility, which released by the CISA in March 2022. The document called for tighter integration between enterprise mobility management (EMM) and mobile threat defense, as well as enterprise logging, monitoring, and diagnostics. It also included a draft Zero Trust Maturity Model, which was available for public comment until April 2022.

The latest TIC guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in September 2019. It provides agencies with an enhanced approach to implementing the initiative and provides greater flexibility to leverage modern security capabilities. The guidance also sets up a process for ensuring that the TIC initiative remains agile.

Implementing zero trust in government

Implementing zero trust in government has been a priority for the Biden Administration, which issued an executive order on the matter 15 months ago. The executive order focuses on strengthening cybersecurity measures for the nation’s digital infrastructure, including the federal government’s networks and applications. Since the executive order signed, federal agencies have wasted little time in starting their zero trust implementation efforts.

The zero trust mandate requires federal agencies to implement zero-trust architecture by fall 2024. It will also require federal agencies to adopt a continuous authentication-based security architecture by that time. Several agencies have already implemented zero-trust solutions, while others are in the planning phase. In addition, CyberArk has created an exclusive ebook to help agencies implement zero trust.

While implementing zero trust in government can be a daunting task, it can do with the support of all stakeholders. IT teams, management, and rank-and-file employees must all understand the value of zero-trust and support the new approach. If a shared understanding reached, zero-trust is the best way to protect the government.

As the federal government begins to implement zero-trust architecture, it will become a more secure and robust enterprise environment. Zero-trust networks will support cloud-based assets and remote users, and will not limited by physical location. Moreover, zero-trust architectures will be a blueprint for the private sector.

Zero-trust architecture requires new approaches and technologies. Government agencies are making progress in this area, with nearly two-thirds of respondents indicating that they have implemented multi-factor authentication for employees and external users.

Ammar Fakhruddin


Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.

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