Updated: April 4, 2023
3-minute read time
The list of data privacy and security regulations organizations must follow is becoming longer and longer every year. In addition to the EU’s GDPR, PCI-DSS, and HIPAA, there’s the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018, Maine’s data breach law, and the Wisconsin Insurance Data Security Law.
All these regulations pressure organizations to protect sensitive data, such as Personally identifiable information (PII), because the cost of non-compliance in the form of financial penalties can be substantial. Achieving and maintaining compliance in such a complex regulatory environment can be a considerable undertaking, primarily because the traditional cybersecurity model doesn’t adequately address the challenges created by the emerging hybrid work model.
Instead of chopping wood with a butter knife, looking for a more suitable tool is better. Fortunately, you don’t need to look far because a more modern cybersecurity model already exists, and its name is Zero Trust Security Model.
Defending the Network Perimeter Is No Longer Enough
For a long time, organizations concentrated their defenses at the network perimeter. This castle-and-moat cybersecurity model is easy to understand. It provides adequate protection when all devices, data, and applications are in one place, such as an office building.
The traditional network perimeter disintegrated after the pandemic outbreak and the subsequent shift to remote work. Small organizations that used to occupy one office allowed employees to work remotely at least some days a week, often using personal and work devices.
Organizations shifted their workloads to the cloud to make remote working easily possible. Because of this, the public cloud service market may reach $600 billion worldwide in 2023. This shift brings the evolution of sensitive data spread across multiple locations, accessed by various endpoints.
Organizations now access information from the office, employees’ homes, coffee shops, airports, and other public places, changing how we operate forever.
Never Trust. Always Verify.
How can organizations effectively separate legitimate devices and users from malicious ones? They can’t, so they should never assume trust by default. Instead, they should verify endpoints to ensure that they haven’t been compromised by a malicious attacker. That’s where the Zero Trust security model comes in.
“Instead of assuming everything behind the corporate firewall is safe, the Zero Trust model assumes breach and verifies each request as though it originates from an open network,” explains Microsoft. “Regardless of where the request originates or what resource it accesses, Zero Trust teaches us never to trust, always verify.”
The 3 Principles of the Zero Trust Model
- Verify explicitly: As previously mentioned, the Zero Trust approach never gives default trust. Instead, all authentication requests should be explicitly verified based on a combination of at least two factors.
- Use least privileged access: The Zero Trust security model limits user access to minimize lateral movement across the network. This makes it far less likely that an attacker would be able to hop from device to device, planting backdoors and stealing sensitive data in the process.
- Assume breach: The sooner you detect a breach, the more you can reduce its impact. Since breaches remain unseen until too late, you should use monitoring and analytics to get visibility and drive threat detection.
The three principles behind the Zero Trust security model represent a significant shift in how organizations defend themselves. Still, their real-world effectiveness depends on their implementation.
Implementing the Zero Trust Security Model
The Zero Trust Adoption Report 2021 published by Microsoft revealed that 96 percent of security decision-makers see the Zero Trust security model as critical to their organization’s success, and 76 percent are already in the implementation process.
The 5 Stages of Zero Trust Security
- Protect surface identification: Zero Trust defines a “protect surface” as a place where valuable data, assets, applications, and services reside. Most organizations have multiple protect surfaces, and their accurate identification is an essential prerequisite for their protection.
- Transaction flow mapping: Protect surfaces are not static. Users regularly access and modify them, making it essential to know the users, their devices and applications, and their connection.
- Architecture building: Once you understand your network, you can start building the actual Zero Trust architecture, putting in place controls to create a micro perimeter around each protect surface.
- Policy creation: When all fences and gates are up, you decide who will pass through them and under which circumstances. The goal is to prevent unauthorized access and exfiltration of sensitive data by attackers outside and inside your organization.
- Monitoring and maintenance: Your Zero Trust architecture must evolve to reflect your organization’s changing needs. Ongoing monitoring helps guarantee the protection of sensitive data and immediate detection of data breaches.
Implementing a completely new cybersecurity model is no easy task, but it’s a task that’s well worth undertaking. Fortunately, you don’t have to complete it alone. You can partner with an experienced compliance and cybersecurity service provider, such as us at Aligned Technology Solutions, and borrow its expertise and experience to ensure smooth implementation.