Home » The Ultimate Guide to a Zero Trust Security Model for an Enterprise

The Ultimate Guide to a Zero Trust Security Model for an Enterprise

Never trust, always verify with the ideal zero trust security model for your enterprise

How do you create a security perimeter around your devices and data when those resources can exist anywhere and everywhere at the same time? As your network grows larger and more complex, this type of question arises. The zero trust security model seeks to solve this problem with the methodology of “never trust, always verify.” Let’s take a closer look at how this model works and all its benefits.

Why is the zero trust security model better?

Traditional network security relies on a “castle and moat” approach. You create one large security perimeter around your network (the moat), and then you assume that everyone within that perimeter is trusted. You need to implement enough security policies and controls to protect every device, application, and resource within that perimeter. As your network grows larger and more complex—for instance, as you move workloads to the cloud and closer to the edge, or expand your remote and branch locations—it becomes harder to account for every vulnerability in one bloated perimeter. In addition, if a hacker does gain access to a vulnerable account or device, they can freely move about your network using those trusted permissions.


Zero trust security uses an entirely different approach to solve these problems:


First, all users, devices, applications, and traffic must be verified every time they connect, even if they’re within your network. This limits the amount of damage that can be done from a single hacked account or device.

Second, you must shrink your security perimeter down into a series of smaller micro-perimeters around the critical resources you’re protecting. This allows you to address individual vulnerabilities with the proper security measures and gives you granular control over who and what has access to each resource. In case of attack, this also limits the damage to a specific area of the network.

Zero trust security model key principles

There are 6 key principles you should keep in mind when considering the zero trust security model:

Don’t Trust Any Traffic. The core principle of zero trust is in the name—you can’t trust any network traffic. Even traffic that originates from a secure segment of your LAN needs to be inspected and logged.
Don’t Trust Any Users or Devices, Either. You shouldn’t implicitly trust any entities in your IT environment, including users, workloads, devices, and applications. You must verify the identities of all entities before allowing access or communications.
Networks Must Be Segmented. Finely segment your network and create micro-perimeters of security controls to protect each segment.
Assess Trust Dynamically. You need to verify the trustworthiness of entities dynamically based on the situation and the entity’s behavior. Just because an entity was verified and trusted once doesn’t mean they should automatically get access in the future.
Assess Trust Consistently, Too. You need to assess the trustworthiness of an entity based on the same criteria every time, regardless of that entity’s location. Apply the same verification criteria whether a device is connecting remotely or from the main office.
Apply the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP). Once you’ve verified trust, you should only give an entity access to the bare minimum resources it needs to complete its function.

Now, how do you put these principles to work? Here is a step-by-step guide to implementing zero trust security

Since every enterprise has unique requirements and network architectures, every zero trust security implementation is different. However, most organizations that successfully implement zero trust follow these basic steps:

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Step 1: Visualize your environment

Visualize your network entities and their relationships first. You need to discover and classify all the users, applications, devices, data, and other resources that connect to your network.

In addition, you will need to monitor your network traffic and map the connections between all these entities. It’s essential to identify any critical interdependencies, so you don’t accidentally break any applications or workflows when you segment your network later.

If your enterprise is building a zero trust security implementation, you should use network automation tools to handle the discovery and visualization of your environment.

Step 2: Define your protect surfaces

Define and prioritize the network data, applications, assets, and services (also known as DAAS) you need to protect. Identify which resources should be grouped into a network segment and protected together as one unit behind a micro-perimeter of security controls—known as a protect surface. The goal is to keep each protect surface as small and specific as possible because this allows you to set exact security policies and controls. Use this time to identify the precise security measures and technology you’ll have to implement to secure each protect surface. For example, you’ll need an identity and access management (IAM) solution that supports zero trust identity verification and temporary access privileges. You should also ensure your policy management solution can create and apply security policies across your entire edge infrastructure.
What Are Your DAAS?

  • Data—Identify, classify, and prioritize your data based on its importance to your organization, its value to hackers, compliance requirements, and other criteria.
  • Applications—Determine which applications process sensitive data, contain proprietary code, or interface with business-critical resources.
  • Assets—Inventory all of your network-connected and internet-of-things (IoT) devices and prioritize them based on how critical they are to your business and how vulnerable they are to attack.
  • Services—Identify and locate crucial network services like Active Directory, DNS, and DHCP.

Step 3: Build micro-perimeters

Next, it’s time to segment your network and establish micro-perimeters to secure each segment. Your micro-perimeters are the security controls that protect each network segment/protect surface. Focusing on micro-perimeters rather than one large network perimeter allows you to better control who and what has access to individual resources.

Traditional network perimeters are often a bloated patchwork of security controls that try to account for every possible vulnerability in every system and application. Micro-perimeters, by comparison, are targeted to defend specific protect surfaces. This means you can implement the exact technologies you need to control access without leaving any gaps.

For example, you can integrate a next-generation firewall with ZPE Systems’ Nodegrid to create your network segments and micro-perimeters, as well as to monitor traffic and enforce access control policies.

Step 4: Create security policies

Once you’ve defined your protect surfaces and established your micro-perimeters, you need to create the security policies that control access to and from each network segment. Suppose you’ve kept your protect surfaces small and specific. In that case, you’ll be able to create more precise policies, using the principle of least privilege to ensure you’re only giving access to the entities that need it. For instance, an employee working from home for the day may only need remote access to apps like Office 365 and Zoom. Using PoLP and precise security policies, you can limit her access to those specific applications and restrict her from the rest of your enterprise network. In doing so, you limit the risk to your network if her account is compromised, because her account can’t see or interact with any other network resources.

TIP: ZPE Systems’ Zero Trust Security Framework provides comprehensive user policy management to help you create and apply security policies.

Step 5: Observe and test

Before you activate your security controls, use this period to monitor production network traffic and generate alerts based on your security policies. Then investigate these alerts to determine how many are false positives and which workflows and applications would have failed if they’d been blocked. Maybe you have an enterprise application that pulls data from multiple sources across different network segments. You might accidentally establish a micro-perimeter around one of these databases without creating a policy to grant access to your application. By giving yourself an observation period to investigate security alerts, you can fix these problems before they break anything in production. Implementing any additional technology to conduct this observation is not necessary. Your security access controls should have an alert feature that you can toggle on without blocking any connection attempts.
TIP: ZPE Systems’ Zero Trust Security Framework provides comprehensive user policy management to help you create and apply security policies.

Step 6: Enforce security policies and controls

Once you’ve ironed out all the issues uncovered in your observation period, it’s time to activate and enforce your zero trust security policies and controls. Some organizations do this all at once, while others focus on one protect surface and micro-perimeter at a time. For instance, you might want to start with your most high-value protect surface and gradually work outward from there, giving your people time to adjust to new zero trust security standards and allowing you to iron out any remaining issues with interdependencies and policies.
Note: If you skipped step 5, you’d also need to spend this time responding to false positives and fixing any issues with dependencies.

Step 7: Monitor and optimize

The final step is to monitor your zero trust environment and make changes as needed. As your enterprise grows, you’ll need to add new users, applications, and devices to your zero trust network, which may mean defining new protect zones, revising micro-perimeters, or implementing additional security controls. Your organization will also gain zero trust experience as you go, which means you’ll be able to refine and optimize your security policies and micro-perimeters over time.

Overall, the steps involved in implementing zero trust are fairly straightforward. The real challenge is applying zero trust principles and controls to your specific network environment. The zero trust security model isn’t a turnkey solution or a single technology that you can implement once and then forget about. You’ll need to take a holistic approach by implementing a combination of hardware, software, and virtual solutions that meet your unique needs. This is made easier with platforms like ZPE Systems’ Zero Trust Security Framework, which seamlessly integrates with other zero trust technologies to provide one unified solution.

Benefits of the zero trust security model

Now that you have a basic understanding of how one implements zero trust, it should be clear how this model can improve your overall network security. In addition, the zero trust security model provides the following benefits:


Increased visibility

Implementing zero trust should give you a much more accurate picture of what your extended enterprise network looks like and how network entities behave and interact with each other. For instance, you’ll have a detailed inventory of all your devices, including information like serial numbers, warranty status, and firmware version, making it easier to keep overhead and maintenance costs in check as well as plan for the future.

You’ll also have complete visibility and control over your networking appliances, mainly if you use a zero trust solution like Nodegrid that combines all your data center infrastructure management into one unified platform.


Stronger compliance

Zero trust strengthens your overall network security, which makes it easier to comply with data privacy regulations. Zero trust micro-perimeters allow you to create specific security policies controlling who and what can access particular data, which is a requirement for some data privacy regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI/DSS). You can also use zero trust network segmentation to isolate regulated data environments—for instance, credit cardholder databases—to ensure total privacy.

Greater flexibility

Zero trust security provides greater flexibility than traditional network security because your policies and micro-perimeters are granular. For example, when you add a new enterprise application to a traditional network, you need to consider how its security requirements and interdependencies impact the entire network’s security perimeter and network traffic. In a zero trust network, you can simply create a new network segment and micro-perimeter around that application and apply the correct policies and controls without affecting other unrelated segments.

Implement the Zero Trust Security Model with ZPE Systems’ Nodegrid

Every enterprise environment is different, so you need a completely customized zero trust security solution that addresses your unique challenges and requirements. ZPE Systems’ Nodegrid provides you with the framework to build your custom zero trust security architecture.

The Nodegrid platform includes key zero trust features like 360-degree monitoring, intrusion protection, and cloud management. Plus, Nodegrid integrates with many other zero trust components and providers so that you can manage your entire zero trust solution from one pane of glass.

Ready to implement the zero trust security model using ZPE Systems’ Nodegrid? Contact us today or book a free demo to learn more!