Zero Trust model: Main implementation challenges
The world is facing an increasing number of cyber threats. With the emergence of new online services and digital products, new payment methods, and new technology uses, the remote work era has become a prime target for hackers. They are constantly finding new ways to break into organizations' information systems.
The Zero Trust model was developed as a solution to these growing security challenges. The traditional approach to network security is based on the principle of "trust but verify", but this is becoming increasingly dangerous for organizations. It does not account for the possibility of legitimate users being hacked and their accounts being used for malicious purposes. The risks have only increased with the widespread shift to remote work during the pandemic.
The Zero Trust model operates under the principle of "minimum trust for everyone, maximum checks".
This means that all interactions between users, digital platforms, or software products must be verified before access is granted. The model requires users to verify their credentials every time they access resources or data, and all objects, traffic, and data are treated as hostile by default until proven safe.
The Zero Trust security model includes the following elements:
Data and networks: The transition to Zero Trust involves a new approach to data security, tracking data exchange, and protecting sensitive information and network resources. The goal is to make it difficult for potential attackers to access important information.
Users: Users are often the weakest link in security, so the Zero Trust model requires them to have limited access rights to company resources. Access is granted only after procedural steps have been taken to justify the need.
Devices: With the increasing number of devices accessing corporate networks, Zero Trust requires monitoring and segmentation of all devices, including constant analysis and verification.
Network visualization and analysis: The Zero Trust model uses tools to visualize the network state and analyze user behavior and events, including incidents within the network. The Security Operations Center (SOC) plays a key role in monitoring suspicious activity.
The Zero Trust model is based on three main principles:
Constant Checking This means that all users who want to access network resources or data must authenticate. Any attempt to gain access is perceived as a potential attack, and re-authentication is required, even if the user has already confirmed their identity.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) This approach restricts access and assigns only the rights necessary to perform the work to the user. This reduces the chances of an attacker accessing the network if a user's account is compromised. It's important to regularly check the assigned rights.
Use of Data Analytics and Context The Zero Trust model involves analyzing all user actions and logins to the network. This includes checking not only the login credentials but also additional parameters such as behavioral patterns, environmental parameters (geolocation, operating system version, device data), and others. The analysis of these parameters and detection of inconsistencies (anomalies) require special tools. Without these tools, it's difficult to identify problems, especially in large, complex networks. This is where a modern Security Operations Center (SOC) comes in.
How to implement a Zero Trust model
When building a Zero Trust system, the first step is to determine which digital assets need protection. This involves the following steps:
Determination of Sensitive Data The most valuable assets for a company can include financial information, trade secrets, medical data, customer databases, software for managing these assets, and more. Each organization will have a unique list of assets, which could already be described if the organization has implemented ISO 27k or another information security management framework or set up an Information Security Management System (ISMS).
Construction of Transaction Flows To understand the technical risks, it's necessary to monitor traffic and check access to internal resources by users and external entities. Access maps can be built to see which resources are needed by a user or group of users and which should be restricted. Basic penetration testing (Pentest) or a full Cybersecurity Audit can also be useful.
Creation of a Zero Trust Network After the first two stages, it becomes clear what the Zero Trust architecture should be, what firewalls are needed, and where additional access control steps should be implemented. Protecting an organization's digital resources is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and resource costs.
Network Monitoring and Maintenance This step involves constant monitoring of the network environment and regular assessments of the company's cybersecurity state, as well as creating policies and adjusting business processes (within the ISMS framework). Companies can do this with the help of their own SOC or with the help of an external contractor. A SOC helps companies improve their IT infrastructure monitoring capabilities, detect hidden behavior anomalies, and respond to threats and incidents. You can learn more about our Center functionality via the link.
However, the implementation of the Zero Trust model can be a complex and time-consuming process, and requires ongoing management and improvement. It also requires hardware and software expenses for network monitoring and analysis, which can be a challenge for companies that have not faced significant cyber threats in the past.
Despite these challenges, 72% of companies worldwide have implemented or are in the process of implementing the Zero Trust model.
The implementation of this model allows companies to conduct a complete analysis and inventory of their network infrastructure and understand their resources, data, and applications. This information is essential for both security and strategic planning.