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Build a More Secure Future by Implementing Zero Trust at Your Organization

Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity

Traditional network security models, which relied on perimeter defense and an assumption of “trust within the network,” are proving inadequate when confronted with modern cyber threats. Under this scenario, if a threat actor gains access to an organization’s network and can roam freely, they have the ability to infect every corner of that network. To counter this, security experts developed a “Zero Trust” approach to cybersecurity to limit the range and scope of damage a threat actor can cause, even if they successfully break into a network. In honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month and its mission to share information and reduce risks, here’s how to build a more secure future by implementing Zero Trust. 

What is Zero Trust? 

Let’s start by defining Zero Trust. As an approach to securing a network, Zero Trust assumes threats may exist from both inside and outside an organization's network. It abandons any notion of trust or trustworthiness. Instead, every user, device and application trying to connect to network resources must be verified. This stands in contrast to traditional security models that trust entities by default once they are inside the network perimeter. In addition to the Never Trust, Always Verify principle, Zero Trust also applies the Principle of Least Privilege, in which users and devices are only granted the minimum level of access required to perform their tasks. With a clearer understanding of Zero Trust, you can follow these 10 steps to implement the model in your organization: 

  1. Assess your risks––The first step is to assess your organization's current security posture and identify vulnerabilities and risks. There are several ways to perform such assessments, but one of the most common is through automated vulnerability scanning software. These tools use databases of known vulnerabilities to identify potential flaws in your networks, applications, containers, systems, data and hardware. Conducting a thorough security assessment will help you understand the specific needs and challenges your organization faces. 
  2. Identify critical assets and data––These items include financial or sensitive documents; information about employees or customers; devices and equipment used in day-to-day processes; or servers and backup storage devices. In other words, any asset that is essential to daily business operations. By identifying your organization’s critical assets and sensitive data, you can create effective network access controls. Data classification is also fundamental to this process and can help you to prioritize your security efforts. 
  3. Apply micro-segmentation principles––This involves dividing the network into smaller segments to minimize the chance that threats fully penetrate the network. Even if a threat gains access to the system, it will be somewhat contained and unable to easily traverse the network. 
  4. Implement threat detection capabilities––Advanced threat detection is a method of monitoring infrastructure to identify attacks that may bypass security. It often relies on endpoint monitoring, signature- and behavior-based detection, malware sandboxing and user and entity behavior analytics. Applying advanced threat detection mechanisms and continuous monitoring can enable your organization to identify and respond to suspicious activities in real time. 
  5. Deploy Identity and Access Management (IAM) controls––IAM controls are central to Zero Trust. Strong authentication and authorization processes ensure that only authorized users and devices can access critical resources. 
  6. Secure endpoints and devices––Securing endpoints, especially in the era of remote work, is also crucial to Zero Trust. By implementing device identity verification and compliance checks, you ensure that only trusted devices can access your network. You can deploy tools like Managed Detection and Response (MDR) or Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) to protect your endpoints. 
  7. Build a Zero Trust culture––Fostering a Zero Trust culture within your organization is equally vital to deploying all the right technologies, tools and controls. Start by educating employees about the principles of Zero Trust and promoting a culture of security and skepticism––at all levels of the enterprise, including the C-suite. According to Deloitte, 91% of all breaches begin with a phishing attack. Meaning employee training can have a huge impact in reducing the odds of a breach. 
  8. Integrate Zero Trust with cloud security––Extending Zero Trust principles to cloud environments and accompanying devices ensures that security measures are applied consistently across all platforms and endpoints. One option for achieving this is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which is a security architecture commonly associated with Zero Trust that specializes in protecting data in the cloud. It is an ideal solution for highly distributed networks. 
  9. Measure and monitor progress––To gauge the success of your Zero Trust implementation, define key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously monitor your security posture. Adjust your strategy based on threat intelligence and emerging risks. 
  10. View securing the network as an ongoing process––There is no final destination when it comes to network security. It is an ongoing process that requires vigilance, continual learning and the ability to adapt to evolving threats. That’s true with Zero Trust and any approaches that may emerge in the coming years. When you view network security as a circular process, you will understand the merits of continually assessing your organization's security posture, identifying critical assets and fortifying network defenses, be it through the principles of Zero Trust or other cybersecurity strategies. 

By embracing the Zero Trust approach and following these 10 steps, your organization can forge a more resilient and secure future, safeguarding the network––and your business––against the relentless evolution of cyber threats. Discover how Hughes can help you implement cybersecurity tools to defend your business.