Demystify Zero Trust to reap the benefits

Zero Trust, a security model that consists of reducing the trust placed in users, is the hot topic of the moment. According to Gartner, by 2023, 60% of businesses will implement a Zero Trust virtual private network (VPN) strategy.

However, this cybersecurity model hides a lot of confusion in the market as to its exact nature. It is indeed important to understand it perfectly in order to be able to apply it in companies and derive the benefits.

Zero Trust, a protection strategy

Security solution providers cannot sell a Zero Trust tool or service. It is indeed a principle that guides security policies and architectures. When this concept of cybersecurity is implemented in an enterprise, the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is the ideal architecture to integrate, and the Security Service Edge (SSE), a set of security solutions that provides the necessary capabilities to the SASE.

In order to implement this Zero Trust model, data access decisions must be made with the assumption of zero trust. Thus, access is granted on the basis of continuous, adaptive and context-aware decisions.

This approach was initially based on very simple scopes, i.e. identity/device and private application credentials, as well as binary “allow/deny” policy options. However, over time, it has grown due to the improved granular information that can be gleaned from security systems. By default, it should now use insights from more areas, such as user behavior, identity, application risk, data, devices, and threats.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is just the start

If the ZTNA is an excellent start, and an important element on the way to a secure architecture of the Zero Trust type, it must not become an end. It is indeed only the first phase of a cybersecurity strategy for the organization, which still requires several steps to be functional, effective and advantageous.

Secondly, the teams in charge of security must adapt access to each application and each user. This phase means moving to adaptive access that allows employees to access specific and necessary applications to carry out their missions. In addition, explicit trust controls should be put in place at risky destinations, using, for example, on-demand isolation technologies. The purpose of these checks is to establish the principle of least privilege throughout the network. Then, each identity will access, by means of authorizations, the applications and services required to carry out their activities, and only these. Finally, the organization strengthens its security and confidence by refining closed loop policies. To do this, real-time analyzes are essential here.

Ultimately, network access is only the starting point of the approach, but the benefits are much greater when the principle is extended and data-driven, rather than traditional perimeter security models. With these different steps, if a cybercriminal gains access to the identity of a user, he can be recognized thanks to the controls even before committing his misdeeds. In addition, with the least privilege, lateral movements will be limited and the entire infrastructure can be protected.

A question of security?

Although its main objective is to improve an organization’s security posture, Zero Trust is not limited to the security team. If it is now known that security is a factor that promotes agility and the objectives of the company, the entire workforce of an organization is concerned. Concretely, if designed and implemented correctly, these initiatives help CIOs consolidate vendors, improve transparency in service integration, and realize operational efficiencies. So, because these initiatives span security, cloud, and networking teams, they can serve as catalysts to drive cross-disciplinary collaboration.

A strong security posture, based on the principles of Zero Trust, leads to essential possibilities for modern organizations. First, because user and data location is no longer a limiting factor, businesses can make geographic adjustments flexibly. Also, sales teams have the flexibility to recruit new partners, change locations and explore new business models without their actions exposing the organization to increased risk. Finally, companies can test new digital solutions and realize productivity gains without having to go through tedious security authorizations, which sometimes take months before allowing an application to be used.

So, although the concept of Zero Trust is at the center of discussions, it is not just a fad. Indeed, this strategy is beneficial to the company as a whole and not only in terms of cybersecurity. As soon as the security posture is improved, the organization gains in flexibility. With an ever-changing threat landscape, this advantage is significant.

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