With more users connecting unmanaged devices to the internet, today’s cloud environments are becoming an attractive target for cybercriminals. When you can’t trust your connections to be free from people trying to steal, destroy, or ransom sensitive data, a security strategy becomes necessary. 

While there is no perfect security strategy, one of today’s most effective strategies to mitigate cyberattacks is Zero Trust. In this article we will explore what Zero Trust is, its advantages, how Zero Trust models apply to cloud security, what new Zero Trust models are emerging and why. Read on to know all you need about adopting a Zero-Trust Model. 

What is Zero Trust? 

According to Verizon Data Breach Report, 80% of data breaches are as a result of weak authentication credentials. Traditional security models create perimeters that assume trusted people are inside and less trusted people are outside the network.  Zero trust is a security strategy that treats all users, and devices as untrustworthy before authentication in order to protect the network. 

Zero trust securities ensure that every access transaction is secure by granting information access after verification and not assumed trust.  Each resource in the network is treated as a separate entity whose authentication needs to be successful before access is given. Each user and device have to verify their identity, device, network, and data request before carrying out actions even within the environment. 

Accessing systems and removing data is restricted in order to protect against unauthorized access to sensitive data and digital assets. To fully implement a Zero Trust approach, consider the following elements   

  • Strong authentication methods: Make sure only known traffic or legitimate application communication is allowed 
  • Security controls: Enforce access control by adopting a least-privileged access strategy  
  • Controls against lateral movement.: Monitor and log all traffic within your network to quickly identify, prevent and respond to threats. 

Advantages of Zero Trust 

The Zero Trust security model requires tools for implementation thereby requiring a significant investment. Its architecture, however, creates a more secure environment with significant benefits for organizations. Benefits include: 

  • Better visibility into data, assets, and risks  
  • Creating smaller attack surfaces 
  • Improving user experience 
  • Speed and agility in monitoring and alerting 
  • Mitigating the impact and severity of cyberattacks 
  • Reducing the time and cost of clean up after a breach  
  • Simplifying network infrastructure and a better user experience,  
  • Improving the effectiveness of cyber security by 144% 

How Do Zero Trust Models Apply to Cloud?  

These days it is more cost efficient to host your application in the cloud as there is no hardware maintenance, so organizations are migrating. This cloud environment is operated by a Software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider and is outside your organization’s network. This means that to keep your network connection secure, you will have to tightly control network access. 

Secure access is crucial for Zero Trust to work and have minimal impact on users. Zero Trust cloud architecture requires security delivered from the cloud. This allows for policy enforcement, better protection, and visibility into all internet traffic.  Your Zero trust model for cloud security should inspect all traffic for all applications. 

There are several ways zero trust models apply to cloud: 

  • Zero Trust for Private Apps in the Public Cloud: When migrating your app to the cloud, you need to ensure that it stays secure. Set policies for devices on the network that monitor data access and securely allow access per the user’s role 
  • Zero Trust for SaaS Apps: Cloud based SaaS apps like G Suite, Box and Office 365 have made remote work collaborations easier but can also lead to data breaches. Users should have access to data appropriate for their level in order to keep data secure. 
  • Zero Trust for DevOps in the Cloud: DevOps professionals use APIs to communicate with cloud apps. Ensure that these API keys are protected by enforcing authentication at the security service layer. This allows only authorized users to make authentication attempts with the API thus reducing the risk of attack.  

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What New Models Are Emerging and Why? 

Because more applications are migrating to the cloud, more data is being stored and retrieved from remote cloud endpoints. For a strong chance to protect these endpoints, a layer policy is implemented and a central brokering model which controls how access is granted. Cyberthreats continue to evolve in creativity so leveraging a cloud-based model for zero trust is a necessity. 

In a bid to boost cloud security, two new zero-trust cloud security models have emerged, and they are zero trust in the cloud and zero trust via the cloud. 

Zero Trust in the Cloud 

Traditional network securities operate a perimeter security with the trusted users being within the network. The zero-cloud approach does not depend on only this perimeter but also micro segmentation which moves the perimeter in as close as possible for further protection. Zero trust in the cloud is often implemented within the cloud-by-cloud service providers using micro segmentation techniques and tools. 

Zero trust in the cloud inspects applications and monitors their environment to easily detect abnormal behavior or malicious activity. Cloud platforms with micro segmentation already enabled include Google Cloud, AWS and Microsoft Azure. 

Zero Trust via the Cloud 

For zero trust via the cloud, the cloud security model is centered around end-user access to cloud applications and services. Cloud brokers offer zero trust network access and SaaS-specific monitoring capabilities. This ensures that users have controlled access to applications and services. 

This type of zero-trust cloud security model involves strong authentication for user access, endpoints, access policies, browser isolation and content filtering. All of this act as gatekeepers which allow organizations to extend the reach of their security policies beyond their own infrastructure. 

What Can We Expect in the Future?

The concept of zero trust will continue to evolve as security professionals need to fortify access control and monitor user activity. Zero trust security makes it possible to secure access to IT resources for users and devices in ways perimeter-based security cannot which has led to emerging cloud security models. It is not easy recovering from a data breach and with the rising popularity of cyber threats, “don’t trust, always verify” is a good security approach. 

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