The Role of Zero Trust Architecture In Minimising Cyber Risks

Following an acknowledgement push thanks to Cybersecurity Awareness Month, businesses have become far more conscious of the state of their security solutions to protect their company and employee data.

Among organisations that were victims of a cyber attack in the last year due to remote working, over a quarter experienced a cyber security breach at least once a week. This is a statistic that cannot be sustained from a financial point of view, whereby the average cost of a data breach in the UK is $5.05 million.

Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) is growing in prominence as a means of cyber defence. Zero trust is the idea of removing inherent trust from the network so that just because a device is within the internal “trusted” side of a firewall or VPN, it should not be trusted by default. This means every access, whether from outside or inside, is individually authenticated and as soon as a change in risk is detected, access is interrupted.

A Holistic Approach To Network Security

During a time of economic uncertainty, businesses can not afford to risk financial loss of any kind. Instead, organisations must invest in implementing state-of-the-art cyber security solutions. Continuous validation and least-privileged access are two guiding principles in Zero Trust models.

  • Continuous validation refers to a continuous authorisation procedure as opposed to one-time validation at the point of entry, regardless of where the request originated. Before a user may proceed via the network, this security strategy requires them to verify trustworthiness. 
  • Least-privileged access, on the other hand, refers to the fact that application access is restricted depending on identity and context. A user, for example, may only have access to applications that are essential to execute their duties.

Continuous validation and the principles of least-privileged access, when combined, enable organisations to implement access rules adaptively during a user's session.

Identity and access management are critical components of a Zero Trust system because they allow adaptive authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) to be utilised to provide access.

ZTA And The Cloud

Businesses will need to continue equipping their increasingly hybrid workforce with cloud-based technology to operate at their best and deliver value to the company. However, this can massively increase attack surfaces since users access corporate assets, on unmanaged devices, from many disparate locations, on networks that a security team cannot secure.

To make matters worse, hackers and their cyber attacks are becoming more audacious and sophisticated.

They are taking advantage of these new network entry points, acquiring virtually unrestricted access to corporate data and hanging it over the heads of organisations for personal gain. 38% of UK micro and small businesses identified a cyber attack in the last 12 months, with 82% of these businesses reporting phishing attempts, and 25% identifying a more sophisticated attack type such as a denial of service, malware or ransomware attack.

These vulnerabilities increase the risks and heighten the complexity of network and application security.

ZTA, however, streamlines the security effort by continuously verifying user identity throughout the duration of their session – protecting applications and sensitive data. ZTA functions as a force multiplier for a security team by detecting suspicious behaviour and denying user access to outsider and insider threats. As a result, achieving Zero Trust is crucial to the protection of company assets. Better yet, Zero Trust security has a direct impact on the bottom line. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2022 will be roughly $2 million lower for enterprises that have implemented a mature ZTA.

To make sustaining Zero Trust in the cloud easier, organisations should deploy solutions using cloud-delivered security systems.

This provides users with a secure, consistent, and seamless experience regardless of where they are, how they want to connect, or which applications they want to use. Instead, if the user experience is too complex or demands too much alteration whenever they work from a different location or use a different programme, they will reject it. Furthermore, limiting user access depending on the context decreases the attack surface area.

Internet of Threats

The advantage of establishing Zero Trust for the cloud is improved visibility into data, assets, and risks. Furthermore, it offers consistent and comprehensive protection, as well as the speed and agility required to keep up with emerging technologies and threats. Finally, it lowers operational costs and complexity.

Using a cloud-based approach for Zero Trust security protects enterprises from widespread cyber threats that are becoming more complex and sophisticated. Access management should incorporate these security innovations so that enterprises may remove the guesswork from securing their infrastructure.

There are no boundaries and nothing is inherently trusted with deployment of ZTA, While obviously more restrictive, the ZTA model has the advantage of creating a far more secure environment that protects against unauthorised access to sensitive data and digital assets, in the age of constant cyber threats.

Dominik Birgelen is CEO at oneclick AG

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