In the past, network security was implemented in such a way that assumed user accounts that already had access to a network were trustworthy. However, the increasing popularity of cloud environments and remote work has created more opportunities for threat actors to gain unauthorized network access.
The problem with the traditional network segmentation model is that it only requires verification for users and systems outside of the network. This approach falls apart in today’s world.
On the other hand, zero trust requires constant validation—even for internal network connections. This greatly reduces the chance of a cyber attack. Even if one does occur, this strategy greatly reduces the potential damage it may cause.
Related: Network Segmentation vs Microsegmentation
How does zero trust work?
To understand how zero trust works, it is helpful to understand the core principles of this model first. Here are the core principles:
- Continuous verification: Access is verified at all times for all resources.
- Principle of least privilege: Users are only given access to the apps and resources they need to do their jobs and aren’t allowed free rein while on a network.
- Limiting the potential for damage: By reducing the opportunity for unauthorized access, the potential for damage is also reduced.
- Use of context-based policies to protect data: Access rights are granted based on context and are constantly reevaluated.
Since zero trust starts with the assumption that everything is hostile, it is inherently safer. With microsegmentation tools in place, zero trust enables IT teams to secure applications and services across different network environments as well.
Also read: Using Zero Trust Security to Protect Applications and Databases
Benefits of zero trust
While it is improbable that cyber attacks will ever be completely eliminated, implementing zero trust offers the following benefits:
- Reduction of attack surface: Even if an attacker is able to penetrate a network’s defenses, it is unlikely to have a widespread impact.
- Effective for cloud security: Cloud environments are more nebulous, and therefore harder to control from a security perspective. Zero trust treats everything as a potential risk, making it effective for cloud security.
- Increased visibility for IT personnel: Zero trust provides more detailed monitoring data for IT personnel and ensures that they have visibility of all network activity.
Read more on TechRepublic: Why organizations are keen on zero trust but are slow to adopt it
Drawbacks of zero trust
Zero trust is very effective at keeping threat actors from causing harm to your network, but there are some drawbacks to consider:
- Incomplete implementation can lead to gaps in security: A zero trust model must be embraced across an entire network; otherwise, there may be gaps in the security framework that defeat the purpose of implementing the model in the first place.
- Ongoing updates are needed: IT teams must account for changes in their organizations’ staffing needs or risk undermining the zero trust framework.
- Productivity could take a hit: If zero trust isn’t well implemented and maintained effectively, it could create productivity barriers for employees across the organization.
Read more on Enterprise Networking Planet: Pros and Cons of Zero Trust Security
Zero trust use cases
1. Reducing risk
Zero trust allows IT teams to monitor which users and systems have network access and their activity within the network. It also prevents all applications and services from communicating until they are verified. This careful control helps to reduce risk in organizations.
2. Obtaining and maintaining access control over cloud environments
With a cloud environment, the security pertaining to workloads is shared between an organization and its cloud provider. Zero trust security policies are based on a workload’s identity, allowing teams more granular control over each workload’s access across the network.
3. Supporting compliance initiatives
Many organizations are held to strict industry standards and government regulations. Having zero trust in place ensures that users and workloads are isolated from one another, thereby minimizing the fallout from any successful attack. Additionally, organizations with zero trust in place are in compliance with various privacy standards and regulations such as NIST 800-207.
Also read: DMZ vs Zero Trust Network: Is the DMZ Network Dead?
Is zero trust worth it?
The average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million in 2021. In addition to the monetary cost, there are also productivity losses to contend with after a data breach.
However, by implementing measures such as zero trust security companies can protect against the risk of data breaches. While it is impossible to completely avoid data breaches and cyberattacks, zero trust network access models enable organizations to prevent cyber threats and reduce any damage they may inflict.
Explore top tools on eSecurity Planet: Best Zero Trust Security Solutions