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    The Need for Data Protection is Evolving Zero Trust Frameworks

    Today’s need for data security is no longer the same as a few years ago. Previously, businesses ran on data over their local area network (LAN). However, current data practices are shifting, as more remote workers are accessing data, applications, and servers through various networks.

    A few years ago, most online traffic was headed towards sites with static information. But now, more than half of current traffic accesses software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud applications that contain crucial data. This paradigm shift in network traffic caused a network reversal, diverting network traffic from on-premises data security measures directly to the cloud.

    Today, it is common sense that a business organization can’t simply trust the authentication of remote workers working out of their company LAN, using devices and networks their company can’t trust.  

    According to recent research, one in four companies using public cloud services is prone to data theft. The same study also reveals 83% of enterprises store sensitive information in the cloud, and one in five of them has to fight sophisticated attacks against their public cloud infrastructure.

    Today, as 97% of businesses organizations worldwide use cloud computing services, a deeper evaluation of cloud computing security and the development of an efficient data protection strategy should be their priorities.

    What is Zero Trust?

    Zero trust was first coined in 2010 by John Kindervag, an analyst at Forrester Research and a thought leader following the motto, “never trust, always verify.” His ground-breaking idea was based on the assumption that risk is always present inside and outside the network. Kindervag believes that “trust,” as a human emotion, brings vulnerability and exploitation in a digital ecosystem.

    The traditional perimeter security strategies using firewalls and other network-based security tools to protect valuable digital resources like user data and intellectual property are no longer sufficient in an age of digital transformation and cloud computing.

    Furthermore, zero trust is an information technology (IT) security framework that authenticates, authorizes, and continuously verifies users inside or outside an organization’s network for security configuration and posture before granting access to its applications and data.

    Zero trust addresses the modern business challenges, including securing remote workers, hybrid cloud ecosystems, and warding off ransomware threats. It can also accommodate the growing data processing, management, and security demands.

    The 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report states that enterprises that have not deployed a zero trust architecture had to spend an average of $5 million to recover from data breach attempts. And those who implemented zero trust saw those costs decrease by nearly $2 million. Even the business organizations in early stages of zero trust deployment displayed almost $660,000 less burden.

    Also read: Emerging Cybersecurity Trends in 2022 and Beyond

    The Benefits of Zero Trust

    Enhanced security

    The improved security posture of a zero trust architecture is partly because of using advanced cybersecurity tools and platforms such as identity and access management (IAM), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and extended detection and response (XDR).

    As per an ESG Research Report, around 43% of North American enterprises experienced improved security operations center (SOC) efficiency after implementing a zero trust security model.

    The simplification of IT security architecture

    Adopting an advanced security infrastructure like zero trust simplifies an organization’s IT security architecture, as the cybersecurity teams can efficiently respond to security reports and remain proactive in securing the organization’s IT environment.

    Improved user experience

    Simplification of the IT architecture by applying either the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architectural model or through secure web gateways, like zero trust network access (ZTNA) or a cloud access security broker (CASB), improves user experience.

    Secure remote work ecosystem and cloud adoption

    The usage of public cloud services is on the rise among business organizations. A zero trust infrastructure can ensure and continually verify the legitimacy of everything trying to connect to an organization’s network, data, applications, and resources.

    Also read: Securing Work-From-Home Networks to Safeguard Your Business

    The Challenges of Zero Trust

    Zero trust needs a strong identity system

    Identity systems, often a part of an IAM tool, authenticate a user or device and prove the entity’s legitimacy to other security tools in the IT infrastructure. Unfortunately, the probability of attacks towards identity systems is always higher.

    The cybersecurity risks still remains in a zero trust model

    Although termed as zero trust, an organization should trust a few users and non-users who access its data, applications, and resources for smoother business operations. But sometimes that trust can be broken.

    Delay and complications in implementing zero trust

    ZTNA, a network-based security system, is a popular technology that supports zero trust. But the truth is that a network is only a part of an enterprise’s IT ecosystem and resources. Enterprises should also consider the security of their applications, data, and other resources. Hence, the scope of zero trust is more extensive; it takes years to get implemented and can often run into complications.

    The Implementation of Zero Trust Architecture

    You can use a five-step model for implementing and maintaining zero trust. Through this procedure, you can understand your implementation process and your next step.

    1. Mark the protect surface

    The attack surface continuously expands in today’s cyber threat landscape, making it difficult to define, shrink, or defend. However, with zero trust, it is always better to define your protect surface rather than focusing on the larger attack surface.

    The protect surface consists of the crucial data, applications, assets, and services (DAAS) considered the most valuable resources of your company. Once defined, you can easily control the protect surface, creating a micro-perimeter with precise, understandable, and limited policy statements. 

    2. Map transaction flows

    The protection of the network should be determined by the way traffic moves across it. Therefore, it’s crucial to gain contextual insight into the interdependencies of your DAAS. Documenting the movement of specific resources assists you in correctly placing controls and provides valuable information to ensure the controls protect your data rather than hinders your business operations.

    3. Design a zero trust network

    Zero trust networks don’t have a single, universal design; hence they can be completely customized. But the infrastructure should be constructed around the protect surface. After defining the protect surface and mapping transaction flows, you can design a zero trust infrastructure, beginning with a next-generation firewall.  

    4. Devise zero trust policies

    Once the network is designed, you can devise zero trust policies using the Kipling Method by asking who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to check out which resources should access others.

    5. Maintain and monitor the network

    This ultimate step consists of reviewing all internal and external logs all the way down to Layer 7, focusing on zero trust’s operational aspects. Since zero trust is a repetitive process, monitoring and logging all traffic will provide valuable insights into improving the network over time.

    Zero Trust Will Evolve to Meet Data Security Requirements

    A zero trust strategy can offer a feasible IT security framework for mitigating the complete spectrum of cybersecurity risks by introducing a proactive verification model for every attempt to access data and resources by any user, application, or device.

    Zero trust is a framework that can genuinely bestow the level of security needed in today’s digital world. However, it should continue to adapt to meet the world’s changing digital requirements. Similar to how the concept of cloud has evolved since its innovation, zero trust will also do the same eventually.

    Read next: Top Zero Trust Security Solutions & Software

    Kashyap Vyas
    Kashyap Vyas
    Kashyap Vyas is a writer with 9+ years of experience writing about SaaS, cloud communications, data analytics, IT security, and STEM topics. In addition to IT Business Edge, he's been a contributor to publications including Interesting Engineering, Machine Design, Design World, and several other peer-reviewed journals. Kashyap is also a digital marketing enthusiast and runs his own small consulting agency.

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