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Katie Tregurtha
Posted by
Katie Tregurtha on
August 27, 2020

What is Zero Trust Security Architecture and Why Does My Company Need It?

Recent accelerating trends have made Zero Trust Security a hot topic in recent months. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were increasingly working from locations other than the office. They rely upon a growing list of applications and devices beyond the traditional desktop computer to get their day-to-day work done, and often access company data on external WiFi networks. With cybercriminals also becoming more sophisticated in their attack methods, companies have become more vulnerable to attacks and subsequent data breaches.

Zero Trust Security helps companies effectively combat these increasing risks to data breach. Depending on your current enterprise technology infrastructure it may require an upfront investment to implement successfully. However, the payoff in the long run – managing reputational risk, avoiding the financial cost of a data breach, and enabling a safe remote workforce – is well worth it.

How is the Zero Trust Security Model Different from Trust but Verify?

Traditionally, enterprises protected sensitive company data using a firewall. Employees were able to access pretty much any data once they were behind the firewall. This approach is often called “trust but verify”; essentially, once you’ve met some preliminary qualifications, you’re considered a safe user and allowed broad access.

Trust but verify often also includes assigning users certain permission levels based upon broad criteria, such as being on the right WiFi network, geographic location, etc. If these conditions are met, the user is deemed “safe” without further verification.

In contrast, Zero Trust Security assumes that no one is a safe user, and everyone must be verified before accessing any sort of sensitive data. In essence, Zero Trust treats all of your employees the way it would an external request for data. Zero Trust assumes that an attack is just as likely to come from the inside (for example, an employees’ compromised home WiFi network or mobile device), and therefore, every place that company data, assets, applications and services (DAAS) exist must be validated and secured.

With a Zero Trust method, data is contained within micro-perimeters. The most sensitive data is walled off with specific requirements to access. Every access request is authenticated and encrypted before access is granted on a case-by-case basis.

Why Zero Trust is especially important today

In the age of multiple devices and remote work, Zero Trust is critical to protecting your organization from security threats. Even before COVID-19, employees were increasingly working from remote locations (and therefore accessing company data from potentially vulnerable networks). The pandemic only accelerated an ongoing trend that is certain to continue; more companies announce every day that they will stay permanently remote in some capacity.

Additionally, employees today likely have the ability to access company data from multiple devices: their work computer, mobile device, a tablet, and/or personal computer. They also likely use multiple different applications to complete their work – one for email, another for workflow management, video calls, interacting with customers, and so on. All increase the risk of a data breach incident by providing additional access points for a malicious actor.

Of course, remote employees and applications are not the only access point vulnerable to attack. Internal DNS and DDI deployments are also a potential target for attack, as are any IT applications used to manage the infrastructure.

And at the same time, these malicious actors have become increasingly sophisticated in their attack methods, making it even more challenging for enterprises to protect themselves. Put simply, companies have never been more vulnerable to data breaches than they are today. Zero Trust can help mitigate this risk while still allowing a company to function efficiently and effectively.

What are some challenges with implementing Zero Trust Security?

Ultimately, switching to a Zero Trust model from trust but verify requires a change in mindset in the organization. Employees will have to become accustomed to providing further authentication to access certain data, and potentially being denied access if there is a vulnerability. IT and Security teams will need to switch from the mentality, “everything behind the firewall is safe,” to “no one is to be trusted, and the threat is already inside our system.”

For Zero Trust to work effectively, there are a few key factors, including:

  • Configurations and policies must be consistent across the environment, and automatically applied
  • The organization must be able to efficiently and automatically review requests for access to sensitive data based upon multiple factors

NS1’s comprehensive approach to security can make the switch to Zero Trust Security easier for an organization. The NS1 DDI solution integrates with the vast majority of applications organizations use today to function, ensuring uniform control. The NS1 DNS traffic routing capabilities seamlessly route traffic (and block if needed) based upon multiple criteria, therefore protecting company data from potential threats. Additionally, NS1 APIs are 10x faster than legacy solutions. This helps keep your network running smoothly, and therefore employees working productively and without interruption.

And ultimately, while Zero Trust Security is more commonly thought of as a methodology to protect an enterprise from data breach internally, it can also be applied to external data breaches. DNS attacks can be just as destructive as an internal breach – it is important to make sure your external company DNS is equally well protected as your internal network.

For more information on how Zero Trust Security works and the tools you’ll need to implement it, read our whitepaper, “Enabling Zero Trust with NS1”.