How to Implement Zero Trust Network Access in Your Organization

Modern organizations have a complex infrastructure that includes multiple servers, proxies, databases, and internal applications, with some running on-premises and others in the cloud. It can be challenging to secure these environments using traditional security tools.

Authenticate, authorize, verify, and continuously monitor access to networks, applications, and devices to reduce risk. This requires a Zero Trust architecture.

Identify Your Security Needs

The first step in a zero-trust framework is identifying your organization’s security needs. Conventional network security is built around a perimeter that protects everything inside the network, but cyber threats are constantly changing, and attacks are becoming more advanced. As a result, focusing on the edge may not be enough to mitigate threats that are gaining access to your systems through unprotected pathways.

Forrester Research analyst John Kindervag developed Zero Trust, which operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” This model replaces the old assumption that IT can trust everything inside the network and provides a way to secure a modern enterprise while protecting a diverse workforce.

A Zero Trust Network Access solution should be able to meet the following five security pillars:

Proper Network Segmentation–The foundation of a zero-trust network is accurate segmentation that separates trusted infrastructure from untrusted devices and applications. This requires extensive controls, including identity and access management, multifactor authentication, and more.

Next, teams need to deploy tools that monitor a device’s behavior on the network to detect anomalous activity. Using tools like network detection and response or artificial intelligence/machine learning platforms can provide the visibility needed to identify potential threats and make decisions that stop them quickly.

Architect Your Network

As organizations rely on more remote workers and migrate data, applications, and services to the cloud, edge compute locations, and BYOD devices, traditional network security tools like firewalls and VPNs aren’t enough. Zero Trust is becoming a critical and practical approach to network access for modern businesses. Zero Trust eliminates the notion of a network perimeter and instead focuses on protecting the organization’s most vital resources. This includes ensuring that internal users, remote workers, and IoT devices cannot quickly gain access to the most sensitive information or systems.

As the move to Zero Trust continues to grow, organizations need to understand the benefits and challenges of this new model. Some of the main benefits include:

The first step in creating a Zero Trust architecture is zooming in on the organization’s most critical resources to define the “protect surface.” Identifying the protected surfaces allows teams to create a micro-perimeter that conceals network resources from unauthorized users, attackers, and unmanaged devices.

Once the protected surface is identified, it must be fenced off using next-generation firewall technology that provides application access control and continuous verification. This ensures the most critical information and systems are protected, even when users connect through public or private Wi-Fi. The solution should also provide granular visibility and reporting, which can help with compliance.

Design Your Policies

The Observability pillar involves monitoring and verifying all activities and reducing risk by ensuring that only authorized users, devices, and data can access the organization’s most critical resources. It can include technologies like a robust identity management system, multifactor authentication (MFA), and granular policies that govern applications, servers, databases, and Software as a Service solution.

It also entails implementing an automated threat-detection and response process that detects and mitigates threats in real-time. This can be accomplished using advanced analytics and AI/ML tools to identify suspicious patterns and anomalies and workflow-based automation to streamline incident response.

Another pillar component is continuously verifying and approving access based on all available information, including user identity, device, location, network, workload, data sources, and applications. This can be accomplished by deploying an identity-based security policy that uses the principle of least privilege, ensuring that credentials only get the permissions needed to perform a task.

Zero Trust is a dynamic framework that needs to be adapted and maintained continuously, mainly as networks grow through remote work and new apps, processes, and infrastructure are implemented. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution; finding the right vendors to help you implement a zero-trust environment tailored to your specific security requirements is essential.

Monitor Your Network

Traditionally, enterprises relied on security technologies like firewalls and VPNs to secure the perimeter. However, this approach left the network open to attack from within, allowing unmanaged and remote users to access sensitive data. Zero Trust eliminates this vulnerability by implementing an identity-based strategy to network access. In addition, it provides continuous verification of device health, limiting the scope of potential damage from breaches by enforcing the least privilege on every user account and removing over-privileged service accounts that are commonly used for attackers to gain deeper access.

The first step in implementing Zero Trust is to collect as much information as possible about your organization’s assets, infrastructure, communications, and end users. This includes cataloging and evaluating the risks associated with each. It can be time-consuming, but it is essential to the success of your Zero Trust implementation.

Next, prioritize the resources you want to protect in your Zero Trust architecture. This can include a subset of your internal business applications, servers, databases, or specific SaaS solutions. You can also use micro-segmentation to provide additional control by separating different workloads from one another. With these criteria in place, you can begin to create your policies. In addition, make sure you have a solid plan for ongoing maintenance to keep your Zero Trust architecture and security posture up to date. This includes collecting telemetry, updating the security configurations on managed and unmanaged devices, and adding Azure Active Directory conditional access to validate device health status.