How to implement a zero trust security framework

Network security has always been a top priority for organizations of all sizes and across industries. It is a business’s network, after all, that enables the flow of mission-critical data. Protecting corporate networks has become even more important today due to the increasing number and sophistication of cyberattacks that pose a threat to these systems.

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If you’re looking for a new and better approach to network security, consider adopting a zero trust security framework.

What is zero trust?

Zero trust is a strategic security model that works on the assumption that any and all users and devices that connect to your company network have been compromised and are thus threats to your systems. Their identities and credentials must be verified before being allowed access to corporate resources, and every access request needs to be authorized and encrypted.

Adopting a zero trust approach to security has several benefits, not the least of which is reducing your company’s risk for a data breach. By applying strict security and access controls, you can prevent unauthorized access to business data, applications, and services that are integral to your operations.

How to implement zero trust

There are five steps to implementing zero trust security.

  • Identify essential assets

Make a list of the data, applications, and any other mission-critical assets that, if compromised, can cause operational disruptions. Also consider the processes that rely on these assets, such as customer relationship management, regulatory compliance, etc. The security and access controls of your zero trust framework will be designed around protecting these assets and processes.

  • Map the flow of traffic

The next step is to determine how traffic moves between users (including your customers and business partners), applications, and services within and outside your network. This involves identifying who created certain data, who has access to it, and which applications use or rely on it, among other factors.

Understanding the normal flow of traffic in your network will help you spot unusual activity and vulnerabilities that may result in data leakage, corruption, and/or loss. It will also enable you to create appropriate strategies for securing and optimizing data flow across your systems.

  • Build your zero trust framework

An effective zero trust framework consists of the following elements:

  • Microsegmentation – Data and applications are divided into distinct zones within cloud computing environments or data centers. These zones are isolated from one another so you can set specific controls over each, boosting your defenses and reducing your organization’s attack surface.
  • Data security – To protect your data, deploy a next-generation firewall through which all traffic will be routed, ensuring that only authorized users and applications can access your systems. Having a firewall in place will also prevent lateral movement across your network should a breach occur, thereby minimizing damage.

    Related reading: Tips to keep your business data safe

    You can also enforce additional layers of security, such as data loss prevention (DLP) software. DLP software identifies the sensitive data your organization needs to protect, and monitors this data while it’s in use on endpoint devices, in motion over the network, and at rest in on-premises or cloud-based storage.

  • Multifactor authentication (MFA) – MFA verifies a user’s identity by requiring at least one authentication factor on top of a username and password combination. For instance, when logging in to the company network, you might be asked to provide a one-time code sent to your mobile device or to scan your fingerprint.
  • Endpoint management – Use endpoint management software to prevent unknown or unauthorized devices from entering your network. It can also be programmed to automatically patch and update company-owned endpoint devices, ensuring they’re always protected from attacks and intrusion attempts.
  • Create your zero trust policy

A zero trust policy is essentially a whitelist of all the users, devices, and applications that are allowed to access your company’s sensitive assets. It outlines the criteria that must be met, including what each user’s access level is, and when and where resources can be accessed, before entities can be allowed into specific zones of your corporate network. Any traffic that does not match or follow these rules will be automatically blocked by the firewall to keep critical data from being compromised and/or exfiltrated.

  • Perform real-time network monitoring

Continuous real-time monitoring will give you better insights into normal network activity. Therefore, when an anomaly such as unusually high traffic occurs, you can easily identify the issue and determine if it’s a threat. If so, you can take the necessary actions to prevent it from causing damage to your systems.

Also, monitoring will help you spot gaps such as previously unidentified critical assets and transaction flows, as well as find opportunities to further improve your zero trust policy.

For help developing and implementing a zero trust policy, turn to Cutting Edge Network Technologies. We have the expertise and solutions needed to build a secure business network and protect your data from cyberthreats. Get in touch with us today.

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