How Zero Trust architecture improves the organization’s network security

June 16, 2021 | Irfan Shakeel

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

In the cybersecurity field, Zero Trust is becoming a widely used model. Data breaches taught organizations to stay cautious regarding security, especially when it comes to information protection - and a Zero Trust model may be the best option.

Nobody, including clients inside the firewall, should be trusted,  per Zero Trust. Internal threats are a huge concern. And for many attackers, penetrating the barrier is a simple operation, thanks to easy access to leaked credentials. Information is the heart of Zero Trust; when security controls fail, organizations with insight into their information and the surrounding activities can spot unusual behavior.

Zero Trust is a security paradigm. Organizations mandate users to be authentic and validated with the appropriate privacy configuration before accessing apps and information. Zero Trust presupposes there is no traditional network boundary. Networks can be regional, cloud-based, or a blend of both, with assets and employees located anywhere.

Several corporate standards, like NIST800-207, characterize Zero Trust architecture as the best solution to managing security risks.

Conventional network security follows the “believe yet validate” strategy. It’s replaced with the Zero Trust model. The traditional method implicitly trusts individuals and end devices inside the corporations’ fence, exposing the organization to dangerous inner attackers and rogue identities, granting illegitimate profiles access. With cloud migration of corporate transformational activities, this approach grew outdated.

Zero Trust mandates enterprises to constantly analyze and verify that users and their devices have authorization. It requires the company to have insights into all services and be able to impose restrictions on access.

Organizations must validate user requests thoroughly before granting access to either corporate or cloud resources. Therefore, Zero Trust relies on real-time insight into user credentials and features, like:

  • the credentials’ and devices’ usual connections
  • firmware versions
  • user identity and type of credential
  • operating system versions and patch levels
  • applications installed on an endpoint

Corporations should carefully evaluate the network architecture and access rights to prevent possible threats and minimize the impact of a breach. Separation of device type, authenticity, and group activities are examples of this. For example, unusual interfaces to the domain controller, such as RDP or RPC, must always be questioned or limited to certain privileges.

Value of the Zero Trust model

The internet of today is an unfriendly environment. Organizations’ information can be exposed to hackers to acquire, damage, or keep confidential information (Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Intellectual Property (IP), and Financial Information). It’s arguable that no network security is ideal and cyberattacks always exist, but Zero Trust decreases security risks and restricts the target area.

Amongst the most efficient approaches for corporations to manage access to their network systems, services, and information is to use Zero Trust. To restrain intruders and restrict their rights in a data breach, it employs a variety of preventative approaches such as:

  • Authentication
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Intrusion prevention
  • Minimal privilege restrictions

Zero Trust security allows the company to prevent breaches and minimize possible risks by segregating the network into identities, teams, functions and regulating access rights.  

Core principles of the Zero Trust model

Some basic principles underpin the Zero Trust model:

Secure and validate access to resources

The primary premise of Zero Trust is to authenticate and validate all assets before using them. Re-authenticate a users’ access to resources such as documents and other assets, software, or online storage devices.

Regardless of the region of access or hosting type, the organization assumes that any attempt to log in to a network is harmful unless proven otherwise. Remote authentication, access protocols, perimeter security, and network access controls are approaches to achieve this control.

Evaluate and monitor everything

The most crucial abilities for establishing a Zero Trust security model are monitoring and logging. You can identify the distinction between a regular login and a hijacked login details if you have monitoring and information security analytics in action. If a ransomware attack is underway or a hostile employee attempts to transmit files to their cloud storage, the organization will be alerted.

Security intelligence of this caliber is tough to come by. Most tools in this area need you to write unnecessarily complex criteria or produce numerous false positives. Depending on perimeter monitoring, information access, and user profile activity, the correct system will employ personalized baselines for each user profile to identify aberrant activities.

Employ the least privilege paradigm and implement access controls

The least privilege access approach is a security architecture that restricts users’ access to precisely what they require to perform their tasks. By limiting every users’ access, organizations can restrict an successful intruder from acquiring vast volumes of information.

For instance, look at directory rights and fix any overly unrestricted rights. Make distinct groups, designate data owners to administer them, and deploy least privilege access using these new groups. Periodically audit the access and group members, and place data owners in command over who has rights to their information. An example is having the finance department govern access to financial data, not the IT department.

Zero Trust architecture with Microsoft services

The main parts of Microsoft's Zero Trust implementation are:

  • Intune for device management
  • Device security policy configuration
  • Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for  user device inventory

The system integrates with Intune by sending device config requests to controlled devices. The device next produces a health report, saved in Azure Active Directory. The device health condition is validated as an aspect of the verification process with Azure AD whenever the device owner seeks access to an asset.

Implementation of the Zero Trust model

Information is the foundation of Zero Trust. Inside the Zero Trust Model, here are some critical suggestions as to how to begin protecting your information:

Assess the organization

  • Specify the threat surface and determine confidential information, resources, services, and apps.
  • Detect and assess each active profile in your corporation, removing outdated profiles that have been inactive for more than a month, and reviewing all rights for threats.
  • Assure the most vital resources in the security infrastructure are provided with maximum safety.

Periodically analyze the network

  • Determine the source of the suspicious activity and keep an eye on everything going on around it.
  • Get a solid strategy for Service profile (software definition of a server and its LAN and SAN network connectivity) and other essential resource behavior issues.

Make A resource directory and a transaction flow map

  • Assess wherein crucial data is stored and who needs access to it.
  • Identify Service profiles and where they connect.
  • Examine all authentication methods and remove – or increase connection challenges - on any systems that are old or insecure (LDAP, NTLM).
  • Contemplate deleting old profiles and enforcing a password renewal policy.

Introduce a set of precautionary steps

To thwart attackers and block their accessibility in a breach, use some countermeasures, such as:

  • Once the location of confidential information is determined, users should have a minimal level of access essential for their responsibilities.
  • Inside the system, micro-perimeters serve as checkpoints and a barrier to illicit lateral movement. Users, locations, and logically organized apps can segregate the organization data.
  • To achieve Zero Trust, 2FA, or multi-factor authentication (MFA) are necessary. Such controls add a layer of security to each user.

Challenges for the Zero Trust model

To properly comprehend Zero Trust, understand the obstacles that corporations confront while establishing a Zero Trust architecture:

  • Zero Trust security is a strategy that needs constant administration to maintain security. Zero trust security is just not a ‘set and forget’ strategy, even though it toughens security. Network security demands continual maintenance to keep operations secure.
  • Organizations may find it difficult to handle all the security controls in their network. Each supplier may have its toolset, user interfaces, qualities, abilities, and partnerships. However, organizations will require adaptable software that can bring things together in a user-friendly interface. Zero-trust security is a comprehensive method that provides more safety while also requiring more effort. That is why, regardless of the vendor, it's critical to utilize adaptable software and handle third-party applications.
  • One of the primary obstacles to organizations implementing Zero Trust networks is transparency and management inside the system. Corporations lack a clear picture of Service profiles, users, and their permissions inside the network, leaving them prone to risks associated with vulnerable hardware, legacy systems, and outdated users.
  • Another issue with Zero Trust security is the possibility of lost efficiency. In some ways, this stumbling block coexists with the need for continuing management. Companies may unintentionally generate security configuration problems as they deploy a Zero Trust stance and maintain it.

In a nutshell

Although a Zero Trust infrastructure has challenges, it is still an  excellent security approach for corporations. Security breaches persist despite the attempts of the broad cybersecurity industry. Zero-trust cybersecurity concentrates on protecting resources instead of merely access points.

Irfan Shakeel

About the Author: Irfan Shakeel, EH Academy

Irfan Shakeel is the founder of ehacking.net and creates future cyber security professionals by offering quality cyber security education at EH Academy. You can connect with him on Twitter (@irfaanshakeel) and LinkedIn.

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