How a small business can achieve Zero Trust security

March 2, 2020 | Sam Bocetta

Contrary to popular belief, small businesses don’t need to be restricted by their budgets and productive capacity - especially when it comes to security. By using the right Zero Trust approach, businesses can prevent data breaches, all while continuing to grow.

New technologies such as databases, the cloud, the internet-of-things, and countless network devices help a business save money and time while making operations more efficient. Companies are now capable of taking brainstorming discussions about new apps, and make them into prototypes in a day - but while this new efficiency is yielding incredible results, correct security must be implemented to keep these businesses prospering in the long term.

Successful small businesses of any kind share a common trait between them: they move and grow rapidly. Broken down this means they’re bringing on new contractors and employees, experimenting with new technologies and ideas, expanding to new locations, and doing this all in a matter of days.

pirate flag on computer screen

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Experts in cutting edge technologies like app development, AI, machine learning are all brought on to modernize the business, while new sales and marketing experts are sourced to give the company its competitive edge.

Throughout this growth, new employees and contractors are given access to the companies cloud to get involved with the work, but in doing so, the security vulnerabilities begin.

Small businesses don’t have to make sacrifices for security

The speed that successful startups and small businesses experience can be addictive, but with this comes the belief that putting more work into security will cause them to slow down.

The American economy is growing, with the latest US Federal Reserve Board’s SCF survey finding that GDP has grown at an average rate of 2.2% since 2013.  As a result of this growth, small businesses are financially better off than they were before, but their sensitive information will find themselves in hacker's crosshairs more and more frequently.

Luckily, with Zero Trust, businesses don’t have to sacrifice much of their speed to get their security in shape. By following the correct Zero Trust approach, businesses can secure their systems, time, and intellectual property by reducing their risk of falling prey to a massive data breach.

Here are the key security steps businesses can implement into their Zero Trust approach to ensure that costly, time sink data breaches aren’t stealing their data and hurting their momentum and reputation:

1) Track, monitor and audit all privileged account access in real-time, including metadata, to ensure you have a full picture of each user's intentions and actions within accounts. You need to know who is using your company’s network. Having a full chronology of the user's actions within accounts is invaluable when it comes to cybersecurity. It gives you a much stronger chance of preventing malicious use as it happens and also helps you to discover how these incidents happen in the first place.

Furthermore, it allows you to meet the many regulatory requirements - such as HIPAA, SOX, and PCI. Any payment processing services your business uses, for instance, will need to use a PCI compliant gateway at the bare minimum.

2) Use a password manager, with regularly updated passwords to prevent a privileged access data breach. A good password manager is worth its weight in gold when it comes to cybersecurity. If you have accounts that have access to valuable intellectual property or customer data, then securing them behind a solid password is essential.  A password vault is also highly recommended, making sure that access is only granted to users who are thoroughly identified before any login credentials are released.

3) Ensure two or multi-factor authentication is used by every employee, contractor, partner, or admin account. Making sure that multi-factor authentication is used is one of the most important cybersecurity precautions you can take. It significantly reduces the chances that a bad agent will gain access to privileged accounts.

In fact, one recent study found that over 70% of all breaches involved access to a privileged account. The study also found that over 50% of companies had not implemented multi-factor authentication, leaving their most valuable accounts inadequately protected.

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4) Include privileged access credentials to all network devices as part of your Zero Trust approach. Small businesses are continually pressed for time, and in their effort to achieve many of their goals, they often forget basic security best practices.

For example, any manufacturer preset passwords or login credentials need to be changed immediately. As these are often easy to crack and/or well known to bad agents, they are often the cause of data breaches or malware infections. All devices and accounts must be documented and their passwords must be noted in your password vault.

5) Make sure all remote access is secure across all employees and contractors, regardless of where they are in the world. Ensure that access is only given to job critical resources. Remote access is a minefield for cybersecurity issues. Unsecured Wi-Fi can become gateways for bad agents to access your systems, so ensuring clients do so only using a VPN is crucial.

VPN’s are effective because they act as a secure tunnel to ensure anonymity while you’re online, and are compatible with most operating systems. Likewise, small businesses don’t always have the expertise to manage their evolving IT apparatus, and because of this, it is better that they utilize an IT manager to help keep things moving and secure.

Likewise, if you have open IoT networks, securing them behind SSL certificates is a must. For everything, though, businesses must take a Zero Trust approach of always verifying accounts, never taking anything on trust alone, and always making sure privileges are double-checked.

Conclusion

By implementing these five Zero Trust factors, you can ensure that you are building a secure, scalable business that is capable of tackling the most common causes of data breaches. Chief among them being abuse of privileged access credentials.

For any business outsourcing their security and IT admin, these core Zero Trust elements will help you to secure the most vulnerable areas of your business, and allow you to scale your security efforts alongside your business. By taking a Zero Trust approach, you are always putting your security first, verifying who is accessing your data and monitoring how it is used in real-time.

Sam Bocetta

About the Author: Sam Bocetta

Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specializing in U.S. diplomacy and national security, with emphases on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.

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