What’s zero trust security, and how can you implement it?
September 16, 2022
Email spam and credit card theft are daily digital dangers, highlighting the need for strong personal and organizational security measures.
Gone are the days of using the same password platform-wide or offering automatic access with a single keyword — essentially leaving the door unlocked to your sensitive data. Now, the zero trust security model is what every business requires to effectively combat ever-evolving cybersecurity threats.
What’s zero trust security?
Zero trust is a cybersecurity approach that enforces strict verification for every network access request, ensuring only authenticated users and devices are granted entry. This model operates on a “trust no one, verify everyone” approach, rigorously scrutinizing each request, regardless of origin.
By applying strict verification to every access attempt, zero trust ensures that only thoroughly validated users and devices can navigate within the network.
The history of zero trust
Zero trust emerged as a necessary evolution in security thinking, prompted by the realization that the traditional “trust but verify” model was insufficient against sophisticated cyber threats. It was developed to address the weaknesses in perimeter-centric security models, which often fail to protect against insider threats and lateral movement within networks.
Zero trust versus traditional IT network security
Contrary to traditional IT network security, which often relies on robust perimeter defenses but weaker interior checks (think: a single door someone needs a code to get through, and after that, they can access every room in the building), zero trust doesn’t inherently trust anyone inside or outside the network. The old model's "once in, free reign" policy is replaced with a consistent, vigilant validation process that reduces the attack surface and strengthens security against external and internal threats.
The future of zero trust: Paving the way with IronVest
As we look toward the future of data security, several-steps-ahead platforms like IronVest become increasingly valuable. IronVest offers all-encompassing features that align with zero trust’s necessary skepticism, like:
Decentralized biometric authentication: This innovative feature enhances security by using unique biological characteristics, ensuring access is only granted to biometrically-verified individuals.
Post-sign-in continuous biometric authentication: IronVest takes security further with continuous biometric authentication — even after the initial sign-in. This ongoing verification process adds additional securing, monitoring, and authenticating throughout a session.
Decentralized data storage: Emphasizing the importance of data sovereignty, IronVest uses decentralized data storage. This method diffuses the risk of data breaches by distributing data across multiple secure locations rather than relying on a single storage point.
How does zero trust work?
Zero trust operates on rigorous validation, checking credentials at every new door. The approach is straightforward: Verify identity, assess the request, and enforce the least privilege.
This method starts with strict user identity verification, then scrutinizes device compliance, and ends with access control to ensure users only get the keys to the doors they need to open. IT teams embracing this approach also deploy micro-segmentation, creating small, secure zones to contain and isolate potential breaches. That way, if a threat slips through, it won't spread unchecked. This continuous loop of monitoring, assessing, and adapting keeps a security team steps ahead of any risks.
Defining zero trust network access (ZTNA)
ZTNA is an IT security solution that acts as the gatekeeper, ensuring only authenticated and authorized users and devices can access applications and data. Unlike conventional methods that might trust a user once inside the network, ZTNA keeps the verification process constant and contextual.
This service creates a secure, invisible environment that connects the right people to the correct data without exposing the network. It's akin to invisible pathways that connect users to applications without ever putting the broader network at risk. This approach is compelling, as it renders the network inaccessible to unauthorized users, shielding critical resources from attack vectors.
Why embrace zero trust?
Implementing a more skeptical security approach fortifies your organization's digital defenses, but the advantages surpass “stronger walls.” This approach minimizes the internal threat landscape — no one gets a free pass. By demanding verification at each step, you deter potential insider threats. And zero trust aligns with regulatory demands, ticking off compliance checkboxes as it secures data across borders and industries. This proactive stance comforts clients and customers, showcasing your team’s care for data safety.
Zero trust is also a flexible, scalable solution that adapts to the ever-changing roster of remote work security needs and shifting corporate structures. It ensures that security grows in tandem with your company, protecting your assets whether your team logs in from a downtown café or across the globe.
6 core principles of zero trust
While the “never trust, always verify” motto underpins this approach, zero trust also respects six fundamental principles that define how to effectively approach data security — six principles that IronVest’s security features also address:
Continuous monitoring and validation: Every attempt to access the network is scrutinized, and trust is never assumed. Constant oversight means actions are validated in real-time, keeping security tight.
Least privilege access: Users receive access to what they need, nothing more. This tightens potential leak points and ensures that if a breach occurs, hackers can't roam freely across your systems.
Device access control: Before an endpoint can connect, it must prove secure. This principle keeps compromised devices from becoming Trojan horses within your walls.
Microsegmentation: By dividing the network into secure zones, microsegmentation ensures breaches don't cascade through your systems.
Lateral movement prevention: Once inside, threats can move sideways through networks. Zero trust tactics involve placing barriers that prevent this, stopping attackers from pivoting to sensitive areas.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA adds layers to the verification process, requiring multiple credentials to prove identity. This reduces the risk of compromised passwords, giving carte blanche access to your networks.
By weaving these principles into the fabric of your cybersecurity strategy, zero trust secures the present and lays a foundation strong enough to withstand tomorrow's threats.
Zero trust in action: Practical use cases
Zero trust isn't a theoretical concept — it's a practical solution to real-world security challenges. Here are a few scenarios where zero trust principles shine:
Augmenting virtual private networks (VPNs): As companies phase out traditional VPNs, zero trust secures remote connections, offering a more robust and agile framework that always verifies who's on the other end.
Remote work security: With teams dispersed, zero trust ensures that remote access is consistently secure, no matter where an employee plugs in from, safeguarding against threats that prey on remote vulnerabilities.
Cloud and multi-cloud access control: In the cloud, boundaries blur. Zero trust policies ensure access is scrutinized and segmented, protecting your assets across all cloud environments.
Streamlining third-party access: When contractors or partners need access, zero trust provides a safe pathway. It ensures they reach only what they need to without exposing your network to additional risk.
Implementing zero trust security best practices
Rolling out a resilient zero-trust architecture is a complex and never-ending process. Streamline the transition and ensure success by following these best practices:
Map assess: Identify data flows and how everything is accessed by each teammate.
Consider privileges: Implement access controls that ensure users have the necessary access — nothing more.
Strengthen identity verification: Introduce MFA to skeptically verify every user's identity in multiple ways.
Monitor and analyze: Set up systems to continuously monitor network and application activity, with immediate responses built in for suspicious activity.
Create microsegmentation: Divide your network into segments to control user access and limit the spread of potential breaches.
Add automation: Leverage automation to enforce policies, monitor compliance, and quickly respond to threats.
Educate and train: Conduct training sessions and workshops so team members understand why you’ve implemented this security method and how to effectively navigate it.
Fortify your data security with IronVest
In the relentless pursuit of digital security, zero trust is the strongest contender for effective measures. But implementing it is no easy feat. Let IronVest be part of your implementation process, taking some of this work off your hands by offering robust security features like biometric password protection and masked card numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers.
Get started today and enjoy an uncompromising security teammate who works diligently in the background to keep your team’s data safe.