Enterprise security has been a top priority for businesses since the last couple of years, and it should be. With cybercrime expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, security needs to be a business prerogative. But implementing modern security controls and updating them, so they continue to stay relevant is not as straightforward as it seems.
As the number (and impact) of security attacks and breaches increase, there is a pressing need to have strategies and technologies in place to prevent these attacks as well as lower their risk. Although most organizations have had an extremely traditional approach to security, zero trust architectures are today a great alternative to traditional architectures.
The problem with traditional architectures
Enterprises are not new to security breaches. From the beginning of time, malicious actors have used innovative tactics to infiltrate enterprise networks and steal business data for monetary benefits. But traditional security architectures made it fairly easy for hackers to plan attacks. They operate with two very basic strategies:
- Trust what’s internal: Until the inception of zero trust architectures, almost every business had a very traditional mindset when it came to security: they assumed that anything within their own network could be considered trustworthy.
- Block what’s external: Most traditional infrastructure and systems have evolved with a model of separating trusted from the non-trusted: trusted on-prem employees, systems, and networks are usually separated from untrusted external and malicious sources.
In an era where data breaches and security attacks from internal users are just as common as those from external, such an approach to security is absolutely reckless. Although such a mindset might help in preventing outside threats, it in no way caters to hackers that have already penetrated the network. Such unchecked and undetected breaches, when allowed to run rampant, can cause hackers to have continuous and unmonitored access to incredibly sensitive and critical data – and free reigns over everything within the network.
What zero trust architectures bring to the table
Zero trust architectures work on the premise that nothing, absolutely nothing can be trusted as safe or secure. They make the assumption that no device, system, network, or user is trustworthy, and that there are attackers both within and outside the enterprise network. They offer least-privilege access and make sure a series of security checks are carried out before access to critical data or resources is provided.
Here’s what zero trust architectures bring to the table:
- Trust no one: Zero trust architectures not only help curb external threats; they also aid in thwarting threats that emerge from within the organization. So, whether an unauthorized user is trying to access sensitive data, a workstation has been left unattended, or a cybersecurity measure has not been updated – zero trust architectures can enable organizations to identify these loopholes in time.
- Always verify: In addition to trusting no one, zero trust architectures also believe in verifying every user, device, and data access attempt. These architectures are built in such a way that they not only prevent threats from moving vertically but also laterally within the network. They always confirm authenticity by verifying the ID of the user, the system he/she is using, the location from where the particular data is being accessed, as well as other data permissions.
- Act to prevent: Zero trust architectures also enable organizations to take necessary actions to prevent an attack or breach from happening in the first place. By breaking security perimeters into small zones and constantly verifying systems and users trying to access data in those zones, they provide insight into whether the user attempting to access a file or resource has the required permissions. Such assessment will allow organizations to track the movement of the attacker while preventing it from going further.
In the modern day, assuming security attacks to only be the handiwork of external agents is wrong at several levels. In fact, today, security threats are more likely to arise internally and with even more sophistication than ever before. To prevent a breach or attack from causing a long-term and long-lasting impact on the business, a properly architected zero trust model can help in preventing attacks before they occur. By treating everyone as untrusted and very tightly controlling access, they can improve the overall level of security of the organization.