A beginner’s guide to implementing zero-trust architecture

A beginner’s guide to implementing zero-trust architecture

A quick look at cybercrime statistics will show you that cybercriminals have no intention of backing down. According to a 2023 report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the costs of global cybercrime are expected to hit $8 trillion this year and will increase by 15 percent per year over the next three years. What’s more, cybercrime and cybersecurity are now included in the World Economic Forum’s top 10 most severe global risks in the next decade.

This is why, regardless of the size of your business, you need to beef up your cybersecurity, and the best way to do so is to implement a zero-trust security architecture.

This article offers a layman’s overview of zero-trust architecture so you can better understand and appreciate how important it is to your business’s cybersecurity measures.

What is zero-trust architecture?

The term “zero trust” was popularized by John Kindervag of Forrester Research in 2010 when he described the concept of security as “Never trust, always verify.” According to him, trust is a security vulnerability and verification is a security necessity.

With zero-trust architecture, you never assume trust even within your network. You double-check and verify everyone, even those who are familiar to you. And you only permit access depending on their needs.

What are the core principles of zero-trust architecture?

Before zero-trust, IT security relied on the perimeter-based approach, which involves building a strong outer defense and trusting everyone within the perimeter. However, this approach has proven to be inadequate given the evolution of cyberattacks and the increasing complexity of IT networks.

The principles of zero-trust are:

1. Never trust, always verify

Unlike the old perimeter-based approach, zero-trust assumes that every request to access is a potential threat regardless of whether it’s from outside or from within your network. You never assume that any user or device is trustworthy, and all access requests are subjected to verification and authorization.

2. Assume breach

The perimeter-based approach assumes that anything inside the perimeter is safe. But a zero-trust mindset assumes that no network is completely impenetrable, and malicious actors may have already breached your network’s defenses.

With this mindset, organizations need to adopt a more proactive and vigilant approach to security, which entails doing the following:

  • Focus on continuous monitoring – Always keep an eye on user activity, device operations, and network traffic for suspicious behavior, as this likely indicates an ongoing breach.
  • Have threat detection and response capabilities – If threats are detected, you should be able to quickly identify, isolate, and correct them.

3. Least privilege access

The traditional approach to security allows users and devices broad access privileges under the assumption that these users will behave responsibly. With zero-trust, users and devices are granted limited access only to those resources they need in order to perform their tasks.

How to implement zero-trust architecture in 5 steps

To implement a zero-trust architecture, you must do the following:

Step 1: Assess your current security posture

Thoroughly assess your current security set-up, including who has access to specific systems and data. This will help you identify your network’s weak spots and where unauthorized access may occur.

Step 2: Identify critical assets and resources

List all the files, programs, and other valuable digital assets you have that you want to protect. This way, you can focus your efforts on the most important resources you have.

Step 3: Define access control policies

This involves placing additional security measures for the assets and resources you identified in step 2. This step includes creating and putting special rules and controls in place so that only the right people and devices can access these assets. Such access control policies may include:

  • User authentication – Verifies the identity of users using strong authentication methods such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • Device authorization – Assesses the trustworthiness of devices before granting them access.
  • Resource access control – Determines which resources each user or device can access based on their role and authorization level.
  • Conditional access restrictions – Enforces time restrictions, location-based controls, and activity-based restrictions.

Step 4: Implement continuous monitoring and threat detection

With a zero-trust architecture, you need to continuously monitor user behavior, device operations, and network traffic to identify anomalies that may indicate a threat. If a threat is detected, you can take immediate action to prevent further damage or theft.

Step 5: Use identity and access management tools

Identity and access management (IAM) tools are software solutions that allow organizations to manage digital identities and control user access to resources. These tools are essential in ensuring that only authorized users can access sensitive information and perform specific actions. If you are interested, check out the following IAM tools:

The easy and efficient way to achieve zero-trust architecture for your business

Want to go zero-trust the easy way? Then trust our experts at Online Computers. We will help you achieve a zero-trust network with comprehensive assessment, implementation, and management. If your business is in or around Hanover, Morristown, or Madison, partner with us and we’ll help you achieve robust cybersecurity for your company. Contact us today.

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