What is Zero Trust?

July 18, 2019

Most modern InfoSec teams have some sort of pattern or standard process for handling security concerns. Over time, these teams see enough of the ‘same’ to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to run a full security audit or if a vendor is ‘safe enough’ to speed up the security assessment process. Recently, however, new research has introduced an alternative approach to IT security that goes in the opposite direction of these fast-track processes.

This approach is called Zero Trust and was first introduced by Forrester Research.

Zero Trust hinges on the idea that, in essence, all vendors are essentially ‘guilty until proven innocent’ in the realm of cybersecurity. So, all of these vendors should be extensively assessed and ‘graded’ before they are allowed access to any private information. Organizations leveraging a Zero Trust approach to InfoSec usually have to do more heavy lifting on the back-end before approving vendors than traditional companies, although their networks are then more secure, which makes the threat of risk on the other side much less.

One of the biggest differences between Zero Trust infrastructures and traditional network security is that in a Zero Trust environment even users inside a network are treated as external threats until verified. In most traditional IT environments, internal users are granted access to secure networks by default. Unfortunately, this approach creates holes in a secure perimeter that even the most proactive security measures can’t fill. When the threat is on the inside of a secure firewall, for example, there isn’t any way to single out the threat or try to mitigate the risk without impacting all users regardless of threat status.

If your team is thinking about adopting a Zero Trust approach to network security (and we highly recommend that you do!), here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Zero Trust is the idea that you are essentially creating a secure perimeter around every single person that has access to your network, both internally and externally. In order to successfully implement a security strategy at this scale, your team must be meticulously organized and prepared. This means having immediate access to all security assessments, vendor profiles, questionnaires, and other security reports in a secure location.
  • Zero Trust security strategies are great for organizations with a high population of remote access employees or users. One of the biggest internal security threats facing many companies is employees connecting to malicious networks or being attacked by remote third-party threats. Zero Trust strategies keep these employees secure even when they’re outside of the corporate network.
  • Running a one-time security audit isn’t enough for a true Zero Trust security approach. It’s no surprise that most corporate security profiles are updating and changing on a regular basis. But when individuals are involved, these changes can come even more rapidly. User access controls (aka parameters around who can access which data) must be constantly monitored and changed based on new data and insights.

As the world of digital security becomes more and more convoluted and multi-faceted, Zero Trust security strategies are becoming more and more necessary. Organizations no longer have one or two internal platforms that they’re using. Instead, there are dozens of potential solutions in play, which means every single user touchpoint is multiplied. With so many entry points, mapping out the flow of data security is one of the first steps in implementing a Zero Trust infrastructure.

Knowing how data is shared — and where potential gaps in security occur — will allow your team to build comprehensive assessments and strategies to ensure these Zero Trust perimeters are built around both individual users and vendor businesses.

cybersecurity cloud computing infosec zero trust data security

About the author

Whistic
Whistic

The latest insights and updates on information security and third party risk management.

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