Can you defend a company without a strategy that accounts for the worst-case scenarios? Some would argue not; after all, it’s with these hypotheticals that you should be defining your responses in kind. That’s one of the principles behind the zero trust security architecture, as well. By taking on the hypothetical failure of your security perimeter, you assume that nothing in your network is completely safe from attack. Zero trust does not trust in safety as a default scenario — instead, it emphasizes authentication and verification over such trust. This is an effective defense strategy that includes various failsafes by design, and therefore has become an attractive option for companies who value their security posture over anything else.
But how does one implement zero trust architecture into their security protocol? What are the first steps, and how is such an approach maintained? If you’re looking for answers to these questions, you can start with the steps below, and use them to make your company one that exercises zero trust security measures!
Define Your Current Situation
The first thing that anyone should do when implementing a new strategy is to recognize what their current one is. For your company, that involves firstly defining what your current approach to security is. If you’re predominantly relying on antivirus software, and you’re more responsive than you are proactive, those are things that you can recognize and optimize when you make the transition to a zero trust architecture. However, if you know you’re rather proactive already, then it’s time to compare and contrast: “What does zero trust security look like in terms of proactive defense, and what are you doing that does or doesn’t match that approach?”
In addition to analyzing the current approach, you also need to outline what you plan on defending: what’s your perimeter? Do you have cloud servers you’re using in your enterprise, or are there only on-premise endpoints to worry about? Is your network large or small? Identifying everything about your current system, from the types of data that flow in or out to the digital gateways and entry points, make it easier for you to plan your defense. Once you have figured out what makes up your current enterprise’s network and perimeter, you can also map out how everything, including those data types, move in and out of the system. Detail is everything at this stage, and learning what’s crucial and non-crucial in your current infrastructure is just one small part of that.
Redraw The Lines
It’s important to know, as noted above, what’s crucial and what’s not. You will soon be forced to eliminate certain things in your network to create a system and perimeter that has less attack surface overall. Attack surfaces, or the areas of a network where cyber attacks can occur and breach the system, must be reduced to only what’s necessary — that way, your system can properly enforce the tenets of zero trust security. More than just ridding the perimeter of unnecessary attack surfaces and redundancies that affect security posture, you should also be looking for a way to defend the outer perimeter that you’ve redrawn and redefined. One such way to do this is with a next-generation firewall. By implementing tools like this one, you can also help to segment the network, further adding to the zero trust security approach. The more you draw lines between certain security layers, the more you’ll find your system capable of enforcing the degrees of separation that will exist within the architecture. Begin to use tools that can help separate the network, but also use ones that bring it together. For each new gateway, firewall, and so on, there should be a plan for the keys to that door: be sure that when you’re restructuring the network, you remember to add tools for recognition, verification, and access. User portals of whatever kind must exist, but they must also — like everything else — have a protocol in place for authentication. And with that, there must also be rules in place.
Rewrite The Rules
You had rules before — even if they weren’t the best or clearest rules for security. Your network, your enterprise, had rules about who could use what applications, about what type of activity was acceptable, and so on. Even if there were no restrictions, that was a rule: the idea that anyone from anywhere could get on your network would even be a rule of its own. Again, though, these are not good ones, and so with the implementation of zero trust security comes the need for more specific rules that give the users and the system true clarity on matters like user access. Your policies on who can access what, for example, must be defined to match the tenets of zero trust architecture — so not only are you saying that only certain user types can access Security Level A, but you also are meant to define what type of authentications are required to access this level every time. Such authentication protocols are a core principle of zero trust: it’s in place of trust that you place the emphasis on verification, and user access is but one example of this. The same types of rules need to be defined and rewritten to clearly outline what data is welcome, and where it belongs in the system; the same is true of permissions, user activity, and so on. All this leads to the end of the implementation process, where you now have a zero trust system in place. Once you’ve finally gone through the steps and defined your current situation, the new structure, and the rules that will guide your security approach, you’re able to continually protect and monitor your network with zero trust protocols.