How To Create A Zero Trust Strategy: An Introduction

Zero Trust security strategies have begun earning significant attention in the business landscape. Since the concept was introduced in 2010, it has already started to demonstrate phenomenal benefits to companies moving into an ever-evolving cloud computing landscape.

An alternative to the traditional security landscape, Zero Trust strategies don’t automatically assume connections are trustworthy when they come from within the network and block access to all other entrants. Instead, these tools require every person accessing a network to be verified before trust is established. This is valuable at a time when 80% of all security attacks involve the use of existing network credentials.

Compared to other security strategies, zero trust solutions can also be particularly beneficial to companies in the cloud space, as they allow for the use of security policies that can span across a remote and hybrid workforce. As of 2022, around 41% of companies in a global survey said they’re already using zero trust architecture or are planning to make the transition.

Here’s how you can create your own zero trust strategy.

The Challenges of Building a Zero Trust Strategy

A zero trust strategy can deliver numerous security benefits to today’s business leaders. Used correctly, zero trust architecture can help to defend employee identities, protect remote workers, and prevent data from being accessed by malicious sources. The right tools also help with storing data across hybrid and multi-cloud environments, and protect against malware and lateral movement.

Zero trust networks offer a simple and scalable way to enhance the defences of an organization, while protecting against malicious insiders and human error. They ensure access to all networks and resources is closed by default, so there’s less risk of a breach.

However, there are some challenges involved in implementing a zero trust strategy. Before you begin updating your security standing, it might be worth recognizing some of the issues you can face, so you can properly prepare to tackle each challenge head-on.

The most common challenges include:

  • Complex infrastructure: In many modern organizations, the infrastructure includes a multitude of data centers, distributed devices, and tools located in different environments. This can lead to a lot of different components which need to be included within the zero trust network architecture. Another dimension of complexity can be added by the inclusion of legacy technologies and tools. This is why so many companies seek help from an advanced security company to configure the network.
  • Lack of integrated toolsets: Many companies may attempt to build their zero trust architecture based on point solutions. To enable access controls, for instance, a company might use a mix of MFA, single-sign-on, device approval, and VPN systems. However, many of these systems depend on the use of different cloud providers, operating systems, and tools. This can lead to the use of a wide selection of individual tools to be managed, without a central or integrated toolset to control everything.
  • Change management and cost: Implementing a zero trust strategy does require some investment in time, human resources, and financial resources. People need to collaborate to ensure the right technologies and solutions are in place. At the same time, new policies need to be introduced to team members, which may not be adopted straight away. This can lead to the demand for a comprehensive change management strategy.

The Steps to Building a Zero Trust Strategy

Once companies have defined the specific challenges they might face when implementing a zero trust security strategy, the next step is actually building the right components into the business. While there is some time and work involved, the process can often be streamlined with the use of the right vendor, partner support, and technology.

Here are some of the steps involved in building a zero trust security strategy:

  1. Use Identity for Access Control

Identities are a core component of most Access Control strategies. They’re a consistent part of any organization’s networks, applications, and various endpoints. With the zero trust security model, these identities need to be identified, recognized, and given the right degree of access to different systems.

Using identity, companies can define which individual users should be granted access to which network resources. They can also highlight what kind of identity components need to be established before access to the resources is granted.

  • Take a User-Centric Approach

For a zero trust security strategy to be successful, it needs to be fully adopted by the entire business. This requires companies to think carefully about how they can encourage users to leverage the right best practices and processes. End-users should always be empowered to access the resources they need, in a way that’s as simple as possible.

For instance, to accelerate access to a range of different applications for one group of users, companies could implement single-sign-on solutions and password managers. End users should also have access to self-service systems that can help them implement MFA solutions and install security certificates into end-user devices.

  • Implement New Modes of Authentication

Alongside tools like single-sign-on, companies will need to consider a range of different access and authentication management tools for a zero trust network. For instance, most companies will start with multi-factor authentication, to reduce the risk of stolen devices being used to gain access to critical information and resources.

Companies can also leverage password-less authentication. This is a way to replace traditional passwords with different authentication factors, such as device recognition, facial scanning, and PINs sent to mobile devices for daily access.

  • Begin Segmentation

Segmentation on a “micro” level is common within the zero trust network environment. Companies can begin by segmenting the corporate network to better determine which identities can gain access to which tools using various authentication methods.

It may also be useful to build segmentation strategies into the use of applications. In this instance, it’s important for business leaders to find the correct balance between providing users with rapid access to the resources they need, and protecting data. Security controls and scanning technologies can be used to identify shadow IT issues. Additionally, segmentation can help with the implementation of proper in-app permission management.

  • Secure Devices

A zero trust policy requires companies not just to think about how the network is secured, but also to look at the security of each endpoint and user device. Access to the network needs to be secured from any device, regardless of whether it’s a tool owned by the business or the end-user. This is particularly important in the age of “Bring Your Own Device” policies.

Employees, partners, contractors, and guest devices should all be subjected to the same security checks. This could mean IT professionals consistently track the performance and  use of the device, or they could simply implement security strategies for specific applications and data.

Making Zero Trust Security Simpler

Zero trust security can offer a lot of benefits to business environments, but it can also have a number of potential issues and challenges to overcome. In most cases, companies can accelerate their journey into the zero trust landscape, using the right tools and vendor support. For instance, Identity and Access Threat Prevention tools can be a valuable component within the zero trust landscape, which doesn’t require an organization to completely rehaul their network from scratch.

IATP tools can allow organizations to achieve a greater level of visibility and proactive control across siloed platforms and solutions. IATP also pre-empts threats before impact, and allows for adaptive and policy-based responses.

There are also specialist solution providers out there who can assist with building zero trust security strategies for specific use cases, like unified communications and collaboration, and contact center environments. Finding the right vendor can rapidly accelerate your strategy for success.