Securing Your Network With Zero Trust – Best Practices, Zero trust requires a fundamental change in an organization’s security posture. The goal is to secure data and systems by limiting access based on business needs. The mantra is “never trust, always verify.” Every user, device, and connection is assumed hostile until proven otherwise. The model ensures that all access is monitored and inspected to prevent lateral movement, which restricts attackers from stealing or compromising data.
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The zero trust model is based on a simple idea: Never trust, always verify. The framework assumes that users, devices, and applications are hostile until proven otherwise. The architecture enables access to networks and internal resources only after user identity, device posture, and business context are verified and policies are enforced. This granular approach to network access reduces the attack surface and provides visibility that traditional security controls cannot achieve.
To fully implement the zero trust model, you must have complete visibility of all users, devices, and applications. This requires deploying a complete, integrated identity management solution combining a robust device enrollment process and advanced threat detection capabilities. Encryption is also an essential aspect of the zero trust architecture. By implementing strong encryption and storing identities on hardware co-processors, it becomes much more difficult for attackers to gain trust by impersonating legitimate users or devices. Zero trust systems that utilize micro-segmentation can further protect against lateral movement by separating different areas of the network.
Even if attackers gain access to one zone, they will only have direct access to other zones with additional authorization. Finally, you must monitor all connections to data and assets (even those from inside your firewall) to detect any unusual behavior that could indicate a cyberattack is occurring. Continuous monitoring combines network perimeter telemetry with security analytics to detect anomalies and alert analysts and automated systems.
When appropriately implemented, micro-segmentation provides granular security that stops attackers. It helps eliminate lateral movement across the network after an attack and enforces strict access controls on devices, such as BYOD, that are in the environment. Traditional approaches include leveraging VLANs, hardware firewall appliances, or software-defined networking (SDN). However, these approaches lack visibility into traffic and application interactions that enable granular policy-making to prevent attacks and performance issues. Micro-segmentation allows admins to create zones based on environments, applications, and workloads. Then, they can set access controls based on the principle of least privilege to ensure that only the minimum set of devices can access other segments.
This reduces excessive implicit trust, an essential aspect of Zero Trust. For example, if one of the zones is used to store sensitive information, admins can set policies to control who has access to that zone. This protects against data breaches caused by careless activity, such as a developer using live data from production in their development environment. For best results, choose a solution that delivers unified segmentation and visibility that works with cloud environments, bare metal servers, and containers. Also, look for a solution that supports continuous monitoring and validation of users, applications, and devices and has the flexibility to evolve with your organization.
Least Privilege Access
This is a crucial security best practice and a central tenant of zero trust. It requires limiting user and administrator access to critical systems and information. This reduces the organization’s attack surface, preventing a threat actor from exploiting a vulnerability on a device to gain elevated privileges and access to more critical information. It’s also essential to enforce this principle by enforcing password policies and requiring multifactor authentication for system admin accounts. Zero trust requires strict identity verification for every device, user, and application attempting to access the network.
This includes verifying that the user is who they say they are, ensuring their device or machine is not infected, and assessing the quality of their connection to the network. A network that is fully implementing this philosophy can implement micro-segmentation, require multifactor authentication for all users and devices, and prioritize access to data and applications based on role. This will help to keep the network clean and protected despite evolving threats that can exploit gaps in the perimeter or internal networks.
While deploying zero trust in your organization may seem daunting, it’s essential to start by getting key teams and stakeholders on board to identify use cases that can help drive adoption. This will help you reevaluate legacy investments and make the transition to zero trust more manageable.
Zero trust requires zooming in on the areas of your network that need the most protection rather than trying to protect the whole ecosystem. This includes defining your “protect surface,” which comprises segments that contain sensitive data, essential IT operations, and anything else you deem worthy of more robust user privileges.
This process will require mapping your entire network and understanding where your most critical assets reside, including cloud environments, on-premises systems, Software-as-a-Service solutions, etc. It will also include identifying users, devices, and their associated permissions to ensure that each individual is thoroughly vetted. Zero trust identity access management (ZTIAM) solutions can help by offering multifactor authentication (MFA), enabling more secure access and automating policy enforcement. NGFW is an essential piece of this puzzle because it can provide segmentation gateway capabilities and granular perimeter enforcement based on data, user, and device.
It can also offer advanced functionality like deep, real-time threat and application inspection, policy enforcement, adaptive conditional access, and encrypted one-to-one tunnels. While looking beyond the legacy tools and technologies you’ve relied upon for years may be challenging, a fresh approach can save your organization significant time, money, and stress in a highly agile and competitive environment.