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Zero Trust Model for Cloud Security

(Guest Blog)

For decades, companies have relied on perimeter protection solutions to restrict their digital resources. These included passwords to authenticate users, intrusion detection systems and firewalls.

With time, passwords became inadequate in preventing unauthorized access, and most shifted to two-factor authentication systems like one-time SMS codes or tokens. This change significantly enhanced security, but the approach only focused on securing the perimeter.

Once a user or accessing agent pushes through authentication, they will be trusted with indefinite access to fortified resources.

This cloud security approach is ideal if you have a clearly-defined and limited perimeter. But in the connected world of today, your resources are most likely spread across the on-premise data centres and the private and public cloud.

In such an environment, defining and protecting your entire perimeter can be challenging. As a result, savvy companies are now adopting a zero-trust mindset to secure their valuable assets.

What is a Zero Trust Model in IT Security?

In essence, this is an advanced IT security approach requiring stern identity verification every time an individual or device tries to access the company's secured resources using a private network, whether they're situated within or outside the company's network perimeter.

The model is not a specific technology but a holistic strategy to network and system security, incorporating diverse technologies and principles.

It excludes the perception of trust in protecting business data, applications, and networks. In Zero Trust, every user, whether inside or outside the perimeter, is deemed untrustworthy.

The model must also achieve the following:

  • The model should enable the Layer 7 policy and leverage segmenting to allow legitimate application communication and known or allowed traffic.
  • It should enforce strict access control and use a least-privileged access model.
  • It must log and inspect all traffic to identify any malice.

Basic Principles of the Zero Trust Architecture

According to NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology), the primary guiding factors for the Zero Trust model include:

  • Every computing service or data source is considered a resource.
  • Network location isn't a qualification of trust. Every communication must be secured regardless of location.
  • The requester's trust must be appraised before they can access individual company resources.
  • The policy determines resource access that includes any observable status of the requesting system and user identity and behavioural traits.
  • The model must ensure all owned, associated, and in-house systems are as secure as possible. It should also monitor every system to maintain top security levels.
  • The approach must have a dynamic, strictly enforce user-authentication before granting access. This constant cycle includes access, scanning and evaluating threats, adjusting, and continuous authentication.

Why Companies Need the Zero Trust Model

Cybersecurity attacks are now more sophisticated than ever, and the growing number of successful incidences has created a reactive position in IT security. Nowadays, hackers exploit perimeter-based weaknesses in legacy cybersecurity infrastructure to access systems with inadequate security measures in their cloud usage.

Currently, cloud hosting is a more cost-effective alternative for many companies. Since the SaaS vendors and cloud service providers aren't part of the company's network, different network controls will apply.

This means data and applications will spread across locations. You're likely to lose sight of the users accessing your data and applications and how vital business information is used and shared. Most companies opt for various access technologies. The mix leads to a fragmented IT security architecture that's not adaptable or comprehensive.

Instead, you need to implement a fused system that provides secure access to the company's data centres. This is what the Zero Trust model does.

The primary benefits of the Zero Trust model include:

  • Enhanced visibility into risks, data, and assets
  • Comprehensive and consistent security
  • Agility and speed in embracing the ever-changing tech solutions
  • Reduced system complexity and lower operational costs

The 5-Step Approach to Zero Trust Implementation

Cloud security environment primarily deals with three types of architecture, namely public, private and hybrid cloud. In this article, we talk about the implementation of a private and hybrid cloud. Before you begin the actual implementation, the first step should be to define your enterprise objectives and the desired outcomes. Once complete, you'll proceed to the following steps:

  1. Begin with noting down all the company's applications and data, their storage location, and the individuals who can access and use them. You'll then define your strategy of protecting your business' valuable assets, applications, services, and data.
  2. Next, you'll begin mapping your transaction flows. In essence, this is how diverse applications work.
  3. Design your new cloud infrastructure, then establish restrictions between applications and users.
  4. Craft attainable Zero Trust policies highlighting the individuals that can access particular material then implement appropriate access thresholds based on the principle of "least privilege." Once done, you'll train all users on the new security policies on how they should handle business data and applications in the cloud securely.  
  5. Once everything is in place, and users understand their role in the Zero Trust model, you'll now maintain and monitor the infrastructure. This includes continuous traffic logging and inspection to identify malicious activity and to improve the applicable policies. Active monitoring allows you to adjust your model to enhance security.

The Bottom Line

The current complex business IT infrastructure, alongside the rapid increase in sophistication and success rate of cyberattacks, has led to a wide range of security challenges that traditional perimeter cybersecurity models can't address.

Zero Trust security is the ideal solution for these challenges. When creating the strategy and choosing the appropriate solutions, always focus on those that meet your company's cybersecurity needs and work towards your overall business goals. Here at Octiga, we focus on protecting the public cloud by providing automated detection, remediation, and monitoring tools for Office 365. Schedule a demo with us to know more about our product. 

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