Some time ago, Two Factor Authentication (2FA) was touted as one of the best lines of defense that a business could deploy in their Cybersecurity regimen. But even 2FA has reached its limits with new the threat variants that have been coming out. The next-level solution is what is known as the “Zero Trust Framework.” This article will explain what this solution is and the advantages it offers.
What exactly is a Zero Trust Framework?
In traditional Identity and Access Management (IAM) models, which require (more or less) strong levels of authentication, there an implicit level of trust that is often taken for granted. For example, longtime, “trustworthy” employees can often bypass certain authentication mechanisms without being questioned about it.
With the Zero Trust Framework, this principle is taken to another extreme in which no one at all is trusted in either the internal or external environments of a company. In other words, it is not just end-users, but also devices and the higher-ranking members of the C-Suite and the Board of Directors who cannot be trusted. To gain access to what they need, all of these entities must be fully vetted and authenticated to the maximum level possible.
The use of Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is required, in which at least three layers (preferably more) are used to achieve a 100% verification of the device or the end-user in question.
In fact, a key distinction of the Zero Trust Framework is that it is not typically used for just enhancing the primary lines of defense for the business. Rather, this new way of thinking about Cybersecurity is extended to protect each and every server, workstation, and other assets that reside within the IT infrastructure.
Here is an illustration of the Zero Trust Framework:
(Source # 1).
The advantages of the Zero Trust Framework
Let’s look at the specific advantages of using the Zero Trust Framework:
- It facilitates the use of centralized monitoring. When security tools and technologies are used in different combinations with no planning in mind, it can be very difficult for the IT Security team to keep track of all the warnings and alerts come in. This can make it very difficult to triage and escalate the real Cyber threats that are out there. But with the Zero Trust methodology, since each device is accounted for in a logical manner, a centralized approach can now be utilized. One typical example of this is what is known as the Security Incident and Event Management software application. In this approach, not only can the false positives be filtered out by making use of both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), but the legitimate warnings and alerts can be presented in a real-time basis through a centralized dashboard. This allows the IT Security team to be far more proactive, and in turn, greatly reduce the response times in combating various threat vectors.
- Scalability is possible. With the Remote Workforce now guaranteed to be a long-term phenomenon, many companies are opting to make greater use of Cloud-based resources, such as those offered by the AWS or Microsoft Azure. There are, of course, entities that still choose to have a brick-and-mortar presence, and to a certain degree, still have some remnants of an On Premises solution. But whatever option is chosen, the Zero Trust Framework allows for the seamless transfer for apps, digital assets, and even the confidential information and data (especially the Personal Identifiable Information [PII] datasets) from one place to another in a much more secure fashion.
- Break-ins become close to impossible. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many businesses adopted what is known as the “Perimeter Security” approach to protecting their digital assets. This simply means that there was only one line of defense separating the internal environment from the external environment. As a result, if a Cyberattacker penetrated through that line of defense, they could gain access to just about anything in the IT and Network Infrastructure and move covertly in a lateral fashion. But with the Zero Trust Framework, the implementation of multiple layers of security means that it becomes that much harder for the Cyberattacker to gain access to the proverbial “crown jewels” because it will take much longer to break through every line of defense as they try to go in deeper. In the end, more than likely, the Cyberattacker will simply give up.
A future article will examine key steps for implementing a Zero Trust Framework. It is something that should be done in distinct phases, to secure buy-in from your employees.
Ravi Das is a Cybersecurity Consultant and Business Development Specialist. He also does Cybersecurity Consulting through his private practice, RaviDas Tech, Inc. He also possesses the Certified in Cybersecurity (CC) cert from the ISC2.