The modern world faces ever-evolving threat actors — many of whom have become more advanced and persistent in their methods. We’re not saying this to scare you. It’s more to stress the point that traditional means of protection are rapidly becoming outdated.
As IT systems move to the cloud and hybrid work becomes more prevalent, the perimeter is beginning to “evaporate”, meaning that zero trust is becoming an essential adaptation to a changing technology landscape. Zero trust represents the logical step needed to prevent an attacker who has breached the perimeter from moving laterally.
As we covered in our last zero trust blog post, the concept of zero trust security means that every employee or user’s identity will be challenged, and will need to be authenticated, to pass the perimeter of a network. Trust no one, authenticate everyone.
Older models of cybersecurity ran on the fact that if you had passed the perimeter checks, then you were no longer deemed a threat. But this approach meant that hackers just needed to bypass that initial check, then they would go unchallenged and be free to act as they pleased.
Clearly, this old approach has drawbacks. And it’s those drawbacks that a zero trust positioning looks to resolve.
Let’s take a closer look at zero trust security and how it works.
Understanding zero trust architecture
The older framework described above requires trusting the user to a certain extent. Whereas, as the name suggests, zero trust methods implore you to throw that old framework out of the window.
To make room for this new and more secure approach, you’ll need to adopt different principles. Notable points include:
- Understanding your architecture
- Creating one strong user identity
- Cultivating strong device identity
- Authenticating everywhere
- Awareness of the health of your services and devices
- Careful monitoring of your services and devices
- Using policies that consider service value
- Managing access to data and services
- Questioning the security of your network
- Implementing zero trust services.
In order to monitor your system successfully, it’s worth noting that you’ll need transparent identity attributes and the ability to analyze them in real-time. This includes:
- The identity of the entity and whether it’s human or programmatic
- A device’s credential privileges
- A device’s behavioral patterns
- Types of hardware used by the endpoint
- Different firmware types
- Authentication methods and associated risks
- Your operating system and patches used
- Endpoint applications
- Suspicious activity and incident detection.
Understanding zero trust protocols
The most recent zero trust standard is the NIST 800-207 protocol. This framework takes data flows, endpoints, and services into account to create an all-encompassing procedure for zero trust best practices.
The NIST rulebook states that each enterprise should follow these steps for a zero trust network to function optimally:
- Dynamic authorization throughout all layers within your network - This includes the application layer, network, and service layer. Trust is not immediately granted based on geolocation. Access is only permitted once authentication has taken place to ensure credentials are from authorized users.
- Time-based sessions - Putting a time cap on each user’s session reduces the likelihood of malevolent threat actors breaching security multiple times. Once a session is granted, the user is required to enter their credentials again once their session time elapses.
- Space-specific access - This protocol involves minimizing the accessible area surrounding a service. In zero trust methods, you’d restrict the level of trust to a specified service — and that alone.
- Utilize message encryption - This step prevents spying and eavesdropping actions. It’s essential for ensuring the privacy of sensitive information and making sure that a message reaches its intended target without unauthorized access or manipulation.
- Promote transparency - Examining the state of your enterprise is a key aspect of promoting safety — and creating a culture of transparency will make monitoring for security reasons easier to carry out. Utilize gathered data and operational logs to observe patterns and follow trails of suspicious activity. Logged data can help direct your operations for improved use in the future, as lessons can be learned from past events.
Cybersecurity threats that zero trust can resolve
By essentially locking out any employee or user, and treating them as guilty until proven innocent, businesses can significantly mitigate the risk of fraudulent and criminal behavior. A zero trust approach has the potential to stop:
Ransomware attacks - Using zero trust architecture means shielding your applications from threat actors so that they aren’t an open target. Within zero trust architecture, you minimize the ability of a threat actor to do damage by virtue of the fact that even if an initial breach is made, it is harder for an attacker to gain access to data since zero trust architecture will require authentication multiple times. This reduces the likelihood of a breach online and ransomware attacks.
Threat actors in the supply chain - Usually this occurs through weaknesses in a development toolchain or introduction of malware through firmware updates or on a storage device. In a zero trust architecture, even if an attacker manages to take advantage of a supply chain weakness, they still will have limited access to applications and data. With a zero trust model, users will be required to reauthenticate regularly to avoid breached links.
Lateral movement - Zero trust policies aim to limit the spread of attackers if or when they do breach your defenses. In most attacks, threat actors look to gain a foothold in your system and then spread ‘laterally’ from there. Zero trust architecture creates barriers in the form of authentication or verification steps, therefore making it much less likely that hackers can move between applications.
Insider threats - It’s not just external threats that zero trust can help stop; insider threats require modern protection too. Some users may innocently or naively fail to follow company policy with their actions and activities, while others may be actively attempting to commit a crime or attack. Either way, an enterprise can be left exposed by the actions of an individual whether knowingly or not, and the rise in remote working makes monitoring this more challenging without a zero trust approach. Zero trust also provides better assurance that users do not have access to information that they don’t need to have access to, thus reducing the risk of inadvertent disclosure.
Combine zero trust with Samurai XDR for unbeatable protection
As a methodology, zero trust can be effective in reducing the scale and impact of an attack — it’s excellent at confining a breach to one area, which is essential for damage limitation.
When zero trust architecture is deployed in conjunction with XDR, however, you gain the benefit of being able to locate a breach quickly while restricting the movement of the threat actor. It’s the perfect combination for limiting and addressing a potential threat and stops hackers in their tracks.
Contact the Samurai team today and update to XDR.
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