Cyber Security

What is zero trust security and how can it benefit your business?

13th May 2024 | 8 min read

What is zero trust security and how can it benefit your business?

Cyber security is a prevalent issue facing businesses. In a recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey, it was found 45% of medium businesses and 58% of large businesses experienced cyber attacks in 2023.

While it’s crucial for businesses to protect themselves, the challenge is knowing the best way to do so. There needs to be a strict approach to eliminate risks.

Zero trust is a specific approach to cyber security, which puts emphasis on strict verification. It assumes everyone poses a risk to your security unless they have been comprehensively validated through careful checks.

We explore zero trust security in more detail and how to implement it effectively in your business.

What is zero trust security?

Zero trust is a security approach that moves away from the traditional model of trusting everything inside a network perimeter.

In a zero trust world, no one and nothing is trusted. Even users or devices that are already connected to the network will be subject to advanced checks. It focuses on verifying and securing access to resources based on strict identity verification, both within or outside the network perimeter.

There are three key principles of zero trust:

  • Verify explicitly: Always authenticate and authorise devices and users, using all available data points
  • Use least privilege access: Limit user access using Just-In-Time (JIT) and Just-Enough-Access (JEA), risk-based adaptive policies and data protection. Only give people the access they really need
  • Assume breach: Never trust and always verify every request, regardless of its origin or resource accessed. Use end-to-end encryption and use analytics for visibility, threat detection and defence improvement

By following these principles, you can protect your network and limit the chance of unauthorised users hacking into your systems.

What are the core benefits of zero trust security?

As a security approach, zero trust offers several key benefits for enhancing security in today’s digital landscape.

1. It’s built for the hybrid world

Zero trust has been adapted to meet the complexities of modern environments, including mobile workforces. Traditionally, businesses relied on perimeter security strategies, using firewalls and network-based tools to validate users entering and leaving the network.

However, with digital transformation and hybrid cloud infrastructure, relying solely on a network perimeter is no longer sufficient. Zero trust acknowledges this shift by protecting user accounts, devices, applications and data wherever they are located.

2. Reduce the risk of attack

By assuming that no user or device is implicitly trusted, zero trust minimises the chances of an attack. It focuses on verifying access based on strict identity verification, regardless of location or network perimeter.

Even if an attacker gets through one entry point in your network, they’re likely to be prevented elsewhere, halting their efforts.

3. Enhanced security posture

Zero trust principles ensure that only authorised users and devices can access specific resources. This approach helps prevent unauthorised access, lateral movement and privilege escalation.

Moreover, it makes your security coverage more comprehensive. Many enterprises operate with a patchwork of security tools lacking integration. Security teams spend time on manual tasks, lacking context and insights. However, zero trust bridges the gaps, freeing up security teams for strategic work.

4. Improved visibility and monitoring

Zero trust emphasises continuous monitoring and visibility. Organisations gain insights into user behavior, network traffic and potential threats.

This visibility enables faster detection and response to security incidents, preventing your organisation being negatively impacted by potential attacks.

5. Adaptive access control

Zero trust allows organisations to implement adaptive access controls. Users are granted access based on contextual factors such as device health, location and behaviour. This dynamic approach ensures that access policies adapt to changing conditions.

It also mitigates insider threats by minimising the trust placed in any user or device. Even legitimate users are subject to continuous verification, reducing the impact of malicious insiders.

6. Data protection and compliance

Zero trust protects sensitive data by enforcing strict access controls. It limits data exposure and prevents unauthorised access to critical information, reducing the risk of data breaches.

This aligns with compliance requirements by enforcing strong access controls, auditing access events and protecting sensitive data. It helps organisations meet regulatory standards.

7. Cloud and hybrid environment readiness

As organisations adopt cloud services and hybrid environments, zero trust provides a consistent security framework. It works seamlessly across on-premises, cloud and remote environments.

Regardless of your environment, it offers adaptive and continuous protection, managing threats proactively.

8. User experience optimisation

Contrary to the perception that strong security hampers user experience, zero trust can enhance it. By enabling secure remote access and seamless authentication, users can work efficiently without compromising security.

It also prevents IT outages that halt productivity and frustrate users.

How to implement zero trust

If you are looking for a robust security approach that drastically reduces your chances of being impacted by cyber attacks, zero trust is for you.

Implementing a zero trust in a business involves several steps to enhance security and protect critical assets. Here are the steps you should follow:

1. Define the attack surface

Begin by identifying your organisation’s attack surface. This is essentially all the possible entry points an attacker can exploit to infiltrate a system, network or even physical devices. So, understand which assets, users and devices are part of your network.

Remember to consider both on-premises and cloud-based components. This will enable you to understand exactly the scale of protection required.

2. Implement controls around network traffic

Next, analyse how traffic flows within your network. This includes identifying any dependencies between systems. By doing so, you’ll understand the potential entry points.

You will then want to implement micro-segmentation to isolate different parts of your network. It allows you to control each section of your network and make it hard for attackers to navigate from one area to the next.

Finally, use network access control (NAC) systems to enforce strict access policies. This will determine who can access areas within your network, what authorisation they need to complete and how you’ll respond to those who fail verification.

3. Architect a zero trust network

Next, build your zero trust network. By this point, you will have mapped out how traffic moves to sensitive areas of your network.

With this understanding, put adequate protections in place with emphasis on gatekeeping your most critical assets.

One way to get this protection is through software-defined perimeter (SDP) tools, which a type of security solution that creates a secure connection between users and authorised applications, regardless of their physical location. You may also use identity-aware proxies, which act as intermediaries between users and the applications or resources they’re trying to access.

If you are unsure of the tools to utilise, a cyber security consultant should be able to guide your way. Remember to design a flexible system which is tailored to your environment.

4. Create a zero trust policy

Alongside your security protocols, you should develop zero trust policies. Set clear policies for user access, device authentication and data protection to minimise risk.

Commonly, organisations will implement is multi-factor authentication (MFA) to verify user identities. It uses biometric information or information only the user knows to ensure only authorised users gain access.

You can also define access controls based on roles and least privilege principles. This limits who has access to specific areas, meaning only those who need it have it. This reduces the risk of data breaches and hacks,

5. Monitor your network

Once you’ve set up your zero trust security network and policies, it’s crucial to monitor for risks. Continuously review network traffic and user behaviour to determine potential threats.

Use real-time analytics to detect anomalies and concerning patterns. When you find them, aim to respond promptly.

This monitoring can be automated to alleviate the burden on businesses. AI tools like Copilot for Security have been designed specifically for this, so are well worth considering.

Finally, remember that zero trust is an ongoing process. Regularly assess and adapt your security measures to stay ahead of evolving threats and protect your business effectively.

Get cyber security support

When implementing a zero trust approach, having the right tools is crucial.

Fortunately, there are many solutions at businesses’ disposal.

Microsoft promotes a zero trust framework as an organisation. As such, many of their security tools align closely with zero trust principles. This includes Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, which detects and responds to breaches, and Microsoft Intune to manage devices on the network.

And if you need guidance, Infinity Group can help. Our specialist IT consultants provide a wide range of cyber security solutions, helping you to abide to the core fundamentals of zero trust. We will fully tailor our advice to your business needs, leaving you with actionable insights to move forward with.

Plus, if you want hands-on support, we can operate a security centre for your organisation with our managed IT services.

Get in touch today to discuss your needs with our experts.

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