Zero Trust Is Not a Silver Bullet For Security

July 28, 2023

Zero Trust isn’t a silver bullet for security. The Zero Trust movement has gained momentum as organizations grapple with the challenges of digital transformation, cloud adoption and hybrid work. While certain technologies do enable zero trust, no single solution works perfectly for everyone.

Zero trust requires a commitment from all stakeholders; an altered mindset and architectural approach; considerable care and consideration; and most importantly, a long-term perspective.

1. It’s Not a Technology

Despite all of the attention surrounding Zero Trust, there are several indicators that it may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for security. Rather, it requires an ongoing journey between IT and cybersecurity teams as well as users.

Zero Trust, a security model in which networks assume all actors are hostile and only grant privileges when verified, is the response to the rise of identity-based threats. Cybercriminals now have access to systems through compromised devices or other vulnerabilities and then hijack legitimate accounts with stolen credentials, giving them unprecedented power once inside an organization’s perimeter.

Business transformation initiatives such as cloud and remote working have seen a meteoric rise, and with 2020 fast approaching and the digital pandemic approaching its halfway mark, the traditional perimeter security model of “trusted inside” versus “untrusted outside” no longer holds. This has resulted in an exponentially rising level of Zero Trust adoption.

However, this approach also has its drawbacks. It can cause significant friction with legacy technology and leave security gaps. Furthermore, implementing a Zero Trust solution across an entire IT environment may take some time.

Before organizations can begin, they must identify their needs, goals and pain points. Furthermore, they need to determine the tools necessary for successful adoption. This requires extensive research and testing in order to find solutions tailored specifically for specific requirements. Although this can be a time-consuming and costly process, it’s necessary for protecting an organization against cyberattacks in today’s digital world.

2. It’s Not a Switch

For years, “zero trust” has been a hot topic in cybersecurity circles. This concept seeks to address shortcomings with the traditional perimeter-based network security model that assumes users and computing devices within an enterprise are secure from compromise.

The zero-trust model shifts defenses away from network-based parameters and instead relies on identity-based attributes to authenticate user access and gain visibility into networks. This data-centric approach helps secure more critical assets while decreasing the attack surface of a company’s cybersecurity infrastructure, which can be an effective tool in mitigating cyber risk.

However, experts warn that this approach is not a panacea for security; organizations must invest in additional measures to protect their systems and networks from lateral movement by attackers. According to Steve Hahn, Executive VP at BullWall, these can include API exploitation, social engineering, hardware/software vulnerabilities, stolen or compromised credentials, spear phishing campaigns and malware.

To begin, companies must identify the data, applications, assets and services (DAAS) most valuable to their business and strategically allocate resources towards protecting these. Doing this helps guarantee zero-trust implementations are focused on the right things while avoiding overinvesting in security solutions or tactics which may not be essential for running the business.

When selecting the technology needed to implement a zero-trust strategy, businesses should invest time in researching and testing solutions. Furthermore, they should identify any pain points, frictions or goals associated with this implementation; this will give them insight into which solutions are necessary to safeguard an organization’s cybersecurity.

Federal agencies are particularly vulnerable to lateral movements by attackers due to the critical nature of their operations and the COVID-19 pandemic. To stay ahead of this threat, federal agencies must completely reimagine where their data resides – zero-trust security is the solution.

3. It’s Not a Product

Enter “zero trust” into Google and hit the search button, or open up a news article about it, you’ll likely come across an array of vendors, products, guidance, recommendations and frameworks that claim they can deliver the security transformation your organization requires. They often offer quick solutions with low risks that help mitigate cyber risk while safeguarding digital assets.

Zero trust requires a comprehensive approach to security, not just one technology or solution. It’s an ever-evolving roadmap that utilizes both existing and emerging technologies to help your organization combat the most sophisticated threats across multiple attack vectors.

As we’ve seen, modern business environments increasingly include public and private clouds, SaaS applications, DevOps and robotic process automation (RPA). Traditional enterprise networks were effective when they were fixed and clearly defined; however this model no longer works in an era when employees can access company data from anywhere on earth.

It is imperative for your cybersecurity teams to identify and mitigate threats at the perimeter before introducing any zero trust tools into your network. This includes securing devices and guaranteeing identity-based security policies are applied consistently across all devices.

Additionally, your IT and cybersecurity teams need to identify and fix gaps in existing security controls. This may be done gradually over time, starting with one application or data asset then implementing the security technologies best suited for your organization’s requirements.

Accomplishing this can be a challenge, particularly when working with large organizations that have legacy technology that may be difficult to retire. That is why it is so essential for your security teams to collaborate with IT and leadership on understanding the importance of retiring outdated systems, tools and processes that no longer support protecting the mission or achieving strategic objectives.

It is essential for IT and security teams to continuously monitor their zero trust architecture for any issues, so they can be quickly resolved. This can be accomplished using tools such as anomaly detection, behavioral analysis and machine learning.

4. It’s Not a Strategy

Security is a complex matter that necessitates considerable thought and effort. But that doesn’t mean you can simply plug in some new technology or product and enjoy optimal protection.

Traditional security architectures have relied on creating “castle-and-moat” perimeters around an organization’s network, which worked well when all access was contained within clearly defined borders. However, with more distributed work and cloud services now prevalent, this approach is no longer suitable.

In today’s cloud-first world, users are logging on to work from any location with any device. This has created an increasingly chaotic enterprise environment that renders traditional cybersecurity approaches no longer effective.

IT organizations are searching for a security model that can adapt to the complexity of today’s environment and embrace the hybrid workplace. They require something that effectively safeguards identities, endpoints, applications, data, infrastructure and networks while offering visibility, automation and orchestration.

The initial step in securing your organization is to identify your security requirements and objectives. This can help determine which elements of the Digital Asset Access System (DAAS) need safeguarding, as well as what level of protection should be achieved.

Once you identify these areas, you can start implementing Zero Trust strategies. The key here is to start small and roll it out gradually so that you understand how your security systems interact and how employees use them.

It’s essential to recognize that zero trust doesn’t simply replace your current security systems; rather, it enhances them. Therefore, you still need to monitor, manage and regulate the existing ones.

But you must ensure the zero trust processes you employ align with your overall strategy. Otherwise, they could become ineffective and cause productivity issues.

That is why it’s essential to strike the ideal balance between supporting work and maintaining a robust security posture. That way, you can maximize the benefits of zero trust strategies without disrupting productivity or creating security gaps.

Ammar Fakhruddin

ABOUT AUTHOR

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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