Zero Trust Architecture

Embracing Zero Trust Architecture for Enhanced Security in Modern Networks


Zero Trust Architecture is a security model that operates under the principle of “never trust, always verify”. This model eliminates implicit trust from network perimeters, workstations, applications and people. With remote and hybrid working becoming the new normal, traditional network security approaches are failing as the network perimeter has disappeared. Zero Trust provides a solution by shifting focus from network security to individual user access.

Zero Trust Architecture is a set of system and network design principles that remove the traditional boundaries and secure each connection individually. Instead of trusted networks with controlled access from untrusted networks, access is granted on a per-session basis after verifying identity, ensuring device compliance and evaluating context.

The core tenets of Zero Trust are:

– Verify explicitly – Users and devices should be verified through multiple factors like username/password, multi-factor authentication, device posture check etc. before granting access.

– Validate context – In addition to verifying identity, other attributes like location, time, network properties, user behavior etc. should be evaluated for appropriate access controls.

– Apply least privilege access – Access should provide the bare minimum required to complete the task. Privileges should not be carried over from previous access.

– Enable remote access securely – Remote access through VPN or zero trust network access (ZTNA) solutions should follow the same security principles as on-premise access, instead of relaxing controls.

– Micro-segment and encrypt – Networks should be logically segmented and encryption applied between segments and for all traffic flows.

Zero Trust Models

There are different architectural models that organizations can implement depending on their requirements:

  1. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

ZTNA provides secure remote access to applications instead of the entire network. This allows identity-based access from anywhere without a VPN. Access policies are defined at the individual application level.

  1. Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP)

SDP creates dynamically provisioned edge networks on demand. External users access internal applications through an isolated microtunnel. By encrypting and restricting access to individual tunnels, SDP reduces the attack surface.

  1. Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

For cloud applications like Office 365 and G Suite, CASB acts as an intermediary. It enforces visibility, data security, compliance and threat protection policies in cloud environments from a central point.

  1. Data Protection/Encryption

This focuses on securing data at rest and in transit. Techniques like segmentation, encryption, data masking/tokenization and key management ensure confidentiality and integrity across the zero trust architecture.

Benefits of Zero Trust

By removing implicit trust from networks, devices and users, Zero Trust Architecture provides numerous security benefits:

– Protection against breaches – Verifying identity and context on each request mitigates risk from compromised credentials or devices.

– Visibility across hybrid environments – Central policies apply visibility and controls consistently whether resources are on-premise or in public clouds.

– Secure remote access – Remote users can securely access applications without needing to VPN into the entire trusted network, reducing attack surface.

– Adaptability to changing threats – The approach scales well with changing infrastructure and work models like mobile workforce or cloud migration. Controls adjust automatically without reconfiguring physical security layers.

– Reduced operational costs – Segmentation reduces complexity while centralized visibility and management provide efficiencies compared to disjointed local controls.

– Continuous authorization – Continuous monitoring and sanctions based policies stop access immediately if identity, device or context changes from the validated state.

Challenges in Implementation

While the Zero Trust principles bring numerous benefits, organizations face certain implementation challenges:

– Legacy technology dependence – Integrating controls across heterogeneous, legacy infrastructures hampers rollout of system-wide policies.

– Resource intensive – Initial phases involve significant investments in new technologies, tools, skills and processes for policy management, monitoring and enforcement at scale.

– Cultural shift – Moving from implicit trust to explicit verification at every step requires changing mindsets and processes of teams accustomed to traditional perimeter security.

– Interoperability – Ensuring visibility, scalability and compatibility between different vendors’ products delivering aspects of the architecture.

– Policy management complexity – Matching fine-grained policies consistently across diverse resources and teams poses substantial management overhead.

– User experience impact – Additional verification steps could negatively impact user productivity if not optimized well.

Steps Towards Zero Trust

Successful Zero Trust implementations follow a phased approach:

– Pilot program – Limited scope trial of a ZTNA or similar solution to demonstrate concept without overhauling existing setup.

– Extend visibility – Deploy CASB, IAM platforms, EDR tools to gain insight into cloud applications usage and endpoints’ security posture.

– Micro-segmentation – Divide zones logically by function and enforce encryption and network policies with firewalls, VPNs.

– Access controls – Adopt standards like SCIM for provisioning user accounts automatically across systems and restricting permissions.

– Continuous monitoring – Detect anomalies through integrated logging, telemetry from endpoints and inline threat prevention.

– Policy optimization – Refine and automate access rules based on telemetry and audit findings.

– Expand scope – Roll out to wider set of applications and embrace zero trust fully over time.

– Adopt zero trust principles like least privilege in application design from inception for new projects.

Zero Trust Architecture provides a model well-suited to today’s hybrid networks and distributed workforce. Its principles of eliminating implicit trust offer stronger protection against modern security threats compared to conventional perimeter-based approaches. While implementation challenges exist, organizations can overcome them through phased pilots, automation and cultural shifts toward zero trust-aligned processes. Transitioning to this model secures access for all users and devices connecting to internal resources.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it