For the past several years we’ve all been sold the benefits of moving to Zero Trust, and it’s worked. We’re sold. But what now?
At this point, companies have decided to embark on a long and committed journey – Zero Trust (ZT) isn’t built in a day. Keeping a clear eye on the finish line is necessary to maintain enthusiasm and buy-in as ZT architecture is put into place, divisions are shuffled around, and resources are fortified. We all know why we should adopt Zero Trust (and what can happen if we don’t), but what do we have to look forward to when we get there, and what’s the pay-off for our IT teams who are doing all the work?
A look at the long-term benefits of a Zero Trust strategy will enhance focus and reinforce purpose as companies move towards a brave new world of cyber protection. Here’s what your organization could look like (and has to look forward to).
Benefits of a Long-Standing Zero Trust Architecture
1. Streamlined protection of resources
With a ZT strategy, the network is no longer the largest factor in securing any particular digital asset. Resources (workflows, services, applications, network accounts) are secured behind their own individual walls of authentication and authorization, both for the user and the device. This means a smaller threat surface area when guarding any one asset – you don’t automatically trust whoever’s made it onto the network and leave internal resources exposed. A narrow, individually guarded single point of entry for each asset compartmentalizes Identity and Access Management (IAM) and allows IT teams a second point of defense behind the firewall.
2. A scalable remote workforce
Since remote work has become a way of life, it’s safe to say location-based permissions are a thing of the past. A Zero Trust security posture makes it possible for remote employees to still access mission-critical data from anywhere and gives SOCs less to deal with as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) continuously monitors entries from beyond the home network. As companies continue to expand work-from-anywhere options and take on employees from across the globe, secure remote access (that can be simplified under a ZTNA umbrella) is increasingly valuable.
3. Policy compliance assurance
As more and more data privacy laws pop up, companies have to keep an eye over both shoulders. Not only do organizations have to stay ahead of malicious and emerging threats, but of legal compliance obligations as well. Crossing either could result in both serious reputational and financial repercussions. You can’t get more secure than 100% secure, and that’s what Zero Trust aims to do. By adopting a Zero Trust approach to their cybersecurity strategy, companies can help ensure compliance across the board with whatever policy comes up. A good Zero Trust partner can help. Tripwire Enterprise can provide compliance results on each entity within a particular system to help you customize your ZT approach and ensure alignment with government and industry guidelines.
4. Smaller attack surface
One big problem companies face is not being able to staff the solutions they currently have. In the face of an ongoing cyber talent crisis, qualified cybersecurity professionals are (already) hard to come by, and may become harder to attain as more digital entities proliferate and the demand soars even higher. Add to that the fact that threats are exponentiating due to as-a-Service models (RaaS, PhaaS, etc.) and becoming increasingly sophisticated (fileless malware, fresh domains, recompiled code) and what existing IT teams companies do have will be swamped. Most likely, they already are. A Zero Trust security posture clamps down on the surface area available to attackers by locking down access points (endpoint, IAM, microsegmentation, MFA, and ZTNA) so there are fewer spaces malicious exploits can get in. Zero Trust also requires full accountability over all existing assets and can then provide granular visibility and analytics over the system, reducing the workload on strained SOCs and giving them the tools to make whatever threats are left visible and manageable.
5. Simplified cloud-based cybersecurity
As organizations (continue to) move to the cloud and develop that as their base of operations, they will find that cloud security is a beast of its own. First, not all cloud providers are cloud security providers, so there may be some unforeseen challenges there. Secondly, part of the risk of cloud computing is confusion; according to one report, the biggest challenge in cloud security is gaining visibility into infrastructure security. Because a Zero Trust approach requires an initial inventory, assessment, and run-down of all services and architectures prior to deployment, companies with a ZT cloud strategy partner will have a “set it and forget it” advantage to cloud security while the others are still figuring it out – often, one bad surprise at a time.
100% Data Integrity
It’s important to remember that the point of any Zero Trust security posture is to achieve 100% data integrity. All subsequent controls, refinements, and restrictions should be implemented towards this end, and ultimately work together to achieve this goal.
A File Integrity Monitoring (FIM) system, for example, can go a long way in preventing data corruption at the source by alerting you when there have been changes made to any critical file, including executables, libraries, and configurations. In any Zero Trust approach, securing sensitive information is the end to all means.
It may seem like a lot of changes in the beginning, but it’s the difference between treading the same ground and building a car that will get you there faster, safer, and more reliably. Work may be required in the beginning, but once your technologies are aligned and your Zero Trust architecture in place, you can scale securely, minimize staffing and solutions-based overhead, and simplify management with centralized, cloud-based control. When considering the complexities of ongoing digitization, the sophistication of emerging threats, and the spread of remote work, the long-term benefits are worth every step on the journey to achieving Zero Trust.
Zero Trust and the Seven Tenets
Whether you are new to information security, or you’re a long-time practitioner, it seems that “zero trust” is the latest initiative at the top of everyone’s priority list. Special Publication 800-207, created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers guidance for instituting a zero trust architecture.
The document outlines the basic tenets that form the foundation of zero trust.