Despite relying on cybersecurity professionals, tools, and awareness programs, most industries struggle to protect their sensitive information and digital assets. Traditional, heavily invested measures have proven insufficient, with hackers repeatedly infiltrating organizations, wreaking havoc, stealing information, and causing reputation and money loss. Decades into the wild goose chase between hackers and IT security teams, there is one uprising, highly strict framework that comes to put an end to threat actors. Is it the one? Or should we say, Zero?
The Zero Trust Framework represents a revolutionary approach to cybersecurity that challenges traditional security measures and prioritizes continuous authentication and authorization. In this article, we will explore the concept of Zero Trust, its key components, and its potential benefits and challenges for organizations and IT security teams.
Many security frameworks follow the traditional “Verify once – Trust that lasts” method; meaning, they assume users and end-devices within the organization’s perimeter are safe and can access relatively freely across the network. But a lot has changed, especially since COVID; With the popularity of cloud migration, and as more employees started remotely accessing the company’s systems through all types of personal devices (BYOD) and unsecured connections, the perimeter-based security approaches proved insufficient in defending organizations from trusted users.
A different approach was desperately needed to address the rapid changes companies were forced into. A system that protects all components and closes security gaps as they are discovered. A system that treats everyone and everything as guilty until proven innocent. Zero slack, Zero favoritism. Zero- Trust.
Zero Trust Framework
So, what is Zero Trust? In three words; continuous authentication & authorization
Zero Trust (ZT) is a framework that prioritizes continuous verification and authorization of users, devices, applications, and data. It is based on several standards and methodologies to ensure compatibility and protection against modern cyber threats. It challenges the conventional “Verify once – Trust that lasts” discipline, gives no weight if an entity sits inside or outside the network perimeter, and requires every user, device, and digital asset to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated to gain (and keep) access to applications and data.
By collecting insights from multiple organization environments (i.e. on-prem, VMs, hybrid cloud, etc.), and sourcing a tremendous amount of indicators of an asset’s current state, network infrastructure, and behavioral patterns, ZT can understand the organization’s dynamic, and threat level. By doing so, it can prevent unauthorized access while maintaining availability and minimizing temporal delays in the authentication mechanism.
Patient Zero Trust
ZT is on constant evolution since 2010. Its fundamentals are combined from research done by Forrester’s analyst John Kindervag (the founding father of ZT), and Gartner’s CARTA. From Google’s secure code deployment project for cloud microservices environment implementations “BeyondCorp” and “BeyondProd” (was highly difficult to implement), as well as from various US governmental agencies’ insights and best practices (NSA and CISA).
But perhaps the most profound benchmark for ZT is the NIST 800-207 guideline. On May 12th, 2021, the Joe Biden administration issued a dramatic Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, requiring all U.S. Federal Agencies to adopt and comply with the NIST 800-207 guidelines.
As part of the announcement, the white house addressed the need for collaboration between the private and public sectors and stressed the need for well-calculated Zero Trust Architecture by focusing on multi-layered environments and data acquisition in real-time.
Zero Trust is built from many moving components; micro-segmentations, network isolation, tools, challenges, risks, implementation, and integration. With so many mechanisms that co-exist, there is a key baseline needed to be planned to ensure the clock ticks – Zero Trust Architecture.
ArchCipher: ZT Architecture
Zero Trust Architecture is an enterprise’s 360° battle plan that incorporates various concepts, ideas, and workflows to protect any known asset. It involves human identities, digital entities, credentials, access management, operations, endpoints, hosting environments, and other interconnecting infrastructure. ZT Architecture aims to establish a highly secure environment by focusing on verifying user identities and managing access effectively. It places great importance on validating devices that connect to the network, ensuring they meet exact security criteria. Additionally, its design ensures that only authorized users and trusted devices can access data. By utilizing robust security analytics and continuous monitoring, any potential anomalies or breaches can be swiftly identified. Enforcing policies based on the principle of least privilege further enhances ZT’s security framework. Once the body is set and regulated, it is time to find the energy source to fuel the brain – Zero Trust Algorithm.
The ZT Algorithm leverage indicators from multiple sources such as access request, databases, historical behavioral patterns, observable information, threat Intelligence, and other metadata information. By utilizing Zero Trust Algorithm, it will endlessly monitor for malicious activities and grant or denies access to resources based on various inputs, including access requests, subject behavior patterns, asset information, threat intelligence, and more. ZT Algorithm is contextual; it understands if an employee trying to access more records than normal, after normal business hours, and using tools it normally doesn’t use or have access to.
But after the blueprint is made, what are the tools and heavy machinery to construct this enormous fabrication? Where is the practicality of waking up Trustenstein? Stay tuned for part 0/2 where we shall take a deep dive into best practices to wake up the beast; tools, policies, workflows, challenges, and recommendations.