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How to implement a zero-trust model into your cybersecurity practices

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For years, organizations have relied on perimeter security strategies to protect their user data. These traditional practices include using firewalls and other network security systems to validate the entry of users into the network systems. 

Perimeter-based security solutions were adequate when enterprises largely required local network operations, and employee network connectivity occurred only in the office. However, digital transformations like cloud computing have transformed network design and rendered the perimeter obsolete. The need for more secure access to data demands a security model that provides continuous protection for users and manages threats proactively. A zero-trust model addresses these security needs. 

What is a zero-trust model? 

A zero-trust model is a cybersecurity management strategy and a system of design principles that enhances security by assuming that every connection, whether external or internal, is a threat. As a result, zero trust gives employees more freedom in terms of when, how, and where they access organizational systems. 

According to a study by the Poneman Institute, the average total cost of a single data breach is around $3 million! This is why a growing number of businesses are turning to a zero-trust approach to secure their networks.

What is a zero-trust architecture? 

The founding principle of zero-trust architectures is that there is no secure perimeter. Instead, it sees every event and connection as suspicious and potentially dangerous.

Zero-trust architectures aim to make networks secure in the face of more sophisticated threats and complicated perimeters. This type of architecture can be broken down into three key components.

1. Enhanced internal security

Traditional architectures consider anything occurring within a network’s perimeter as trustworthy. The assumption is that any user or activity in the network has authentication and is, therefore, authorized. However, a zero-trust model presumes everybody is a threat and mandates a set of authentication and authorization, irrespective of the user being within or outside the network.

2. Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation of zero-trust architecture ensures correct control of users or apps within a network. This way, it limits the damage a hacker can inflict in the event of a breach.

3. Additional network

A zero-trust model uses multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is a security method that requires users to reply to requests to authenticate their identities before accessing networks.

See case study: Solarwinds Breach – Could it have been prevented?

How to implement a zero-trust model?

There are three main ways to implement a zero-trust model to ensure secure validation of your devices and systems.

1. Understand the architecture of your network

Create a complete inventory of your users, devices, and services to secure your network and assets. This involves determining who needs access to specific data and assets, as well as what liabilities this may create. It is also important to consider pre-existing setups and permissions. If you are migrating from traditional network architecture to a zero-trust approach, you may need to upgrade services and assets to ensure continuous functionality.

2. Constantly monitor your devices

Pay special attention to how devices and services interact with one another. Comprehensive and ongoing monitoring ensures that even if your security measures fail, you can notice and address threats in a timely manner.

By analyzing each device independently, you can examine device data in the context of network events to ensure that the traffic adheres to your regulations. This way, you are not only relying on traffic jams to detect suspicious events.

3. Assign device identities

Give your devices a unique and verifiable identity. These identities enable you to manage assets efficiently and expose untrusted devices. The identities come in handy while validating rights and access based on policies.

Depending on the device's hardware, platform, and type, there are numerous methods for identifying a unique identity. The most dependable technique is to store identity data on secure hardware co-processors. This method is tough to forge and has a high level of confidence.

Conclusion

Zero-trust models are becoming a key method for ensuring secure access to organizational systems. By understanding the architecture of your network, creating an inventory of users and devices, and monitoring devices constantly, you can implement a zero-trust model that is right for your organization.

Learn more about implementing a zero-trust model to protect your organization from data breaches by speaking with the Packetlabs team today.

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