What is Zero Trust?
The increasing adoption of cloud and mobile technologies, coupled with the rapid shift to remote work, is blurring the conventional boundaries of network security, making Zero Trust the focal point of cybersecurity. Simultaneously, destructive breaches and ransomware attacks have underscored the insufficiency of conventional perimeter-based cybersecurity strategies. As technology ecosystems and adversaries evolve, we need to rethink how we deploy security and technology capabilities, and Zero Trust provides the model we need.
Zero Trust is a data-centric security strategy that follows the principle of least privilege access. A Zero Trust network is one in which no person, device, or network enjoys inherent trust. All trust, which allows access to information, depends on providing a valid identity.
How Zero Trust Works?
In a Zero Trust Architecture, attributes gathered from users and devices play a pivotal role in determining the access privileges and resources granted during a user session. The verification is based on a variety of factors, such as the user’s identity, location, device security posture, and the requested resource. Therefore, users and devices are only granted access to the resources that they need to do their jobs. This helps to reduce the attack surface and limit the damage that an attacker can do if they do manage to compromise a user or device.
What are the Core Principles of the Zero Trust Model?
The Zero Trust model is built on several core principles that guide its approach to cybersecurity. These principles help organizations create a security framework that prioritizes continuous verification and strict access controls. The core principles of the Zero Trust model are as follows:
1. Continuous Verification
All users and devices, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the network perimeter, must be continuously verified before they are granted access to any resources.
By adhering to the principle of Continuous Verification, organizations can proactively and continuously assess and adapt their security measures to evolving threats and changing circumstances. This approach significantly enhances the security posture by minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and mitigating potential threats in real-time.
2. Limit the Blast Radius
“Blast Radius” refers to the potential area an attacker can affect once they gain unauthorized access to a network. Zero Trust seeks to minimize this radius by implementing measures that restrict lateral movement within the network.
Users and devices should only be granted access to the resources that they need to do their jobs. This helps to reduce the attack surface and limit the damage that an attacker can do if they do manage to compromise a user or device.
3. Automate Context Collection And Response
In a Zero Trust environment, various factors and contextual information are considered to make access decisions. These factors include the user’s identity, device health, location, time of access, and more. Automated context collection involves continuously gathering and analyzing this information in real-time to create a comprehensive understanding of the current security posture. This contextual data can come from various sources, such as identity and access management systems, endpoint security solutions, and network monitoring tools.
What are the Pillars of Zero Trust?
Workforce Security is a key pillar within the Zero Trust security model, focusing on securing the interactions, access, and activities of the workforce, including employees, contractors, partners, and any other individuals who have access to an organization’s resources. This pillar recognizes that users are a critical aspect of an organization’s security landscape and aims to ensure their security in a Zero Trust environment.
Device Security is a crucial pillar within the Zero Trust security model, focusing on securing the various devices that access an organization’s network and resources. This pillar recognizes that devices can be both endpoints for users and potential entry points for attackers, and it aims to ensure the security of these devices in a Zero Trust environment.
The following are examples of how Zero Trust device security is commonly implemented in practice:
- Device Identity and Verification
- Endpoint Protection
- Patch Management
- Configuration Management
- Device Health Assessment
- Access Controls
- Remote Device Management
- User Awareness
- Secure Boot and Firmware Validation
- Device Decommissioning
Workload security is another critical pillar of the Zero Trust model. It is focused on protecting workloads, such as applications, containers, and virtual machines, from cyber threats.
Workload security includes a number of different components, such as:
- Least privilege access
- Workload security controls
- Workload monitoring and analytics
Network Security is a fundamental pillar within the Zero Trust security model, focusing on securing the network infrastructure and connections that enable communication between various components, including users, devices, applications, and services. This pillar recognizes that the network itself is a critical aspect of security in a Zero Trust framework. It assumes that no user or device can be trusted by default, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the network perimeter.
Data security is the process of protecting data, whether in transit or at rest, from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction. Zero Trust data security includes a number of different components, such as:
- Data Classification
- Data Encryption
- Access Controls
- Data Masking and Redaction
- Data Loss Prevention
- Data Encryption Key Management
- Data Retention and Deletion Policies
- Data Backup and Recovery
- Data Privacy and Compliance
- Secure Data Sharing
Visibility and Analytics
Visibility and Analytics focuses on the comprehensive monitoring, analysis, and understanding of network and user behavior. This pillar recognizes that having full visibility into network activities and leveraging analytics for decision-making are essential for effective security in a Zero Trust environment.
Automation and orchestration
Automation and Orchestration focuses on the use of automated processes and coordinated actions to streamline security operations, enhance incident response, and maintain the principles of Zero Trust in a dynamic and complex IT environment. This pillar recognizes the need to reduce manual tasks and ensure that security operations are efficient and consistent.
What are the Common Zero Trust Use Cases?
Zero Trust can be used to protect a wide range of assets, including applications, data, and infrastructure. The following are some specific examples of Zero Trust use cases:
Individuals with insider access and attackers who have stolen credentials can successfully authenticate and gain entry to sensitive data. Deception technology is particularly well-suited to address the challenge of mitigating insider threats. Deception utilizes decoy elements, including false credentials and simulated sensitive data, to identify actions such as unauthorized credential access, privilege escalation, data acquisition, and data exfiltration.
EARLY DETECTION OF WORKSTATION/HOST COMPROMISE
Zero Trust environments rely on the identification of users’ identities to apply the principles of least privilege. It’s common for attackers to target user workstations to gain access to identities through credential compromise. Securing workstations is critical, and deceptions deployed on user workstations provide early and accurate detection.
PROTECTION OF IDENTITY STORES
Identity stores are a critical component of Zero Trust, and deception technologies can play a valuable role in protecting them. Deception Technology can be used to deploy identity-specific deceptions to detect threats to identity stores.
PREVENTION OF LATERAL MOVEMENT
Zero Trust limits lateral movement via micro segmentation. Breadcrumbs provide attackers with alternate deceptive paths within and across the micro-perimeters to attractive decoy data stores. Subsequent lateral movement, or simply enumeration, to the decoys is suspect and generates a high-fidelity alert.
Threat hunting is a proactive approach to identifying, confirming, and eliminating threats in Zero Trust environments. Deception Technology can play a valuable role in threat hunting by enabling defenders to deploy targeted deceptions that can help to confirm the presence of latent or dormant threats. These deceptions should be complemented by analytic capabilities that can confirm threat activity, including threats that leverage advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and in-memory exploits.
How to Implement Zero Trust Security?
Today’s IT environment’s heterogeneous, dynamic nature makes Zero Trust implementations hard to achieve. The original Zero Trust research (by Forrester) called for internal segmentation with security gateways as the primary solution, but this approach does not scale. There isn’t enough information about each endpoint to categorize them for segmentation placement, and the necessarily large number of gateways is expensive to acquire and operate. Perhaps worst of all, maintaining security policies that offer viable protection but never block production traffic is next to impossible, especially given the growth of encrypted and east-west data flows.Some segmentation technologies require endpoint agents, which can be difficult to deploy and maintain, and may cause outages.
Another approach is to authenticate the endpoints. This works reasonably well for a subset of devices (e.g., company-owned laptops), though it’s obvious that just because a device is authenticated doesn’t mean it’s not compromised. Devices are proliferating, and the IT staff is in no position to hinder innovations with clear business value. Thousands of new devices join the network, most of which cannoteasily be authenticated. In IoT environments, devices are typically resource-constrained and difficult to customize. In many organizations, it is not even possible to scan these devices for vulnerabilities, let alone deploy agents on them.
An enhanced strategy for implementing Zero Trust involves leveraging “Deception Technology”. Acalvio’s Deception Technology, which includes identity-specific deceptions, can help to detect attacks against key assets and identity stores, adding an additional layer of protection to a Zero Trust deployment.
Deception offers a more pragmatic solution because it does not presume that the organization will be able to characterize all the endpoints and legitimate data flows. Instead, deception creates a parallel virtual infrastructure and data sets without a business purpose. If an endpoint tries to access any of these assets, the endpoint is likely compromised since there is no legitimate reason for such activity. Deception technology is critical as a means of high confidence alerting for malicious activity.
What are the Challenges to Implementing Zero Trust
While Zero Trust offers a number of security benefits, it can be challenging to implement. Some of the common challenges include:
Complexity: Zero trust is a complex security model that requires a significant shift in thinking about security. Organizations need to carefully plan and implement zero trust in a way that minimizes disruptions to business operations.
Legacy systems: Many organizations have legacy IT systems that are not compatible with zero trust. These systems need to be upgraded or replaced, which can be a costly and time-consuming process.
Cultural change: Zero trust requires a cultural change within organizations. Employees need to be trained to understand the new security model and how it impacts their work.
Despite the challenges, Zero Trust is a powerful security model that can help organizations protect their data and systems from cyberattacks. Acalvio ShadowPlex offers an automated, comprehensive Zero Trust Network Access assessment feature that enables Defense teams to gain visibility into the attack surface on endpoints. ShadowPlex automatically identifies an organization’s risks and assets, as well as the identities and devices that access them.
What Capabilities Does Acalvio ShadowPlex Provide to Implement Zero Trust?
Enterprises can take advantage of the zero trust network access assessment offered by Acalvio ShadowPlex to:
- Take proactive steps to reduce the attack surface even before a threat emerges to limit an adversary’s ability to escalate privileges, evade defenses, or laterally move to other endpoints
- Defend against a threat that is already present in the network by predicting the threat actor’s next move.
- Reduce opportunities for lateral movement, privilege escalation, and defense evasion
By focusing the attack surface identification and reduction actions on Key Assets, enterprises have the benefit of prioritizing and improving the security posture in parts of the network that would provide the maximum benefit.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is meant by zero trust security?
Zero Trust security is a cybersecurity model that assumes that no user or device can be trusted by default. It requires continuous authentication and authorization for all users and devices, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the network perimeter.
Does zero trust use firewalls?
Yes, zero trust security can use firewalls.However, it is important to note that firewalls are just one component of a zero trust architecture. Zero trust security requires a holistic approach that encompasses a wide range of technologies and processes.
Who provides zero trust security?
Acalvio is a leading provider of Zero Trust security. Acalvio ShadowPlex leverages Deception Technology and AI to discover and remediate attack vectors, such as cached credentials on endpoints, vulnerabilities on key assets, installed devices and applications, and security settings that have not been optimally applied. With Acalvio ShadowPlex, organizations have the benefit of prioritizing and improving the security posture in parts of the network that would provide the maximum benefit.
How do I start zero trust security?
To start, contact Acalvio to have your organization’s attack surface assessed. The Acalvio team will then guide you on the next steps.