What is Zero Trust Architecture?

Introduction

Table of Contents

In 2021, cyber attackers managed to shut down the Colonial Pipeline one of the largest pipelines in the United States. The Colonial Pipeline attack is one of many instances that’s prompting the issue of modernizing and strengthening cybersecurity for critical infrastructure in the US.

These types of attacks beg the question, “is there too much “trust” in organizations’ cybersecurity architecture?” Zero Trust (ZT)  or zero trust architecture is important to understand for all cybersecurity experts.

We’re going to outline what the zero trust architecture means. Then, we’re going to go into detail on how you can implement it in your network design.

 

What is Zero Trust?

Zero trust is a design approach that ensures that security is prioritized over any form of trust gained by users.

You may have heard of zero trust through one of its other abbreviations. These are ZTA or ZTNA. Or you may know it by the term perimeter-less security. All of these terms correspond to the same basic design principle.

Put simply, a zero trust design approach is a strategic initiative which assumes there are attackers within and outside of a network, in a sense, eliminating all “trust” from an organization’s network architecture.

The main message behind the design can be summed up through the phrase “never trust, always verify”.

 

What is a Zero Trust Architecture?

This question becomes much easier to answer once we’ve answered the above. Zero trust architecture is anything that has been built or developed with zero trust principles in mind.

In the wake of continued cloud-based computing solutions, ZTA has become more important than ever before.

Why is Zero Trust Important?

To understand why zero trust security is important, you need to know about lateral movement.

Cyberattacks rarely occur at the point of entry; this is just where a hacker gains access. Most cybercriminals will then laterally work through a system, in order to access the most sensitive information.

In the field of cybersecurity, assessing lateral movement is crucial to ensuring a system remains secure. This lies at the core of why zero trust is an important principle when it comes to types of security models.

Zero trust ensures that access to your system always remains restricted, at all possible breach points. This makes it vital to ensure your network is secure and as safe as possible from cyber criminals today.

Core Principles of a Zero Trust Model

The core principles of a zero trust model are usually defined as follows:

  • Creating single, strong user identities and single, strong device identities
  • Authenticate access, anywhere in a network
  • Know all of your architecture, including devices, whilst monitoring their health
  • Set policies based on the value of data or a service
  • Control access and never trust the network itself, including the local network
  • Always use services designed for zero trust

These principles have been abbreviated from the UK’s NCSC.

 

How To Implement a Zero Trust Model

There is a simple 5-step methodology that can be helpful when implementing a zero trust model.

  1. Define the data or services that you’re trying to protect. This could be user information, financial details, business information, assets, or anything else.
  2. Map transaction flows. This is tracking the way people are trafficked through a network.
  3. Design the zero trust architecture itself. We’ll provide more assistance on that step below.
  4. Outline the policies of use. These should be based on the who, what, when, where, why, how principles.
  5. Constantly monitoring and maintaining your network. This is an on-going process, and updates may be needed regularly to ensure your network remains within the zero trust model.

How To Create a Zero Trust Network

As mentioned above, actually creating a zero trust network is a crucial step in implementation. It has its own 4 stage process, which can be followed to achieve the best results.

Same as before, you first need to ensure you’ve identified, but this time you need to identify users as well as IoT devices. Figure out who and what is regularly accessing your network.

Next, you must set up controls to manage access. This is also known as applying microsegmentation to your network. These controls are commonly known as access controls, and concern how users access your network. Usually, next-generation firewalls are used to ensure this security.

Once you’ve set up access controls, you must again continually monitor access. This monitoring ensures you know which controls are working properly, and which need improving.

The final step that’s important today is ensuring your network is secure for remote access. This may involve increased identification features or monitoring, to ensure your system is secure when accessed remotely.

 

Tips for Achieving Zero Trust

The first tip to bear in mind to achieve zero trust is to put considerable time and effort into those identification stages. You need to know who has high-level access to your network to ensure your access controls can be maintained.

As a general rule, a good tip is also to provide just enough access in a system. The fewer accounts you operate through, the less you need to monitor.

Always ensure you know who should have access to what, and never allow anyone default access to any part of your system. This lack of default access can become one of the main benefits of zero trust.

A final tip is to adopt the zero trust mentality outside of network design itself. Zero trust is an outlook that you’ll also need to filter through to your employees to achieve the best results.

Make sure all those with access are aware of what the zero trust idea is, and why it’s important. This can help them be mindful when accessing the network and can make the job of monitoring it far easier. It can also help them adapt to new ways of working around the zero trust model.

 

Challenges of Zero Trust

There are some challenges of zero trust that you need to keep in mind.

The first of these is that older systems may find it more challenging to implement zero trust overall. Integrating zero trust with third-party technologies can also pose some problems if you’re not prepared.

With the current trend of remote working, zero trust has become more challenging than ever before. You’ll need to consider optimum working conditions alongside zero trust principles to come up with a solution.

Finally, zero trust always requires continual monitoring and updating to achieve. This can be a large commitment for anyone looking to implement zero trust properly.

Thankfully, all of these challenges can be mitigated with the right kind of support.

 

How SentinelOne Can Help

You should now know what zero trust is, as well as how it’s usually implemented. You should also understand the core benefits that the principle offers security systems today.

If you’re concerned about the security level of your company, make sure to consider SentinelOne. The SentinelOne platform adopts a singularity approach to ensure all aspects of your security are considered.

Put an end to passive security. SentinelOne proactively protects your business at every stage of the threat lifecycle. See for yourself – Schedule a demo.
 

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