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What are the most important pillars of a zero-trust framework?

Learn how the ZTX model can help IT leaders identify, organize and implement the appropriate cybersecurity tools to satisfy seven pillars of a zero-trust framework.

The zero-trust framework is gaining more traction in the enterprise due to its security benefits. Organizations are increasingly adopting the zero-trust model in their security programs, replacing the traditional perimeter-based security model.

This traditional security model considered users, devices and resources residing directly on the corporate LAN/WAN as more "trustworthy" than those from outside the network. The challenge presented by insider threats and the explosion of IoT and edge devices required major changes to the security architectures and tools implemented on enterprise networks. That is where the zero-trust framework came into play, because in a zero-trust model, everything is considered untrusted regardless of where the user or resource resides.

But making the switch to zero trust requires logistical considerations and planning. To help with the migration from a perimeter-based security architecture to a zero-trust framework, many organizations have referred to the Forrester Zero Trust eXtended (ZTX) model to help. ZTX has become a go-to reference on how to best purchase and implement the right tools, policies and methodologies.

The basics of the seven ZTX framework pillars

The ZTX framework breaks down seven necessary security pillars to properly deploy zero trust across all technologies and corporate cultures. Below is an introduction to each of the seven ZTX pillars.

  1. Workforce security: The workforce security pillar centers around the use of security tools such as authentication and access control policies. These tools identify and validate the user attempting to connect to the network before applying access policies that limit access to decrease the attack surface area.
  2. Device security: Much like workforce security, the primary goal of the device security pillar is identification and authorization when devices attempt to connect to enterprise resources. The devices may be user-controlled or completely autonomous, as in the case of IoT devices.
  3. Workload security: The workload security pillar refers to the applications, digital processes, and public and private IT resources used by an organization for operational purposes. Security is wrapped around each workload to prevent the unauthorized access, data collection or tampering of sensitive apps and services.
  4. Network security: The network security pillar of the zero-trust framework is used to help microsegment and isolate sensitive resources from being accessed by unauthorized people or things.
  5. Data security: This pillar revolves around the categorization of corporate data. Once categorized, the data can be isolated from all except those that need access. This pillar also includes the process of determining where data should be stored, as well as the use of encryption mechanisms while data is in transit and at rest.
  6. Visibility and analytics: All security processes that revolve around access control, segmentation, encryption, and application or data organization must be closely monitored. The visibility and analytics pillar may prescribe the use of artificial intelligence to automate some processes, including anomaly detection, configuration control and end-to-end data visibility.
  7. Automation and orchestration: The final pillar of the zero-trust framework covers modern ways in which organizations can automate and centrally control the entire zero-trust model on the LAN, WAN, wireless WAN, and public or private data centers.

Security leaders can implement these seven pillars of the ZTX model to apply the appropriate security tools and better secure IT. The ZTX playbook or similar zero-trust frameworks are designed to help IT security administrators identify, organize and implement the appropriate security tools that satisfy the overall goal of a zero-trust strategy.

This was last published in February 2020

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