As threat actors become increasingly sophisticated, enterprises face a constant battle to keep their security policies and controls at par with the evolution of threats. The attack surface continues to widen as the technology landscape becomes more complex, increasing the opportunities for hackers to cause widespread devastation.
In response, Zero Trust helps to eliminate potential network vulnerabilities, reduce the attack surface, improve response times, gain control over container and cloud environments and ultimately improve overall security posture.
Also see: Top Zero Trust Networking Solutions
What is Zero Trust?
Zero Trust architecture refers to a security approach based on the principle that no network element can be trusted. Zero Trust denies access to users, devices and applications attempting to interact with an architecture unless they are explicitly granted access; the right to have access is continuously verified. Requests are never trusted by default, even if they have been previously verified or earned access to corporate networks.
Traditional security models like the castle and moat used the dated assumption that everything inside an organization’s network perimeter should be completely trusted. This gave rise to Zero Trust, as such problematic trust meant that whoever gets access to the network is free to move laterally and can access sensitive data due to the absence of granular security controls.
Also see: Steps to Building a Zero Trust Network
Pros and Cons of Zero Trust
Zero Trust models can reinforce the pillars of IT and security in an organization. Yet as many advantages as if offers, it also faces some challenges.
Advantages of Zero Trust
The strengths of Zero Trust are numerous, and include:
Segmentation of data and resources
Proper segmentation of both data and resources enables robust access policies. Zero Trust offers protection of critical IP from unauthorized access through splitting the network of an organization into compartments. This also reduces the attack surface while preventing lateral motion of threats through a network.
Data security in storage and transfer
Reducing attack surfaces and restricting data access through segmentation does not safeguard organizations from data leaks, security breaches and interception if they fail to secure their data in transit and storage. Organizations can include automated backups, end-to-end encryption, and hashed data among other methods in their Zero Trust adoption, as Zero Trust guards data during storage and transit.
Security orchestration involves ensuring that all security solutions and measures work well together and cover every possible attack vector. It can be challenging to find the right configurations to optimize efficiency while reducing conflicts between solutions. An ideal Zero Trust model organizes all elements to complement each other without leaving any gaps.
Strong user identification and access policies
Zero Trust models offer protection to applications and data by verifying who is requesting access, the circumstances of the request as well as the risk of the access environment before providing entry. This could involve adding an extra authentication layer or placing limits on resource functionality.
Challenges of Zero Trust
Regardless of the strengths covered above, Zero Trust models face a few challenges that all enterprises should consider as they plan:
Increased variety of users to manage
Not too long ago, it was the norm for employees to spend most of their working hours at their workplaces. Today, remote and hybrid work models have taken over. Excluding a workforce, users such as customers and third-party vendors often require access to an organization’s data and resources. This greater variety of access points means a Zero Trust framework would require specified policies for each group – a potentially complex process that needs constant updating.
Time and effort to establish
The reorganization of policies in an existing network is a challenge as the network is required to function during the transition to a Zero Trust framework. Sometimes it is easier to build a new network from scratch, especially when legacy systems prove to be incompatible with Zero Trust models.
Greater heterogeneity of devices to manage
Bring your own device (BYOD) policies and IoT equipment are increasingly defining today’s technology landscape for organizations and their workforces. Clearly, organizations supporting hybrid work have to oversee a vast variety of work devices. This means that an organization now has to track and secure – with the specificity required by Zero Trust – a potentially huge number of communication protocols, operating systems, and other device and application properties.
Increased application management complexity
The number of applications used across an organization for communication and collaboration by people and teams should also be taken into consideration when implementing a Zero Trust strategy. Cloud-based applications are versatile enough for use across multiple platforms. However, this versatility can introduce greater application management complexity.
Future Trends in Zero Trust
Security posture management efficiency will be increased by Zero Trust
The complexity associated with the configuration and management of policies will reduce with the increasing intelligence of security tools and their empowerment of IT. Risks such as missed software patches, configuration drift and security policy gaps will be examined by Zero Trust security posture management more quickly and efficiently.
Zero Trust principles will inform software and DevOps processes
As we go forward, Zero Trust’s real-time policy enforcement and security signal verification by modern network and application management tools will provide more effective data protection. Organizations will enjoy the ability to implement Zero Trust frameworks without having to retrofit applications.
Simplified policy management through deeper integration across security pillars
To ensure holistic protection and consistent enforcement of security policies and controls, the scope of Zero Trust is moving toward policy unification across security pillars, instead of focusing on safeguarding pillars individually. The unification of policies will broaden to cover more Zero Trust pillars to allow security teams to automate enforcement, which will strengthen their cybersecurity posture.
Automated response and threat intelligence to empower security initiatives and teams
As mentioned, threat actors are becoming more extensive and hacking techniques are increasingly sophisticated. The role of threat intelligence in correlating security signals across pillars is becoming more important. To combat this, Zero Trust working in concert with integrated XDR will help organizations attain end-to-end visibility, automate response to threats, and empower security teams.
Zero Trust and Software Defined Networking
As rapid technological disruption and transformation defines today’s business landscape, businesses must be as flexible as possible to maintain their competitive advantage. However, the expansion of IT ecosystems complicates the flexibility and agility of businesses. This drives the need for software-defined networking.
Where challenges of network scalability hamper innovation, SDN provides a potential solution as it helps reduce the time needed to pivot and adapt to ever-changing market requirements. SDN is also suitable for enterprises that struggle to innovate at speed, as it is a centralized, policy-based approach to managing IT assets. Furthermore, where organizations sacrifice innovation due to fear of major breaches to focus on resilience, SDN offers practical and technical enhancements to enterprise security.
In Zero Trust environments, security is enabled by software-defined rules and policies. As more organizations move their networking infrastructure to the cloud and the edge, software-defined networking is set to grow in tandem with Zero Trust.
Below are some key points about Zero Trust and SDN.
Greater enterprise security options
Both Zero Trust and SDN offers security teams more options to secure their organizations as they constantly fight against threats such as malware, ransomware and all manner of hacking techniques. Virtual- and SaaS-based web application firewalls (WAFs) are expected to experience growth as they play an increasingly important role in securing cloud workloads.
Both software-defined perimeters and Zero Trust avoid the innate shortcomings of the traditional castle-and-moat fixed perimeter technologies by providing a modern approach to network security. The need for the software-defined perimeter increases because of its suitability to the cloud infrastructures and hybrid work models of today. The increasing popularity of software-defined perimeters is due to their ability to empower users to create scalable, secure and lightweight connections across their environments.
Software-defined networking and IoT
Software-defined networking possesses network management efficiencies that enable more organizations to effectively implement 5G infrastructure. This opens up massive opportunities for IoT implementation for more enterprises. Advanced SDN technologies are increasingly being implemented in hybrid cloud systems to empower IoT and 5G. As these developments create exponentially increased levels of complexity, Zero Trust becomes ever more important.
SD-WAN and hybrid work
Since hybrid working models are here to stay, enterprises are increasingly adapting by implementing software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions. As these SD-WAN solutions offer improved broadband connectivity, better access to diverse enterprise applications and increased application performance, SD-WANs have grown globally. Their current growth is also influenced by the lower operational costs and the greater stability they guarantee. This developments create more endpoints for Zero Trust to secure.