Securing, managing and monitoring an enterprise IT infrastructure requires meticulous planning. Rather than create a framework from scratch, there are several publicly available methodologies security leaders can adopt to benefit their own infosec programs. One of the more high-profile examples of available frameworks is known as the zero-trust security model. This model differs from other security framework approaches from both a methodology and benefits perspective.
As its name implies, zero-trust security treats all users, devices and resources as untrustworthy -- regardless of who or what they are or where they connect to the corporate network from. This is in stark contrast to more traditional security frameworks, many of which create security control boundaries where those on the outside are trusted less than those on the inside. With zero trust, there are no boundaries, and nothing is inherently trusted.
While clearly more restrictive, the benefit of zero-trust architecture is that it creates a far more secure environment that protects against unauthorized access to sensitive data and digital assets. This shift is in response to the continuous increase of users, autonomous IoT devices and networked applications a corporate network supports.
Many organizations already dismantled the traditional secure network perimeter security philosophy as they began migrating apps, data and services to the cloud. This is another reason for the uptick in zero-trust adoption. It is easy to see why the change from boundary-based security to resource-based security was necessary. Simply put, the increased attack surface area caused by more users, devices and networked services required this change.
What are the 6 business benefits of zero trust?
Because the zero-trust framework is a holistic approach for an organization, there are a wide range of security benefits. Let's look at the six cybersecurity business benefits that can be found within a zero-trust architecture.
1. Accurate inventory of infrastructure
Zero trust requires that administrators have a handle on exactly what users, devices, data, applications and services are included in the corporate infrastructure and where those resources reside. An accurate infrastructure inventory not only helps with security-related matters, but is also beneficial for long-term performance planning purposes.
2. Improved monitoring and alerting
Monitoring a zero-trust framework can be complex unless the right tools are in place. Resources, such as SIEM; security orchestration, automation and response; and network detection and response, use a combination of log and event analysis to identify when security issues occur and then provide insights into how to remediate them. This gives security operations center administrators the ability to rapidly detect and respond to cybersecurity threats.
3. Improved end-user experience
When end users think of IT security, the first thing that often comes to mind is the difficulty in keeping track of the various passwords they need to access the applications and data necessary to perform their job duties. One key element of zero trust is the ability to deploy single sign-on (SSO) tools that greatly simplify the number of passwords end users must keep track of.
An SSO authentication framework helps organize what infrastructure resources users or devices should have access to. Thus, SSO allows users to authenticate once to gain access to everything they need. This helps eliminate password mismanagement, enabling users to easily get to the resources they need while single- or multifactor authentication and access controls operate transparently in the background.
4. Streamlined security policy creation
Traditional security models used a siloed approach to threat prevention. This meant that each security tool was individually configured and operated independently from one another. This often left parts of the infrastructure more vulnerable when security tools were misplaced on the network or were misconfigured. Zero trust helps in this regard because a universal policy can be created once and then implemented from end to end throughout the organization. Again, SSO is a great example of this as it manages authentication for all resources on the entire network. Not only does the deployment and management of security policy become far more streamlined from an administrator perspective, but the potential for security holes or gaps in some parts of the infrastructure becomes far less likely as well.
5. Flexibility when moving apps, data and services
As business goals change, so do the needs of the technology required to support them. As such, applications, data and IT services are often moved around within the corporate infrastructure. Prior to zero-trust architectures, moving applications and data from private data centers to a cloud environment, or vice versa, forced a security administrator to manually recreate security policy at the new location. This not only became a time-consuming process, but mistakes were often made that lead to security vulnerabilities. Zero trust helps in this regard because app and data security policies can be centrally managed and automation tools can be used to migrate these policies where they are required.
6. An excellent investment against lost or stolen data
Finally, zero-trust architectures should be thought of as an insurance policy against lost or stolen data. Considering the cost of a single data breach now approaches $4 million, the implementation and management of a zero-trust cybersecurity framework to prevent this type of loss should be viewed as money well spent.
Dig Deeper on Risk assessments, metrics and frameworks
Related Q&A from Andrew Froehlich
An IAM system introduces risks to the enterprise, but the consensus is the benefits of IAM outweigh the drawbacks. What are some of the issues that ... Continue Reading
The network edge is where an enterprise network connects to third-party network services. Edge computing is a distributed architecture that processes... Continue Reading
PAP uses a two-way handshake to authenticate client sessions, while CHAP uses a three-way handshake. Both authentication processes are common, but ... Continue Reading