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Zero trust security is not a new concept, however it has gained popularity in recent years. As companies become increasingly distributed, they must offer network access that’s flexible, without putting sensitive data at risk. This is where zero trust security comes in.

In this post, we’ll cover 4 critical things you should know about zero trust security, such as what it is, why companies use it, how it works, and more.

What is Zero Trust Security?

Zero trust security can be boiled down to a simple concept: always verify every user and device trying to access the network.

Traditional networking safeguards are based on the castle-and-moat architecture. This means that all users and devices within the network are deemed trustworthy and can access the resources they need. Those outside of the network (or moat) must be verified and trusted before gaining access to the network. One of the glaring problems with this approach is that it doesn’t consider the possibility of attacks coming from a trusted user/device within the network. This means that an attacker simply needs to hack into the network, and then there are few (if any) obstacles remaining in their way.

Zero trust reimagines security with the concept that organizations should not automatically trust anyone/anything trying to connect to their network. Instead, they should verify everyone and everything that tries to connect, including users/devices outside and inside of its perimeter. In other words, trust no one.

Where Did Zero Trust Security Come From?

The zero trust concept was first prototyped in the early 2000s. In 2010, John Kindervag coined the term ‘zero trust’ for the concept, and its adoption by Google a few years later increased the industry’s interest in the zero trust model.

This new security architecture came from the realization that the traditional castle-and-moat configuration was becoming increasingly vulnerable. Years ago, a typical organization’s data and sensitive information were kept in a central location. This made the network and its resources easy to protect, and also easy for IT staff to monitor for threats and address attacks.

Now, organizations are adopting technologies that offer greater networking capabilities for distributed access. These technologies include public and private clouds, third-party services, virtualized SD-WAN & firewall solutions, and more. Securing an entire network means putting in place multiple safeguards. The traditional architecture is now being replaced by the more robust yet nimble security setup of zero trust.

Why Are Companies Using Zero Trust Security?

One of the canonical goals of networking is to allow information to flow between computers, people, and organizations. Yet with information becoming more and more decentralized and relayed through various channels, risk is on the rise. And because traditional security architectures simply can’t provide omnipresent protection for data and communications, zero trust security is being adopted by organizations across the globe.

A major benefit of zero trust is that it provides hardened security, regardless of how distributed the network is. Whether a company serves a single contained network, or hundreds of branch locations distributed around the world, zero trust security offers peace of mind for every interaction. This means more thorough protection from outside and inside threats, because verification is needed — always.

This complements Secure Access Service Edge and SD-Perimeter implementations (more on those below), which companies use to offer more flexible networking and define least-privilege access rights. Used in conjunction with these configurations, zero trust security also eliminates the need for companies to backhaul traffic through their main security controls. This translates to fewer slowdowns and more availability, so companies can meet their business goals without their networks holding them back.

Real-world examples include scaling, working from home, and even securing data at HQ.

  • Setting up new locations comes with its own set of security risks. However, companies using a zero trust model can get granular control of who & what can access their network. This can help eliminate attacks from stolen equipment, devices, and credentials.
  • When setting up a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) implementation, whether for faraway locations or remote & on-the-go workers, zero trust keeps networks & resources secure. It requires user identities and devices to be verified, eliminating many methods of attack.
  • When defining access rights using an SD-Perimeter approach, zero trust enables companies to make sure that access to resources is given only to appropriate personnel. This ensures data stays secure from malicious intent by actors outside or inside of the organization.
  • How Does Zero Trust Security Work?

    Zero trust security assumes that threats can come from anywhere, including from inside the organization. The big takeaway, however, is that zero trust is not a single new tool or technology. Instead, it uses a combination of existing tech and methodologies such as micro-segmentation, multi-factor authentication, and least-privilege access.

    A zero trust model works by segmenting parts of the network into small sections, each with their own security controls. In order to gain access to a segment, a user must verify their identity using multi-factor authentication (MFA). Once a user is verified, least-privilege access means they can use only the resources they need to perform their job. This is essentially a perimeter around what the user is allowed to access.

    Here’s a basic example: One segment contains SD-WAN and firewall controls. If Ryan is an admin responsible for SD-WAN management, and Priya is an admin responsible for firewall management, the company must define these perimeters respectively. Then, Ryan can be verified and granted access only to the SD-WAN tools, while Priya can be verified and granted access only to the firewall tools. If either user tries to gain access outside of their perimeter, they will be denied by their company’s zero trust security measures.

    Though it’s not a quick fix or turnkey solution, zero trust is transforming the ways organizations secure their networks. What’s more, the market is expanding with new solutions that offer increased granular control over access, using technologies like IP tracking, geo-fencing, and others. And using an open platform like Nodegrid, the possibilities are endless for organizations wishing to evolve their security and block threats from across the globe.

    Check out ZPE Systems’ full list of security partners that can help you achieve a zero trust model.