Ronald Reagan is famous for his ‘Trust, But Verify’ leadership style in the 1980s. While that approach seemed to work well at the time, it falls far short of what is needed today to protect an organization’s IT infrastructure, proprietary data, and intellectual property. In fact, the methodology of ‘Never Trust, Always Verify’ has taken center stage as the foundation of a ‘Zero Trust’ architecture. In this article, we’ll review why your business needs a Zero Trust architecture and how to ensure it’s working effectively.
What is a Zero Trust Architecture?
As it relates to your business’ network, infrastructure, data and cyber security, a Zero Trust architecture assumes that nothing in or on your network is trusted and that users and access must be constantly verified in order to access the data on your network. This approach results in a much higher level of security than simply protecting your network. It also encompasses users, applications and infrastructure. A zero trust architecture is the most effective way to protect your network and users, but it can present challenges, especially for users who have to repeatedly authenticate. This is where a strategic approach to Zero Trust architecture and implementation is critical.
The first component of a zero trust architecture is obviously to authenticate users with strong credentials and access protocols. But many organizations stop there. However, the principle of least privilege policy (POLP) provides an enhanced level of protection by evaluating the user and their ‘need’ for access. By limiting users access only to the data they need, an enhanced level of protection is provided. The theory is that each data point, within an organization, is only accessed by the users that require that data. Fewer users accessing fewer access points equals less risk and more security.
In most organizations, there can be dozens, or even hundreds, of different applications operating simultaneously on your network. These applications often interact with each other to exchange data or make your employees more productive. Rather than trusting each application all the time every time, the zero trust architecture requires ongoing monitoring and validation to authenticate the interaction and exchange of data. This authentication process ensures that hackers do not find or create back doors into your network through applications that are typically considered trusted. This can be a complex process and organizations must consider speed, user productivity, and sensitivity of the data. A technology advisor can be an invaluable resource for helping organizations assess the risk vs. reward of these implementations.
Your network infrastructure is a critical component of Zero Trust architecture and includes everything from:
- Hardware such as routers and switches, physical, virtual or containerized,
- Software such as open source, first and third party, PaaS, SaaS,
- Micro-services such as APIs, etc.
- Vendors and support services that have authorized access to your network (copiers, phone systems, IT providers, and more)
Every component must be authenticated and considered a ‘never trust, always verify’ element. In addition, once authenticated, data may need to be encrypted before transit.
A zero trust architecture should be comprehensive, intelligible, scalable, and actionable. Many organizations enlist a technology provider to help create or audit these elements. In addition, ongoing protocols should be established to ensure that the zero trust architecture you create today will adapt to changing technology and threats. If you need help, Conscious Networks provides zero trust architecture services. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.