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What is Zero Trust?

Security measures are crucial to protecting a company's critical information, including applications, endpoints, networks, and similar assets that they need to stay safe and relevant in today’s IT environment. The security measure “zero trust” can be indispensable for companies looking to increase their cyber resilience.

This article explains the basic information about zero trust, why it’s necessary for your enterprise, and what to consider when looking to adopt it.

In addition to data, zero trust security can be applied to applications, endpoints, networks, and similar assets.

What is zero trust?

Zero trust is a security mindset that verifies the safety of everything that accesses your information assets that should be protected. It helps prevent threats to information assets based on the phrase "trust no one implicitly".

Today’s IT environment has evolved. Cloud service adoption is much more common, virtually everyone has at least one mobile device on them at all times, and the internet of things (IoT) ensures that everyone is connected. How users access information assets is also diversifying, and it’s virtually impossible to protect our endpoint devices, network, data, and applications while leveraging yesterday’s conventional security measures.

Zero trust discards the concept of "boundaries and perimeters" in traditional security measures and verifies safety, enabling optimal security measures in a perpetually changing IT environment.

What makes zero trust security measures appealing today?

Traditional security measures are sometimes called "perimeter security." IT departments often establish boundaries for internal networks..2
For example, your company’s onsite network is safe and all external networks outside of your company’s virtual private network (VPN) are unsafe. This logic helps IT departments to implement security measures inside and outside the network perimeter.3

Firewalls and other equipment are installed on the perimeter, and security measures are taken for communication contents exchanged inside and outside the perimeter. However, with the spread of cloud and edge technologies, the boundaries between inside and outside the company have been blurred.

Conventional security architecture cannot provide optimal security against unknown threats for diversifying IT environments, so both applying zero trust and verifying the safety of everything is suitable for today's IT environment. Architectures that helps protect information assets and prevent disaster and disruption, including fraud and outside attacks, are necessary.

Enterprises may also struggle with traditional security if they approach securing their architecture in a siloed way that yields a siloed defense and only increases resilience against known threats. However, against unknown threats, this siloed approach tends to leave enterprises vulnerable. Adopting an integrated zero trust framework and radically changing the way an enterprise approaches governance helps increase an enterprise’s resilience against unknown threats.

What are the benefits of zero trust security?

Several key advantages of adopting zero trust security mindset include:

  • Enhanced perimeter-less security with strengthened Identity and Access management
  • Protection of enterprise assets including end-points, applications, and data
  • Secured cloud and edge services
  • Secured remote working and working on the go

Remote work and modern cloud-oriented environments can hinder conventional perimeter security and the ability to draw boundaries between what is inside and outside the company network. Zero trust security measures help to verify the resilience of all assets and communications regardless of where a company’s employees are working.

Adopting a zero trust security approach in today's diversifying hybrid IT environment helps strengthen your enterprise’s security and firmly protect your information assets. 

What should you consider before adopting zero trust security measures?

When adopting zero trust security measures, consider the following factors:

  • Cost
  • Convenience
  • Business goals
  • Strategy, framework, and architecture
  • Competency center

Before you implement any zero trust security measures, consider establishing a zero trust-specific framework, architecture, and competency center.

To implement zero trust security measures, an IT department often must do the following:

  • Create an integrated team with the right specialized skills
  • Create a management system and a mechanism for identifying the most critical assets to be protected, and the key use cases managing common governance and visibility capabilities across the five pillars of zero trust:
    • Identity
    • Data
    • Applications
    • Network
    • Endpoints4

The governance and management system helps introduce dedicated solutions for sharing intelligence and managing operations optimally. While this process has obvious benefits, there is an initial cost to implement it and a continual cost to maintain it.

Zero trust security measures can use VPNs, increase password inputs, multi-factor authentication, and identity verification apps. Although these tools can increase cyber security and resilience, they can also result in increased employee frustration and decreased productivity. For example, say an employee has to run code that takes several hours to process, but also has a security software configuration that logs them off from the VPN if the computer senses 10 minutes of cursor inactivity. This requires the employee to remain at their desk while their code runs and periodically move their cursor in order to prevent themselves from being booted from the VPN and forcing them to restart the coding process.

Today's diversified environment necessitates going beyond yesterday’s conventional security measures. Organizations today are looking at combining cyber security with recovery capabilities to increase cyber resilience. Zero trust security is important to protecting today’s enterprises and compliments other essential aspects of the cyber resilience framework, including the ability to anticipate, respond to and recover from cyber incidents.

Learn more about how your organization can benefit from zero trust security.

Resources

  1. Zero Trust, NRI.
  2. What is Zero Trust? JB Service, 20 October 2022.
  3. What is Zero Trust, NTT Communications.
  4. Zero Trust Security, NRI Secure.