In today's business world, security is more important than ever. With data breaches and cyberattacks becoming more common, protecting our company's information is essential. A zero trust security approach is one of the best ways to do this.
Zero trust security means we don't trust any user or device - even those inside our network. But what is zero trust architecture, exactly? And how can we implement it in our business? This article will discuss ten best practices for zero trust security and provide insights into how we can implement a zero trust security policy in our network architecture.
What is a zero trust approach?
A zero trust approach is a security strategy that doesn't rely on predefined trust levels. In other words, we don't automatically trust anyone. Instead, we verify each user and device before granting access to information or resources. It facilitates user identity and access management.
The basis of zero trust security is the principle of least privilege access, which means users only have access to the resources they need to do their job. It becomes difficult for hackers to access our network perimeter when users only have limited permissions. This limitation helps reduce the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks. According to Forrester, Microsoft was a 'dominant' Zero-Trust provider during the coronavirus pandemic.
What are the three pillars of zero trust?
The three pillars of zero trust architecture are identity, device, and data.
Identity: All users are treated equally in a zero trust security model. Whether inside or outside our network, we need to verify their identity before granting them user access. We can do this through authentication and authorization methods, like two-factor authentication.
Device: All devices must be verified before they can access our network. It includes laptops, smartphones, and even IoT devices. We need to ensure that these devices are secure and compliant with our security policies.
Data: It is a valuable asset in a zero trust solution model. All data must be classified and labeled before it's stored. We should also encrypt all data to protect it from unauthorized access. This way, we can control user access and what users can do with it.
10 Best Practices for Zero Trust Security
Now that we've discussed zero trust security and its pillars, let's review the ten best practices for implementing a zero trust network architecture.
Establish a baseline of trust
The first best practice in implementing zero trust security is establishing a baseline of trust. We need to identify which users and devices should access our network. To do this, we need to perform a cybersecurity assessment. The cybersecurity vulnerability assessment will help us understand the risks and vulnerabilities in our network. From there, we can develop a plan to mitigate these risks.
Create a comprehensive security policy
A comprehensive set of security policies is a best practice for a zero trust security solution. The security policies should include all the necessary safeguards to protect our network. User access policy dictates who should access which data and device. The IT department should regularly update these policies to reflect changes in our business environment.
Implement the least privileged access management
The principle of least privilege is an information security principle in which a user has the least access or permissions necessary to accomplish their job duties. It is a cybersecurity best practice and a vital step in privileged access to the most valuable data and assets.
The scope of least privilege access transcends human access. The paradigm applies to apps, systems, and connected devices that require permissions or rights to accomplish a required task. Restricted access enforcement ensures that a non-human instrument has only the minimum access needed. Effective enforcement of least privilege access requires centralized management and protection of privileged credentials, as well as controls that may balance cybersecurity and compliance concerns with operational and end-user requirements.
Harden our environment
Hardening our environment means implementing security controls at every level, from the network to the applications. Doing this can reduce the attack surface and make it more difficult for attackers to gain access to our systems.
One of the best ways to harden our environment is to follow the NIST Cybersecurity Framework roadmap. This roadmap guides how to implement security controls at each stage of our digital transformation. By following this cybersecurity roadmap, we can ensure our environment is as secure as possible. Another critical aspect of hardening our environment is implementing a zero trust infrastructure.
Restrict network access
Network restriction is among the zero trust best practices. It means only authorized users and devices can access our network. Authentication and authorization methods like two-factor authentication, biometrics, or digital certificates achieve network access control. We can also restrict access by location, device type, and time of day to enhance user identity management.
Zero trust examples in network restriction can involve allowing only certain devices to connect to our network from specific areas, allowing only certain types of devices to access our network during certain times of the day. It is hard to exploit network security vulnerabilities with restricted network access, sometimes also known as "Conditional Access".
A virtual private network (VPN) can enhance access control by location. A VPN ensures that only authorized users can access our network from specific areas. A VPN encrypts all traffic between our devices and the VPN server. It makes it more difficult for attackers to intercept data or sniff passwords.
Micro-segmentation involves creating small, isolated segments within our network. Each segment has its own security controls and can be managed independently.
Segmenting our network limits the spread of an attack. It helps secure the most sensitive data and reduces the blast radius of an attack. If one segment is compromised, the others remain secure. Micro-segmentation can also improve performance and reduce costs by lowering controls at every network security layer.
Application allowlisting and blocklisting
Application allowlisting and blocklisting are zero trust application best practices. Application allowlisting means that only approved applications can run on a system. Blocklisting means all applications are allowed to run, except those specifically blacklisted.
Implementing application allowlisting and blocklisting can help reduce the attack surface and prevent malicious applications from running on our systems. By allowing only approved applications to run, we can ensure the execution of only the trusted code on our devices, this approach is also known as ringfencing.
Leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence
Machine learning and artificial intelligence can detect anomalies in our network and respond in real-time. These anomalies can be indicative of malware and firewalls. Leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence can improve zero trust security posture by detecting threats early and preventing them from causing damage.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence can also automate patching and vulnerability management tasks. Tasks automation can help reduce the likelihood of a data security breach. Deploying these technologies can improve our ability to detect and prevent threats in real-time.
Use multifactor authentication methods
Multifactor authentication is a crucial zero trust security best practice. When authenticating, multifactor authentication (MFA) requires users to provide more than one form of identification. The typical forms of identification include something we know (like a password), something we have (like a token), and something we are (like a biometric).
Deploying MFA can help ensure that only authorized users can access our systems. It makes it more difficult for cybercriminals since they must possess multiple forms of identification to access the network. Multifactor authentication can also improve the usability of our systems as users only need to remember one password.
Regular device validation
Regular device validation is a zero trust security best practice that ensures that only trusted devices can access our network. Device validation can be manual or automated. Manual device validation typically involves checking the physical security of the device and verifying its configuration. Automated device validation typically uses an agent to check the state of the system and its compliance with security policies.
Regular device validation helps ensure that only trusted devices can access our network. It helps reduce attacks and prevents malicious devices from gaining access to our systems.
What are the advantages of zero trust?
Zero trust network architecture has the following merits:
- Decreased potential for attack
- Improved user activity visibility
- Maximizing authentication's usage and authority
- Reduced dependency on endpoint point solutions used for specific threats
- Overall on-premises and cloud security posture improvement
What is the best way to implement a zero trust policy?
The best way to implement a zero trust policy will vary depending on our organization's specific needs. However, combining the ten best practices discussed can ensure a successful implementation.
If you're interested in implementing zero trust security in your organization, ne Digital can help. We provide managed cybersecurity, managed services for Microsoft 365 and Azure. Talk to our experts in Cybersecurity Managed Services to secure your data and improve your cybersecurity posture.