Zero Trust Security Basics

The continuous advancement of IT technology has made working, sharing information, and providing services easier than ever. It has also opened up IT networks to a wider range of security risks — and ones that are potentially more damaging. Organizations can no longer rely on a single security perimeter to keep their networks and data safe from bad actors. Zero trust is emerging as the next generation of IT security. It addresses the security risks inherent in remote devices, IoT, SaaS, and cloud computing. Let’s take a closer look at how zero-trust architecture works and the benefits it provides.

What Is Zero Trust Security?

Zero trust is an IT security strategy based on the principle that every user, device, and system should be authenticated and verified. “Zero trust” means exactly that: There are no trusted users or trusted devices, and all users and devices are treated as security risks until they are authenticated. No users or devices are granted unlimited access to an organization’s network or data.

Zero-trust architecture also promotes segmenting networks into small zones that are separated from each other. Users are granted access only to the network resources and data they need to perform their job, known as least privilege access. They must request access to each protected resource separately. Zero trust also places strict controls on device access. For optimal protection, data can also be encrypted. Sophisticated zero-trust architectures may also employ real-time machine learning analysis to detect threats.

How Does MFA Fit In?

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security methodology that requires a combination of two or more verifiers to confirm the identity of a user or device before access to the network is permitted. Many organizations already use MFA because it provides a way to verify authorized users beyond merely requiring the conventional user name and password.

There are three types of MFA authenticators:

  • Things users know: A user must correctly answer a personal question previously provided, such as their elementary school’s name.
  • Things users have: A user must correctly provide something they possess, such as a one-time password sent via email or text.
  • Thing users are: This type of factor encompasses something inherent in the user, such as a fingerprint or a voice pattern.

MFA is an important component of zero-trust security. A second or third level of authentication makes it harder for hackers to gain access to information systems, even if passwords are compromised by a phishing attack or another method. If an attacker is able to access a specific device, such as an employee’s computer, they would still need to clear an additional authentication hurdle, such as using a hardware security key or providing a fingerprint.

What Are the Advantages of Biometrics?

Because zero-trust security requires that all users be authenticated, biometrics is emerging as an effective way to maintain a high level of security while providing ease of use for users. Biometric authentication identifies users based on their physical characteristics, including fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans, and facial and voice recognition.

Biometric authentication makes it much more difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to a network. Even if a user’s username and password or other credentials are compromised, access would be denied without the biometric authentication. The use of biometrics comes with some additional issues, however. Users may have privacy concerns about the use of their unique physical attributes, and organizations need to assess and address the risks of biometric data being stolen and the damage that such a theft could have on individuals and the organization.

What Are the Benefits of Zero Trust?

As organizations embark on digital transformation, adapt to remote and hybrid work, and shift their computing to the cloud, they expose their IT networks to a broader and deeper range of security risks. Zero-trust architecture enables organizations to better protect their networks from data breaches, ransomware, and other security threats.

Adopting zero trust security offers many business benefits, including:

  • Reducing exposure to cybersecurity risks
  • Protecting against internal and external threats
  • Limiting a successful attacker’s ability to access different parts of your network
  • Enabling real-time detection and rapid response to security threats
  • Providing a complete bird’s-eye view of an organization’s infrastructure, such as users, applications, devices, and data

Adopting zero-trust security can be a challenge. Each organization has its own legacy systems, use cases, and data assets. If you have questions about whether zero-trust architecture is right for your organization, contact us today for a free consultation.

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