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Why Zero Trust Network Architecture is becoming the go-to security approach

Traditional cybersecurity protections have always orbited around the perimeter, and the basic concept is simple one. All of your valuable data and applications are made available on your network, surrounded by a perimeter firewall to secure them against potential cybersecurity threats. Once inside, users are trusted and can move through your network freely. Should you ever need to protect against new threats, you reinforce the protections deployed at the perimeter.

It’s a model that has served businesses well for a number of years, but the concept is now being challenged by changes unfolding in the way their people work.

The prevalence of cloud apps, and the increased uptake of home and remote working have all contributed to more workloads moving outside of the perimeter. Crucially, this also means that this data is no longer protected by the perimeter defences already in place.

Cybercriminals are also finding new ways to exploit perimeter defences, and taking advantage of the levels of trust afforded to those operating inside the network with lateral attack movements.

As such, building stronger perimeter protections is no longer enough to ensure resilient protection, which demands a more granular approach.

Step forward Zero Trust Network Architecture (ZTNA)

First identified by Forrester research in 2009, Zero Trust is fast becoming a go-to approach for businesses of all sizes who are keen to move away from traditional perimeter protections.

It follows a guiding principle to never trust, and always verify, which brings an end to the blanket of trust available to those already inside your perimeter.

Essentially, every user trying to access to your network, regardless of location or device, is asked to verify their identity to gain access, not only in the first instance, but at multiple points as they look to access different files or apps.

Key principles of ZTNA

A true ZTNA is more than the deployment of one single solution. It’s a combination of tools, delivered as part of an overarching framework to ensure that any potential user is validated with the appropriate level of scrutiny, and access permitted based on context such as their identify, location or device.

There are a number of key principles at the heart of a ZTNA framework:

  • Extra protection with micro-segmentation

By separating your network into different segments, micro-segmentation allows you to implement an additional layer of security. Each segment can be gated with unique policies as part of a more granular approach that requires the user to verify their identity at multiple points. This essentially creates a micro-perimeter around different areas of your network and helps to prevent the lateral attacks used to exploit traditional perimeter defences. This also ensures the protection of potentially confidential information from users who are not permitted to access particular micro-segments.

  • Least privilege access

Once a user has successfully verified their identify, ZTNA ensures that they can only access exactly what they need to carry out their role. This is known as least privilege access and is central to ensuring the protection of potentially sensitive data, both from inadvertent access by your users, or potential exposure via a security breach.

  • Diligent verification with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Another key pillar of ZTNA, MFA ensures that every user must provide a minimum of two pieces of evidence to verify their identity before being granted any network access.

  • Limited data usage

Implementing strict data usage controls adds a further layer of protection, even after users have verified their identity. Once access is enabled, use of any data is limited to help prevent exfiltration.

Start your journey to Zero Trust

It’s easy to feel like a Zero Trust model is only in reach for enterprise-level organisations who have the budget and resource to completely refresh their network architecture, but that isn’t the case.

The reality is that this approach can be adopted by businesses of all sizes, with small changes implemented at a pace to suit you as you shift your strategic approach. It’s very much a case of evolution, not revolution, and our expert team can help you take the first step.

To learn more about Zero Trust, the benefits of implementing this security framework, and how you can look to adopt this model within your organisation, get in touch with our team.