How to set up a zero-trust network

    In the past, IT and cybersecurity professionals tackled their work with a strong focus on the network perimeter. It was assumed that everything within the network was trusted, while everything outside the network was a possible threat. Unfortunately, this bold method has not survived the test of time, and organizations now find themselves working in a threat landscape where it is possible that an attacker already has one foot in the door of their network. How did this come to be? Over time cybercriminals have gained entry through a compromised system, vulnerable wireless connection, stolen credentials, or other ways.

    The best way to avoid a cyber-attack in this new sophisticated environment is by implementing a zero-trust network philosophy. In a zero-trust network, the only assumption that can be made is that no user or device is trusted until they have proved otherwise. With this new approach in mind, we can explore more about what a zero-trust network is and how you can implement one in your business.

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    What is a zero-trust network and why is it important?

    A zero-trust network or sometimes referred to as zero-trust security is an IT security model that involves mandatory identity verification for every person and device trying to access resources on a private network. There is no single specific technology associated with this method, instead, it is an all-inclusive approach to network security that incorporates several different principles and technologies.

    Normally, an IT network is secured with the castle-and-moat methodology; whereas it is hard to gain access from outside the network, but everyone inside the network is trusted. The challenge we currently face with this security model is that once a hacker has access to the network, they have free to do as they please with no roadblocks stopping them.

    The original theory of zero-trust was conceived over a decade ago, however, the unforeseen events of this past year have propelled it to the top of enterprise security plans. Businesses experienced a mass influx of remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that organizations’ customary perimeter-based security models were fractured.  With the increase in remote working, an organization’s network is no longer defined as a single entity in one location. The network now exists everywhere, 24 hours a day. 

    If businesses today decide to pass on the adoption of a zero-trust network, they risk a breach in one part of their network quickly spreading as malware or ransomware. There have been massive increases in the number of ransomware attacks in recent years. From hospitals to local government and major corporations; ransomware has caused large-scale outages across all sectors. Going forward, it appears that implementing a zero-trust network is the way to go. That’s why we put together a list of things you can do to set up a zero-trust network.

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    Proper Network Segmentation

    Proper network segmentation is the cornerstone of a zero-trust network. Systems and devices must be separated by the types of access they allow and the information that they process. Network segments can act as the trust boundaries that allow other security controls to enforce the zero-trust attitude.

    Improve Identity and Access Management

    A necessity for applying zero-trust security is a strong identity and access management foundation. Using multifactor authentication provides added assurance of identity and protects against theft of individual credentials. Identify who is attempting to connect to the network. Most organizations use one or more types of identity and access management tools to do this. Users or autonomous devices must prove who or what they are by using authentication methods. 

    Least Privilege and Micro Segmentation

    Least privilege applies to both networks and firewalls. After segmenting the network, cybersecurity teams must lock down access between networks to only traffic essential to business needs. If two or more remote offices do not need direct communication with each other, that access should not be granted. Once a zero-trust network positively identifies a user or their device, it must have controls in place to grant application, file, and service access to only what is needed by them. Depending on the software or machines being used, access control can be based on user identity, or incorporate some form of network segmentation in addition to user and device identification. This is known as micro segmentation. Micro segmentation is used to build highly secure subsets within a network where the user or device can connect and access only the resources and services it needs. Micro segmentation is great from a security standpoint because it significantly reduces negative effects on infrastructure if a compromise occurs. 

    Add Application Inspection to the Firewall

    Cybersecurity teams need to add application inspection technology to their existing firewalls, ensuring that traffic passing through a connection carries appropriate content. Contemporary firewalls go far beyond the simple rule-based inspection that they previously have. 

    Record and Investigate Security Incidents

    A great security system involves vision, and vision requires awareness. Cybersecurity teams can only do their job effectively if they have a complete view and awareness of security incidents collected from systems, devices, and applications across the organization. Using a security information and event management program provides analysts with a centralized view of the data they need.

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