What is the Zero-Trust Model? How to Approach Security in the Cloud Age.

August 25, 2021

By Rhia Prajes

The COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in a massive global shift to remote working, necessitating that IT environments be accessible anytime and anywhere by users with multiple devices, instead of just from the office where IT managers have more control. Continuing to use traditional Perimeter-based security model in these changing times, however, can leave your business exposed to numerous cyberthreats, such as ransomware. To ensure that your distributed groups of staff can safely connect to their networks, it is important that businesses adopt a Zero-Trust framework to address risks and vulnerabilities.

Although the Zero-Trust Model has existed for about 10 years, sprawling cyberthreats combined with the sudden decentralization of our workforces, has increased demand for a “Never Trust, Always Verify” approach. At the core of Zero-Trust (or “Perimeter-less”) security is the idea that automatic Trust of users as they navigate a network creates vulnerability, and requires that strong verification be implemented to anything and everything attempting to connect to an organization’s system before granting access.

For example, when a user logs into a system, they will typically have free reign to navigate throughout the network as they access files, email, apps, etc. What a Zero-Trust approach does is it requires users reconfirm their identity as they move between different workloads, such as email and file servers.

How to build a Zero-Trust Architecture

Now, many people may ask, “Is Zero-Trust even possible without killing my productivity?” The answer is, YES! With the right technology and setup, seamless Zero-Trust Architecture can be achieved, BUT it requires integrating this framework at every level of your IT environment. Below, we’ll cover the steps a business must consider when applying Zero-Trust to their environment.

Identify Protect Surface

When building a Zero-Trust Architecture, one must identify the most critical and valuable locations in your network: the Data, Assets, Applications, and Services that comprise your IT environment. Once you know the scope of what you want to protect, it is much easier to identify how traffic moves through your network.

If we think of our network as our own home, this step would be akin to taking stock of all the rooms in the building, the doorways that connect them, and the valuable assets we have stored in each room.

Leveraging Network Micro-segmentation

With a Protect Surface identified, the next step would be to break our network into granular pieces with their own security. If we look back at our Home analogy, Network Micro-segmentation is like keeping not only the front and back doors locked, but every other door inside as well. It means each distinct unit of our house (i.e. a single Room) has its own protection that requires users unlock to get through.

Through Micro-segmentation, your organization creates secure zones across cloud and data center environments to isolate application workloads from one another and secure them individually. This way, you are not only achieving security compliance but also protecting critical applications and reducing your attack surface.

User Access Control

It is also imperative to any cybersecurity plan to identify all users and devices within the network. Zero-Trust states that devices and users should not be trusted by default, even if connected to a managed corporate network and or they previously verified their identity at login, and should continuously be re-verified. Referring back to the home analogy, this is like assigning every person inside the house an ID card that gets them through each locked door.

This is where Identity and Access Management comes in the big picture. It grants users access to the network from anywhere while maintaining tight and centralized security to achieve an “Identity Defined Security”. It is also applicable with identifying the environment of your website users as a website’s front-end is vulnerable to attacks like the DDoS (Denial-of-Service) Attack.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory, for example, helps protect your organization with a complete Identity and Access Management system with secured adaptive access, seamless user experiences, unified identity across platforms, and simplified governance.

Continuous Network Monitoring

Another key component of a Zero-Trust environment is real-time monitoring of each activity for each user. It means not letting your guard down! Once access is given to the user, tools should be deployed for proper monitoring of device behavior as to whether the user is operating normally or there is a cause for suspicion. Microsoft Cloud App Security is another tool that helps your organization identify and combat cyberthreats across all your cloud services by intelligently analyzing each event that occurs in network.

If we again think of our network as our home, think of this step as setting up security cameras throughout the house and having a security team reviewing the footage in real-time.

Deploying of Zero-Trust Architecture

When your business needs to get started with Zero-Trust, it is not about implementing individual technologies or applying it only to a single location, but about enforcing technologies that will offer continuous analysis and reverification of the users in your system.

Security tools and processes such as Micro-segmentation, Multi-Factor Authentication, Single Sign-on, and Identity and Access Management will surely help your organization achieve Zero-Trust Architecture, but a rethinking how your network is used and accessed is a great place to start. The right training and a trusted provider can help immensely for implementing Zero-Trust in your business, as they can often provide a detailed assessment of your network scope and offer a roadmap to revamp your security.

Metro CSG offers a wide array of Security Services that supports and deploys Zero-Trust Security Model. Contact us today and we can help you discover the best approach!

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