How a Zero Trust Security Framework Promises to Protect Your Business

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Trojan horses. Phishing attacks. Ransomware. Backdoor malware. There are threats coming at your business from all angles and growing in sophistication. And that’s not going to change.

This is the side effect of evolving into a digital, data-driven landscape. Businesses have opened up a Pandora’s Box of cyber threats, putting their sensitive data, operations, and bottom line at risk.

Since we cannot force all of these malicious programs and tactics back into the box, enterprises need to adapt their approach to cybersecurity. The zero trust security framework appears to be the right approach to stifle cyber threats against businesses. Here’s what you need to know about zero trust and how it will directly impact your business.

What Is Zero Trust?

In a nutshell, organizations that implement a zero trust security framework approach identity verification with rigorous restrictions. Any person, program, or device attempting to access resources on a network must pass several layers of authentication. Even established partners and internal processes must provide approved verification. The idea of whitelisting certain requests or giving those within the network default trust is revoked.

The reasoning for this methodology is simple. Hackers will find ways to compromise individual users or applications. When they eventually circumvent part of your network perimeter, you do not want them acting with carte blanche in your otherwise vulnerable network.

Under a zero trust approach, your organization limits further access points for each distinct piece of your system. People or systems can only access network resources that are relevant to their present task, cutting off the ability of cyber criminals to breach vital systems.

Zero Trust Strategies that Mitigate Threats

More than offering a prescribed set of technologies, zero trust is an ongoing, holistic shift in cybersecurity methods. That means the tools and processes of zero trust architecture do not need to be uniform across organizations – as long as the principle of strict and recurrent verification is observed.

With that said, here are some of the cybersecurity strategies that align with the zero trust mentality and help organizations to reduce breaches without bias.

  • Multi-factor authentication – Only 15% of organizations have enacted a robust zero trust policy, but many are unknowingly on the path to greater security fortification: multi-factor authentication (MFA). The 3rd Annual Global Password Security Report announced that a majority of organizations are now using MFA (up from 45% the year before to 57%).The majority of organizations are using MFA applications that provides a one-time authorization code or one-tap authorization that verifies user identity in addition to other questions. By requiring multiple pieces of evidence for the user to identify his or herself, you eliminate significant gaps that would allow cybercriminals to impersonate otherwise authorized users.
  • Password-less authentication – The practice of using passwords to verify a user’s identity is deeply broken. At least 59% of people use the same password for everything and almost 10% of the population has used one of the 25 worst passwords. These bad habits enable hackers to use password spraying tactics or passwords they’ve stolen to bring your house of cards tumbling down.Zero trust encourages organizations to ditch the old-school password in favor of identification that is harder to forge. Organizations can use biometric signatures (e.g. fingerprints, retina scans, etc.) or knowledge-based authentication (questions like “what was the name of your first pet?” or “who was your favorite high school teacher?”) to verify users, creating a UX that is secure and user friendly.
  • Microsegmentation – More than creating authentication hoops for users to jump through, zero trust is also focused on preventing any unnecessary access. It’s easier to limit the movement of cybercriminals in your network if you’ve partitioned accessibility in advance. Strict segmentation of user authorization and access within applications, networks, and databases allows administrators to prevent privilege creep and curb avoidable breaches.
  • Dynamic risk scoring – Hackers aren’t all that interested in complicated heists. Time (and effort) are money. That’s why cybercriminals pursue the path of least resistance whenever possible, seeking out easy-to-find or emerging gaps in your security.One zero trust compliant strategy to stymie these efforts is dynamic risk scoring. Using a multitude of data sources within your organization, analytical tools can evaluate a number of weighted variables and can compute the potential risk that an application or user poses. Any entity that has a worrisome trust score can automatically be denied access, automating your response in a way that enhances the protection of your data.

These are just a fraction of the potential strategies that organizations using a zero trust framework can leverage. The dynamic nature of this mindset encourages organizations to embrace change, implementing new strategies as they evolve with the threats and conditions of the market.

Does Zero Trust Security Align with Regulation?

With the mantra of trust no one, this security framework offers organizations across industries a mindset that aligns well with their existing data privacy and network security requirements. In fact, zero trust’s simplicity gives organizations that are obligated to maintain compliance with HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR, or other regulations a straightforward guideline to follow.

Here’s an example. A healthcare payor needs to maintain compliance with HIPAA rulings on the management and protection of personal healthcare information (PHI), but also regularly exchange data with healthcare providers, the CDC, third-party vendors, and industry associations. Without zero trust, all of that data activity makes it very easy for hackers to find a weak link in the chain, exploiting the user or program to gain deeper access to the system.

Restricting, monitoring, and fortifying data access points throughout that network and data ecosystem helps to protect PHI. Replacing passwords with multi-factor authentication prevents less secure partners from making their bad habits your organization’s liability. Implementing strict access controls that create microsegments within an EMR or data lake will ensure users only access the bare necessities that are relevant to their work.

These cybersecurity strategies and others are not healthcare specific. Financial services, information technology, and other industries with enticing stockpiles of personally identifiable information (PII) can all apply this security framework in ways that decrease enterprise liability and stop hackers in their tracks.

Eager to stay ahead of the latest IT innovations and trends? Let w3r Consulting keep you informed. Reach out to our team and we can connect you with the right talent and solutions for your business.

 

 

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