Zero Trust Security: The Principles and Framework

Technology Solutions

The zero trust security framework is one of the most effective ways of preventing data loss and other cyber threats, which explains its ever-growing popularity amongst organizations and cyber professionals around the world.

Zero trust is a strategic approach to cybersecurity that keeps an organization secure by continuously cross-referencing the credentials of all users.

Otherwise known as the zero trust security model, zero trust architecture (ZTA), zero trust network architecture, and zero trust network access (ZTNA), the framework ensures that all users are authenticated, authorized, and constantly validated.

Do keep in mind that there’s a lot more to ZTA than the brief definition you’ve just read.

For example, did you know that this type of cybersecurity combines advanced technologies such as multi-factor authentication, identity protection and cloud workload technology to verify multiple factors simultaneously?

In this post we will be looking at the zero trust security framework in full, outlining how it works, the benefits of this type of online protection, its core principles, and more.

Let’s begin by building on the definition we touched on.

What is Zero Trust Security?

As mentioned, zero trust is a security framework requiring all users to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated before given access to certain applications and data.

This applies to users both inside and outside of the organization’s network.

In simple terms: zero trust is about giving qualified users access to the areas/documents they need.

One of the main reasons why this type of cyber protection is so effective comes down to how unbiased it is, generally. Zero trust architecture trusts no one and nothing, allowing it to make decisions based on real-time interactions with users.

This strengthens the traditional castle and moat concept that underpins various security methods. In that type of method, it’s difficult for anyone outside to gain access to the network with everyone inside already trusted by the network.

Unfortunately, this method does have its downsides as once a hacker is inside, they then have free rein to do whatever they want.

Zero trust security removes all biases in that regard, requiring verification for all users, making it one of the most effective ways of keeping your organization, and its data, secure.

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How Zero Trust Works

Think of it as a sort of multi-layered stop and search, similar to what you might see in airports when going through security, meaning it works by treating every user as hostile by default.

Zero trust is very different from standard network security – security that follows the “trust but verify” method.

As mentioned, this approach automatically granted access to users with certain endpoints based on familiarity. Zero trust does the opposite, treating all traffic, even if it’s already inside the perimeter, as hostile, judging users based on a set of attributes:

  • User identity/type of credential
  • Credential privileges on each device
  • Authentication protocol and risk
  • Operating system versions/patch levels
  • Endpoint hardware type and function
  • Geo location
  • Applications installed on endpoint
  • Firmware versions

For this framework to be at its strongest, users must also take care of securing emails, the encryption of data, and other key considerations when connecting to applications when logging in and out.

Doing so will prevent malicious actors from getting into your systems and causing harm to your organization, be it for money, to get their own back, or one of the other reasons hackers do what they do.

Zero trust security can only do so much on its own. It needs users to also do their part in helping keep the security posture of the organization as clean as possible from an online security standpoint.

In other words, users need to take more care in how they interact with an organization and should be aware of phishing emails/the various other types of infiltration methods used by hackers.

Organizations must also ensure that all access requests are continuously vetter prior to allowing access to any of your enterprise or cloud assets. That’s why enforcement of zero trust policies rely on real-time visibility rather than pre-recorded data.

Where ZTA Can Help Specifically

Zero trust architecture has many uses, as you can imagine, inspired by a hacker’s need to always find new and innovative ways to be a nuisance.

Below we’ve outlined some of the ways your organization can benefit from utilizing zero trust architecture currently:

  • Ransomware: Zero trust can mitigate ransomware issues due to it being a two-part process involving code execution and identity compromise.
  • Insider threats: Tough to identity, but not impossible to keep control over as zero threat security is always active and gathering behavioral analytics.
  • Supply chain attacks: This typically involves unmanaged devices and privileged users working remotely, but this is avoided thanks to ZTA.

Like other types of cybersecurity, when implemented properly, zero trust can help you ensure full business continuity, thus maximizing ROI where teams have little to no stoppage time. In the next section we’ll be looking at more of these benefits, for reference.

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Benefits of Choosing a Zero Trust Architecture

The internet has done a lot for organizations. This is something that we can all agree on. What we can also agree on is that it’s given cyber criminals a pathway to performing devious acts, sometimes, without you even knowing until it’s too late.

Breaches will happen no matter how much you prepare ahead of time, but that’s not to say that you can’t do anything to make it difficult.

Zero trust is but one of many effective strategies used to parry these attempts, which as a result, reduces the time and the cost needed to make repairs and get your organization operational again.

It also happens to be one of the best cyber solutions there is. Not trusting any of your users gives it a significant edge over hackers, as it also looks at behavioral patterns. Any pattern that deviates too far from the path is given an instant red flag, keeping your systems nice and clean.

This benefits the team at large, but also, the IT and security departments who typically have to handle all of these issues directly. Streamlining their jobs allows them to stay on the ball at all times, which only adds to the defenses of your organization.

To recap, here are some of the benefits of choosing ZTA:

  • Identifies red flags quickly
  • Fewer repair costs/losses
  • Gives your team more time
  • Ensures business continuity

Core Principles of the Zero Trust Framework

Zero trust is an abstract security model, not a model of controlled access, meaning the principles we’re about to look at can/will vary depending on where you look.

That said, most zero trust definitions created by industry groups/standards bodies recognize the following principles, in particular:

  • User and machine authentication
  • One source of identity for users and non-personal entities (NPEs)
  • In-application access control policies
  • Additional context such as policy compliance
  • Authorization policies for application/resource access

All of the above support identity-based access control mechanisms that deny all as standard, allowing access for only qualified individuals.

User and machine versification means no trusted zones, credentials, or devices at any time, regardless of how convenient they might be. This is what is meant when you see the expression “Never Trust, Always Verify” – a common expression used whenever ZTA is mentioned.

Again, try to remember that the wording for these principles can/will change, but will all follow the same key principles. Case and point:

User and machine authentication might be referred to as ‘continuous verification.’

We highly recommend familiarizing yourself with these principles as they do give you a better understanding of how each body approaches this type of cyber protection.

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How TLR Approaches Zero Trust Security

Like zero trust security, our services are there to help strengthen your cybersecurity posture and keep threats to a minimum.

Take our penetration testing/vulnerability scanning services, for example, which both work in parallel to identify potential gaps in your current systems and eliminate them before they become an even greater issue.

This is very helpful when paired with the zero trust framework as you’ll need to stamp out any potential vulnerabilities before setting it up. Otherwise, you’ll be leaving the door wide open to hackers and other nefarious individuals.

Our digital risk protection services continue this trend of cyber effectiveness, this time by providing you with more relevant intelligence to, not only help better monitor and indicate threats/risks but to mitigate them too!

Another reason why we’re the go-to option for a lot of organizations is that we act in a timely manner should you ever become subject to a cyber attack. With our help, you’ll be back to business as usual in no time.

If managing your own online security is a concern to you for whatever reason, know that we also offer managed security services that we can operate either remotely or onsite.

By handing the reins over to us, you guarantee around the clock security. Plus, it means you don’t ever have to worry about all the complicated details and considerations – like those covered in this zero trust security post.

We have solutions to every cyber-related problem you’re facing, get in touch with us to find out how we can help shield your future.

Zero Trust Security: The Principles and Framework

Do you now understand what zero trust security is, the benefits, and why it’s used by so many teams to stop unwanted visitors from entering your organization and causing harm?

Hopefully you do, as understanding how to protect your organization has never been more important. Hackers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to do damage, which can make it quite difficult to keep up with, especially if cybersecurity isn’t your main area of expertise.

Again, if you want to learn more about what we can do to help safeguard your organization from the countless cyber threats out there, simply get in touch.

A friendly member of the TLR team will be happy to answer any questions you may have, too, so feel free to ask us anything.

Ask us about zero trust security, CAVs, our SETH solution, we’ll have an answer for everything.

Become cyber resilient

Get in touch today to see how we can make you more cyber resilient. Empowering you to lead from the front.

Written by

Dave Roberts