In a world where IT security is being threatened by ever-increasing cyber attack frontiers, trust is a luxury business can no longer afford.

Zero-trust architecture is blazing the trail as the preferred cybersecurity model and has enjoyed considerable success in this endeavor. In fact, more than 80% of businesses plan to adopt a zero-trust security strategy by the end of the year.

So what exactly is zero trust architecture? Let’s delve into it:

What is zero-trust architecture?

Zero-trust architecture is an access control paradigm that safeguards an organization’s IT infrastructure from unwanted eyes by eliminating implicit trust and validating every digital interaction.

Before the advent of this architecture, network perimeter was most companies’ major cybersecurity tool to prevent malware and data breaches. And since zero trust security is considered a replacement for perimeter security, it’s often regarded as “perimeterless” security.

However, the word “perimeterless,” is misleading as zero-trust architecture only offers an additional precaution layer, instead of an outright departure from the norm.

How does zero trust architecture work?

As commonly misconstrued, zero trust is not a feature or a type of software, but an overall security strategy with multiple safety measures. At the crux of this security model is the belief that all services, devices, and users–even internal ones–should be perceived as a potential attack point.

Zero trust security ensures that potential connections are verified through active background analytics checks by tracking metrics like security posture, patch status, and location. These metrics are then used to verify the authenticity of a user.

Here’s how this security model works in reality: assuming a user tries to log in to your network for specific information, a failure-proof multi-factor authenticator first proves their identity. Once validated, the zero trust model monitors activities continually till their objectives are fulfilled and the users log out of the network. The process is repeated every time a device attempts to gain access to the system–irrespective of the device type, user, and familiarity.

A strong point of this cybersecurity model is its adaptability to all IT frameworks. It also offers a top-notch degree of flexibility that allows businesses to accept, reject, or restrict access based on a specific context. For example, you can set policies that let employees access your organization’s server to read specific files.

The trustless security model works in tandem with network monitoring, data encryption, and endpoint security to guarantee that specified access controls aren’t bypassed. For optimum flexibility, you can split the network into micro sections, with each section being protected by a state-of-the-art firewall.

Depending on your cybersecurity strategy, a host of tools and software may be deployed to guarantee top-notch security.

Core principles of the zero trust model

The zero trust model goes beyond user verification, streamlined access, and segmentation. At its crux are three core tenets, without which its effectiveness will be watered down:

1. Terminate all connections

Firewalls and other cybersecurity tools use a “passthrough” method that inspects files when they get to the server. For sophisticated viruses, alerts are often too late when they enter the system.

However, zero trust architecture solves this problem by ensuring its proxy architecture verifies the safety of every piece of data before they arrive at its destination. Thus eliminating occurrences of malware, DDoS attacks, ransomware, and highly targeted malicious threats.

2. Use granular context-based strategies to protect data

Zero trust verifies every request per device, location, application, content, and user identity. Policies are regularly changed to improve access controls and provide improved protection per changes in risk level.

3. Reducing attack surface

An effective zero-trust strategy streamlines the direction of users to the needed resources and not the entire network.

Direct app-to-app and user-to-app connections prevent infected devices from compromising other resources. Also, devices are hidden from the internet, thereby preventing censorship and attacks.

Use cases for zero trust architecture

The following use cases help you better understand zero trust architecture, and how it may fit into your current IT landscape.

1. Enterprise satellites

Organizations have remote workforce and offices that need to connect to a central server. In a trustless architecture, a company may create an external portal for third parties in need of specific resources. Thereby preventing access to the central server.

2. Consumer-centric interfaces

Many companies offer consumer-centric services that request users to provide specific information. Such interfaces are access points for cyber attacks, thus, creating a need for enhanced security.

Zero trust provides the ability for organizations to segregate consumer interfaces from the enterprise’s internal network by creating separate access points, and sub-servers where customers can get needed resources.

3. Secure non-employee, third-party access

Zero trust is commonly used in mitigating risks associated with third-party entities accessing data within the organization’s network. One way zero trust does this is by creating a portal for non-employees, thereby protecting their internal network from external access.

4. Multi-cloud security architecture management

Some organizations use multiple cloud hosting providers. The zero trust strategy provides a unified security model for safeguarding both Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas) by making users access the server through an installed agency or portal.

5. Interconnected boundaries

Most companies use different databases for each of their subsidiaries. Creating a need for multiple accounts to access more than one database, which can be overwhelming. Zero trust ensures that users only access specific information in both databases, thereby streamlining their exposure level

6. Support compliance initiatives

Zero trust protects workload connections and users from exposure to the internet. Such invisibility provides a means for businesses to demonstrate compliance with regulatory laws and industry standards like PCI DSS.

Adopting a micro-segmentation approach within your zero trust architecture allows you to segregate non-regulated data from the regulated ones, thereby limiting access to sensitive information.

In the advent of a data breach, or during IT audits. Micro-segmentation provides you with “eagle eye” visibility and control.

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