What is Zero Trust?

Cybersecurity | May 14, 2024

Zero trust is a security concept and strategy that assumes no individual or device inside or outside a network is trustworthy by default. This approach requires strict identity verification, irrespective of the user’s location in relation to the network perimeter. It’s designed to enhance security by continuously monitoring and validating that only the right person, with the right access, under the right conditions, is accessing your data or systems.

Adopting a zero trust framework can be crucial for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) due to the increasing cyber threats and the potential impact of data breaches. Here’s what SMBs need to know about zero trust:

  1. Verify Everything, Trust Nothing: Unlike traditional security models that focus heavily on defending the perimeter but then trust users within it, zero trust mandates continuous verification of every access request, regardless of where it comes from. Zero trust means constantly checking if the user, their device, and their access permissions are legitimate.
  2. Least Privilege Access: This zero trust principle involves giving users only the access they absolutely need to perform their jobs. For instance, a sales department staff member does not require access to financial records. Limiting access minimizes the risk of internal threats and the damage potential of a breach.
  3. Microsegmentation: This involves dividing the network into smaller zones to maintain separate access for different network parts. For example, the network handling payments might be segmented from the one handling general web browsing. If hackers compromise one segment, they don’t automatically gain access to all others.
  4. Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is a critical component of zero trust. It requires users to provide multiple forms of verification before gaining access. This could be something they know (a password), something they have (a smartphone app to approve authentication), or something they are (biometric data like a fingerprint).
  5. Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation: Under zero trust, security systems are designed to evaluate the trustworthiness of users and devices continuously. This means consistently updating and adapting security measures based on new data, threats, or vulnerabilities.

Examples for Better Understanding:

  • House Analogy: Think of zero trust like your home security. You wouldn’t let someone in just because they say they know you. You’d verify who they are, perhaps through a peephole or a camera, and then check if they really should be entering. Even then, you might restrict their access to certain rooms based on who they are.
  • Bank Teller Example: Imagine going to a bank. Just because you’re inside the bank doesn’t mean you can access the vault. You need specific verification, and even the employees, verified through various security checks, have limited access based on their roles.

For SMBs, implementing zero trust doesn’t mean starting from scratch but adapting current security measures to align with zero trust principles. It’s about making gradual changes, like enforcing MFA and segmenting networks, which can significantly improve security without requiring extensive resources.

Want to know more? Reach out to EMPIST today!