Today, with remote access and hybrid work a mainstay of the modern enterprise, cyber threats are challenging your organization like never before. We have recent examples, unfortunately.
That’s why the most forward-thinking businesses are implementing Zero Trust.
What is Zero Trust?
Former Forrester analyst John Kindervag developed the concept of Zero Trust security in 2010. He defined it as a framework that assumes every connection, device, and user is a potential threat and should be treated as such.
In contrast to most other cybersecurity strategies, it eliminates implicit trust and requires all users, whether in or outside the organization, to be continuously authenticated before they’re granted network access. Simply put, Zero Trust is just as it sounds: a security policy under which nobody — regardless of role or responsibility — is inherently assumed to be safe.
Additionally, the Zero Trust model rejects the assumption of a network edge. In today’s post-perimeter landscape, networks extend well beyond their traditional boundaries and can be local, in the cloud, or a combination of the two. Plus, with the rise of remote access, there’s almost no telling where a resource may be located.
So, the Zero Trust approach is specifically designed to address modern data security challenges, ensuring secure access to critical assets at any time and place.
Broadly speaking, a Zero Trust network will do the following:
- Log and inspect all traffic to identify suspicious activity and potential threat vectors
- Limit and control user access, authorizing requests only after the user identity has been confirmed
- Verify and secure corporate assets to prevent unauthorized access and exposure
But we have to ask each other how Zero Trust principles work in a cloud environment. And how can they help you safeguard your sensitive data?
Contrary to a traditional security posture, which assumes a condition of implicit trust, the Zero Trust model believes all endpoints, users, and applications are potential cyber threats.
Organizations that embrace the Zero Trust approach — especially in the cloud — can unlock a host of significant benefits:
- Better visibility into data, assets, and risks: Zero Trust requires you to implement tools that continuously monitor your cloud environment. This affords your security team an early line of sight into emerging threats, allowing them to thwart any in their path.
- Enterprise-wide secure access: Empower internal and external users and devices to confidently leverage critical applications whenever and wherever they need them. Enabling a safer approach to remote access allows you to maximize productivity without sacrificing security or interrupting the user experience.
- Reduced financial and reputational damage: The average cost of a data breach is over $4.4 million per incident — and that’s not counting the damage done to your brand name and industry reputation. Mitigating threats with a Zero Trust security model will help your organization avoid these costly repercussions.
- Simplified compliance and risk management: Lower your liabilities and keep sensitive data under lock and key through phishing-resistant authentication, strong encryption, cryptographic asset management, and continuous monitoring.
Why you need Zero Trust in a cloud environment
Traditionally, Zero Trust security is predicated on an enterprise’s ability to manage the network itself. In turn, the security team can establish access control policies and other mechanisms — and more importantly, it can enforce them.
But now, with more organizations hosting information in cloud environments, there is concern over whether enterprises lack this control level. Cloud domains are owned/operated by cloud providers and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors, meaning a company’s network security policy doesn’t automatically carry over to the cloud environment. Consequently, sensitive data stored or transmitted is at risk of being spread across an unprotected attack surface.
And, because these safeguards don’t automatically carry over, many businesses might have little to no insight into:
- Who or what is accessing their data
- What device they’re accessing it from
- How the information is being used/shared
- When their corporate assets are involved in a data breach
Strengthening a Zero Trust security posture can help you manage:
- Remote workers: Even as employees return to the office, hybrid setups are here to stay. Zero Trust provides distributed workforces the means to stay connected despite their distance and increase efficiency without cost to the user experience.
- Machine identities: Machine identities are digital keys, secrets, and certificates that establish the validity of digital transactions. They’re important for secure communication between machines, such as servers, workstations, bots, applications, and more. According to Gartner research, devices and workloads are outnumbering human users by an “order of magnitude,” rendering it exceptionally difficult to manage these transactions. Implementing a zero-trust model can help mitigate their associated risks through enhanced visibility and control across an increasingly vast array of machine identities.
- Third-party vendors: Cloud providers are another entry point into your extended perimeter. They have access to data processed through their applications, which means a security breach on their end could cascade into a bigger problem on yours. Eliminating implicit trust ensures that even third-party vendors are vetted properly through strong authentication.
- Shadow IT and BYOD: Employees may be accessing corporate resources from an unprotected personal device. Likewise, individual users or departments may install tools and apps without proper authorization. Zero Trust enhances visibility, allowing you to spot and mitigate these potential threats in real time.