Why companies should implement Zero Trust

The Zero Trust concept essentially means that nobody using a network is automatically trusted, everything must be questioned, and rights are granted and validated on an ongoing basis, depending on the access requested. Many organisations have found this method to be incredibly effective in warding off potential security threats and data breaches, especially within today’s digital age, whereby more organisations are harvesting valuable data across multiple vendors in the cloud, explains Marc Lueck, CISO EMEA, Zscaler.
The Zero Trust concept essentially means that nobody using a network is automatically trusted, everything must be questioned, and rights are granted and validated on an ongoing basis, depending on the access requested. Many organisations have found this method to be incredibly effective in warding off potential security threats and data breaches, especially within today’s digital age, whereby more organisations are harvesting valuable data across multiple vendors in the cloud, explains Marc Lueck, CISO EMEA, Zscaler.

In the current digital age, many organisations are having to rapidly adopt new ways of managing network security, as traditional approaches become outdated and no longer sustainable in the era of the cloud. According to the Office of National Statistics1, 46.6% of people in employment worked from home in April last year. This dramatic rise in remote working is just one of the reasons why employees require a secure and reliable IT infrastructure. As applications leave the secure perimeter of the office walls, employees require ever more reliable access to a secure cloud environment.

Zero Trust refers to the idea that every user will start with zero access rights to a system by default, and that nobody is treated to some privilege just because they are on the network. This ties in with the tried-and-tested principle of least privilege, in which users are only granted access to resources and information for a legitimate need. With Zero Trust, essentially nobody is automatically trusted meaning everything is questioned, and rights are granted on an ongoing basis. Many organisations have found this method to be incredibly effective in warding off potential security threats and data breaches – especially within today’s digital age, whereby more organisations hold data across multiple vendors in the cloud.

VPN solutions are not sustainable

A virtual private network (VPN) essentially extends a private network across a public network, allowing users to access and receive data across a shared network. This enables them to operate the device as if it were directly connected to the private network. Despite the efficiency of VPNs throughout the last year and a half, these servers have many vulnerabilities which makes them a prime target for hackers. Before the pandemic, VPNs were primarily used by individuals travelling for business or people who would like to access corporate resources out of normal working hours. Because of this, VPN traffic held a small share of total traffic to the network, meaning IT security teams did not need to patch VPN servers too often. A VPN essentially brings users onto a network and provides unfettered access to anything else on that network, which is an unnecessary risk.

If the last year has proven anything, it is just how serious VPN attacks are and showcase how attackers have the ability to exploit vulnerabilities and take control of an affected system. According to the 2021 VPN Risk Report2, 93% of companies are leveraging VPN services, yet 94% are aware that cybercriminals are targeting VPNs to gain access to network resources. In addition to this, 72% of organisations are concerned that VPN may jeopardise the IT team’s ability to keep their environments secure and 67% of enterprises are considering a remote access alternative to a traditional VPN. These findings suggest that organisations are starting to rapidly address and rethink the security infrastructure of their networks.

Looking ahead, it is clear to see that the future of working will remain cloud-based and remote-enabled. However, the question remains as to whether VPNs will scale and become secure enough to support this. To effectively manage this, organisations should implement a cloud-enabled Zero Trust architecture, which gives users secure access to private applications and establishes connectivity from specifically authorised applications.

Is Zero Trust the solution?

Zero Trust assumes all applications and services are malicious which significantly reduces the risks of attacks. This is because it uncovers what is on the network and assesses how those assets are communicating. Additionally, a Zero Trust model eliminates overprovisioned software and services by continuously checking the credentials of every communicating asset. Despite the rapid evolution to cloud service provider security, workload security remains a shared responsibility between the cloud service provider and the organisation using the cloud. With Zero Trust, security policies are based on the identity of communicating workloads and are tied directly to the workload itself, resulting in security staying close to the assets that require protection. This means that these assets are not affected by network constructs such as IP addresses, ports, and protocols. Protection, therefore, travels with the workload where it tries to communicate but also remains unchanged even if the environment itself changes.

Zero Trust solves a lot of the challenges organisations are currently facing when it comes to reducing security risks. Despite this, not every enterprise will opt for the approach, so the process will take a long time. An example of why a company may choose not to implement Zero Trust could be the unrealistic costs involved or a lack of drive for digital transformation. If an organisation develops its own applications or software, this may not be able to accommodate Zero Trust and will therefore dictate whether or not a company can adopt it. Additionally, it will determine the effort and perhaps unachievable costs required. However, one thing that is for sure is that those deciding not to opt for the Zero Trust approach will become an easy target for cybercriminals.

Innovations such as automation and machine learning can enhance the path of entry into Zero Trust. When it comes to implementing this process, organisations should consider four key pillars. These are the users, applications, networks, and processes for all transformation projects. For example, if an app is moved to the cloud, but the user is not happy with the experience accessing it, then something is wrong, and it will need addressing.

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By considering a cloud-first Zero Trust approach to security and connectivity, organisations will not only be able to reduce the risk of attacks, but they will also be able to stay competitive and embrace digital transformation further down the line.

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Author

  • Zero Trust, Security & Data, Why companies should implement Zero Trust

    Marc Lueck is CISO EMEA at Zscaler, with more than 20 years of experience crossing multiple industry sectors, from financial services to publishing. With a strong technical background, he has spent the past ten years leading security improvement programmes for the likes of Pearson, T-Systems and Symantec. Lueck is also an advisory board member of ClubCISO, a security leadership peer group.

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