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Complete Guide to Zero Trust Security

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Zero Trust Security – Always Verify and Authenticate

Zero Trust Security architecture functions on the premise that any connection requires mandatory identification, verification, and authentication. Previously, networks were potentially secure from outside threats. At the same time, those inside the system had complete access to every nook and corner of the network. The security systems back then were dubbed as the ‘castle and moat’ system (or ‘trust but verify’). If someone crosses the moat (manages to intrude on the network), they would have complete access to every network component. All the intruders need to gain are legitimate credentials to enter the system. Likewise, the threat of an insider is always high in such scenarios, leaving troves of data at the mercy of the attacker and is a complete failure of the security architecture.

Zero Trust Security architecture is independent of whether the connection is within or outside the network premises. Therefore, enterprises should take a holistic approach to adopting ZTA across every enterprise level. ZTA (Zero Trust Architecture) typically comprises a set of rules, procedures, and techniques to secure the systems.

In the future, cyberspace will only get more vulnerable and treacherous. But, despite its drawbacks, cybersecurity researchers feel that Zero Trust Security is the way to go ahead.

Contents

Complete guide to zero trust security - sectrio
Complete Guide to Zero Trust Security

The Zero Trust Security framework (architecture) can protect every network component if implemented perfectly and with fine-tuning. Moreover, in case of a successful intrusion, it helps minimize the damage.

  • Apps – Ensures in-app permissions are properly granted, verifies user credentials before accessing apps, monitors user activity, and relies on real-time analytics.
  • Network – Often dubbed as the aorta, the networks hold the vitals of any enterprise’s functioning. Therefore, networks are under continuous threats, be it from bad actors who seek ransom, or those hired by opponents. Threats take different forms, and emerge from outside and inside of the enterprise. Under such treacherous conditions, ZTA still manages to secure the network. It does the job by encrypting all the information passing through the network, constant identification and authentication of every user and device connected to the network, and levying other security protocols.
  • Data – Data encryption, security protocols depending on type of data, labeling and classification data are vital in securing data flowing through a network. User and entity behavior analytics drive the enterprise’s security posture.
  • Identities – In the past, if attackers managed to secure legitimate credentials of a user, they almost had access to the entire network of the respective enterprise. With ZTA, it is no more possible. Apart from password, the ZTA considers several other parameters (like IP logs, one-time password, geo-location, etc.) during the identification and authentication of user identities (credentials).
  • Endpoints – Large IT networks typically host 4000-5000 endpoints. They can include printers, virtual machines, servers, computers, IoT devices, etc. Securing every device means checking the device’s health status and security compliance before granting access to the network.
  • Infrastructure – An enterprise depends immensely on its IT infrastructure. Securing IT infrastructure is vital to run a successful business with minimal hiccups. Implementing the least privileged access and real-time detection of anomalies and vulnerabilities is crucial in protecting infrastructure assets. 

What drives Zero Trust Security? – Key Principles of Zero Trust Security Framework

Zero Trust Security framework relies heavily on the ‘assume breach, verify explicitly’, and continuous trust verification and authentication mechanism. At all times, all connections need to be periodically verified, irrespective of their previous interactions. The key principles that drive the Zero Trust Security Framework are as follows:

  • Verify, Authenticate, and allow – Irrespective of the component, a connection’s origin, or an employee accessing the network or infrastructure – verification and authentication of the credentials are mandatory irrespective of previous logs. The re-verification prevents any unauthorized access from within or outside the network. The authentication of access request is an obligatory for all resources every time.
  • Least Privilege Access – Limiting access to critical infrastructure and networks is a healthy exercise towards improving security posture. Adopting the Least Privilege Access principle limits exposure to sensitive areas of the network, bringing down the chances of a potential breach. It works on a similar principle of ‘need-to-basis’ where soldiers receive instructions from their commander.
  • Micro-segmentation – This procedure involves securing the network deeper from within by creating secure ‘pockets’ that require unique credentials to access. The system administrator can decide which user can access a secure pocket depending on the need of the hour. Micro-segmentation can significantly reduce insider threats, as employees only have access to their resources depending on their job profile.
  • Thwarting Lateral Movement – No matter how secure your networks are, bad actors find novel techniques, insider assistance, and other ways to intrude into the system. In such circumstances, limiting the damage is a crucial exercise. Lateral movement refers to the attacker’s activity on the network after a successful intrusion. Micro-segmentation helps in thwarting lateral movement essentially. As every secure pocket requires verification and authentication, the attacker is limited to a petite network section. Therefore, we can quarantine that particular section and prevent an all-out attack. Without micro-segmentation, it would be difficult to stop the attack even after identifying the attacker’s point of entry, as the attacker would have moved on to other parts of the network by then. Thwarting lateral movement is also called ‘limiting blast radius.’
  • Multifactor Authentication – The MFA forms the backbone of the Zero Trust Security framework. It calls for authentication using more than one credential. Although a password is often the default credential, the 2FA security concept requires a unique code sent to the user’s mobile phone. As a result, the 2FA eliminates most unsecured and stolen logins. Additionally, enterprises often verify the IP addresses of the login, user behavior, and geo-location to grant access.
  • Device Access – Every device should be verified and authenticated before connecting to the network. Ensure no single device is compromised before allowing the device to join the network. Failing to do so can compromise the entire system. Successful verification and authentication of devices reduce attack surface area considerably.

What makes ZTA so unique? – Advantages of Zero Trust Security

The world has been catapulted 5-7 years into the future regarding digitalization, using cloud services, and remote work. The call for security has been at its epitome with data flowing across various networks. To ensure the workforce and clients operate in sync without giving much thought about security concerns, we must adopt strict security measures that protect data, identities, networks, and infrastructure. The need led to the fast-track adoption of Zero Trust Security globally. Moreover, complying with industry standards and government requisites plays a big part in running an enterprise.

  • Protects network and infrastructure – The ZTA covers the network and infrastructure from within and outside. Thanks to principles like micro-segmentation, least privilege access, and other tools, it is difficult for an insider to inflict significant damage to the systems. Meanwhile, even if an outside attacker intrudes on the network, the blast radius is minimized to a great extent.
  • Make safer and secure cloud connections – Enterprises globally are going digital briskly. Enterprises heavily rely on the cloud, from product offerings to running processes. Therefore, every connection between the cloud and the enterprise servers must be safe and secure. The ZTA rightly complements the cause and ensures a secure pathway for data movement.
  • Improved monitoring and alert – The basic principle of ZTA means that every connection and byte of data is hostile, irrespective of the origin – within or outside the network. Therefore, to access a new secure pocket on the network, a new connection – verified and authenticated, must be established, requiring even encrypted data to pass through the security protocol. If validation of a connection fails within the stipulated time, the access request terminates, and the system raises an alert. In addition, the improved monitoring system and analytics help identify anomalies quickly.
  • Improves existing security posture – Most enterprises are on the brink of a cybersecurity attack. However, despite many current vulnerabilities that can lead to doomsday, enterprises are yet to take a proactive stance regarding cybersecurity. Though adopting initially is difficult, the effectiveness of ZTA can be measured over 3-4 months. Zero Trust Security framework fortifies the existing security posture and ensures that most vulnerabilities are well covered.
  • Granular Visibility across all resources – From users’ movement on the network to data flow across various sections, it is possible to monitor every device, every activity, and every connection on the network. Thanks to advanced monitoring, alert, and analytical system, ZTA brings in granular visibility across the network, helping security teams take appropriate measures to strengthen security. In addition, a ZTA-based system is capable of ensuring even the third-party connections are safe and can terminate them if they fail to meet pre-set procedures, protocols, and standards set by the CISO of the enterprise. 
  • Reduces risk of a data breach – Data breaches have been the top trending topics in the digital world. Data breaches have always been costly, affecting trillion-dollar enterprises and those spreading their wings. However, micro-segmentation, MFA, Least Privilege Access, and other security measures under ZTA significantly reduce the risk of a data breach.
  • Enhanced data protection – Setting up software-driven security policies and procedures has improved data protection. With every connection being time-bound and requiring verification, rouge employees and bad threat actors will have little time to extract the data they are searching. Software-driven security policies go a long way in enhancing data protection and securing the data. For example, employees can only access data about their job on a ZTA-deployed network.
  • Meeting compliance and regulatory requirements – Though enterprises realize the need to comply with regulatory requirements and rules, many are unclear on how to achieve the same. Adopting a comprehensive and holistic security tool like ZTA makes it easy for enterprises to meet compliances like CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and others.
  • Flexibility in moving resources – Modern-day enterprises move their resources across the network depending on the need of the hour. Without ZTA and micro-segmentation, moving resources to new locations requires the creation of security policies later. It would be a time-consuming process, and there is also a greater chance of making mistakes while creating new security policies, paving the way for security vulnerabilities. As ZTA allows centrally managing data, apps, and other security policies, we can use various automation tools to move the resources.
  • Seamless end-user experience – Who wants to remember multiple passwords for the same login? Not me. Does ZTA support SSO (Single Sign-On) feature? Yes. ZTA-driven SSO can help users log in using a single password to access and view their needed resources. If a particular user wants to access and operate controls, a simple MFA procedure can be carried out in the background, ensuring a seamless end-user experience.

Implementing Zero Trust Security

Establishing Zero Trust Security is a challenging exercise requiring experience, expertise, and time. Usually, enterprises see ZTA as a turnkey cybersecurity solution thinking of it as a plug-and-play product. But, in reality, ZTA comprises various elements, with each element unique in its way and serving a specific purpose. Therefore, enterprises should hire an expert cybersecurity solution provider, like Sectrio, to implement and monitor ZTA. But, how to implement ZTA helps enterprises understand the platform in more detail, paving the way for better security practices.

There are two ways one can approach the implementation of Zero Trust Security:
  1. Rip and Replace
  2. Build around and replace

1. Rip and Replace:

Only a very select few enterprises take this option. As the name suggests, replacing the existing infrastructure with modern infrastructure makes it easy to implement ZTA. Going ahead with this approach requires a thorough understanding of the following:

  • Every process and device
  • Granular understanding of workflows and data paths
  • Infrastructure architecture
  • Having a thorough knowledge and configuring of technologies
  • Mapping interaction amongst technologies

2. Build around and replace

Most enterprises might have a potpourri of security installations spread across various timelines. Most security offerings are either incomplete or incompetent at the same level of expertise across multiple domains. Opting for ZTA requires a thorough analysis of the security posture and every element that is a part of it.

There might be a case for replacing infrastructure, given the lack of compatibility due to modern security protocols. Similarly, the administrator can revoke permissions due to implementing the Privileged Access Management / Least Privileged Access policy. Finally, the workforce needs to get habituated to Multifactor authentication, as ZTA works on the core principle of ‘assume breach, verify explicitly’ for every new connection request.

Similarly, ZTA focuses on protecting data and successfully thwarting intrusions rather than concentrating on the attack surface and external perimeter (alone).

Implementing Zero Trust Security in 7 Steps

The network of any enterprise involves securing its devices, dataflow paths, user authentication, network connection, and applications in use. Additionally, ZTA heavily relies on network connectivity, which can be affected during a DDoS attack or a surge in user traction. These two scenarios can strain the network, with processes slowing down before a complete collapse.

  1. Establish a dedicated team – Enterprises should form a dedicated team comprising security experts from domains like user and ID authentication, data security, network, and infrastructure security, risk management, security operations center, and application security. The dedicated team ensures the proper deployment of:
    • ZTA
    • Monitoring
    • and maintenance.
  2. User and Device Verification – Realizing and acknowledging who is accessing digital resources is the foremost step in establishing security. All the workforce, third-party contractors, and everyone accessing the network should be verified and authenticated. In addition, verifying all the devices on the network is mandatory. To verify users and devices, one can adopt the following measures:
    • Biometric devices – Helps validate and identify users
    • Multifactor Authentication (MFA) – Ensures the identity is genuine, ensuring it is the user accessing the network. Though not 100% secure, it ensures 99.5% of the time that only the intended user is accessing the network. MFA measures include Password, SSO, OTP, Geo-location, IP Logs, etc.
    • Device Certification – Authentication of users’ devices and devices outside the workplace accessing the network is obligatory. Updating operating systems and security patching is vital.
    • Identity and Access Management – Developing a robust IAM architecture is critical, as users might need to login into multiple devices simultaneously, especially across various cloud platforms. IAM architecture enables that feature, thanks to single-login authentication and single-credential.
  3. Identify Devices – Identifying the type of devices that would be onboard the network is necessary. The upswing of IoT devices made cataloging and identification of devices more difficult. During asset cataloging, one can segregate them into the following types:
    • Workstations (Laptops and desktops)
    • Mobile devices (Smartphones, tablets, cellular phones)
    • Network devices (Switches, routers, modems)
    • IoT devices (printers, smart security cameras, biometric systems, smart locks)
  4. Classification of UsersClassification of users and their responsibilities helps establish security policies and define their access level. For example, a contract worker might need to access only a specific part of the network, whereas a C-suite level employee might need to access the administration part. Hence classification and identification of users are essential.
    • Fulltime employees (further segregated depending on work time and hierarchy level)
    • Contract employees
    • Consultants
    • System Administrators and developers
    • C-Suite
    • Third-party entities
  5. Secure data and applications – Modern IT tech giants hold their data on cloud platforms for easy and immediate access. In addition, applications run on cloud infrastructure, and data flows seamlessly across different cloud platforms and on-site servers. Therefore, securing the data throughout its path and the applications is essential. The following techniques and practices can aid in the process:
    • Data Loss Prevention – DLPs help prevent unauthorized access by classifying data objects in various content types and automatically applying protection policies.
    • Data Classification – Classifying data into types helps establish security policy irrespective of where the data is present – cloud, data centers, endpoints, etc.
    • Cross-system Integration (via API) – Integrating cybersecurity infrastructure through APIs is key in implementing Zero Trust Security.
  6. Dealing with the network – Zero Trust Security revolves around securing everything and the network itself. Many workloads still run on the on-premises infrastructure, despite the popularity of cloud platforms. The situation calls for improving workloads, managing sessions, and securing the network. By adopting the following techniques, we can achieve the above goals:
    • Micro-segmentation – Dividing the network into multiple secure pockets requiring specific authorization.
    • Deploying SD-WAN and SASE – To instantiate Zero Trust policies, we need network endpoints. Software-defined WAN and SASE serve the purpose.
    • Cloud-based firewalls and Network Virtualization – Cloud-based firewalls are often software-defined and offer more flexibility than on-premise physical firewalls. Similarly, network virtualization helps deploy security policies and controls faster, easier, and more securely.
    • Automation, encryption, and routing – Choosing tools that come with embedded automation helps automate network controls and even revoke their authorization midsession. All the network sessions should be encrypted, and routing should be validated and controlled.
  7. Define initiatives and maintenance – A solid idea about the initiatives can help decide an enterprise’s path. For example, the enterprise might need to upgrade infrastructure to deploy micro-segmentation or microservices. After deploying Zero Trust Security, maintaining it is critical. Given the dynamic nature of network and resource requirements, frequent modification of specific security policies, revoking permissions, and other activities are essential to ensure there are no security gaps and hindrances to the workflow.

Only with time can an enterprise understand the extent of strict protocols they might require for a particular set of data and network. With this understanding and UEBA (User and Entity Behavior Analytics) tools, one can strengthen Zero Trust Security, thereby improving security posture. 

Zero Trust Security Challenges

Nothing is a fairytale in cybersecurity. Adopting ZTA or Zero Trust Security framework is no exception in that. To adopt a security product like Zero Trust Architecture by an enterprise, everyone involved in the company, regardless of whether they belong to the IT department, should be a part of the exercise. It requires significant man-hours to create awareness and train people to implement the best ZTA practices. Unfortunately, few enterprises see this as an investment, while others see it as a dent in their balance sheet. Let us learn about common challenges an enterprise faces with adopting ZTA. 

  • ZTA is a Speed breaker – Undeniably, Zero Trust Architecture can slow down the fluidity at the workplace. The workforce must enter their login credentials and complete MFA to access their systems more than once daily – a tedious process that employees often complain about. In addition, the frequent authorization and authentication requirements can eat valuable work hours and negatively impact the workforce’s morale.
  • The complexity of implementing ZTA – Adopting and implementing ZTA is often stressful for an enterprise. The complexity factor increases with workforce size, devices, and networks. In addition, given the massive change the running system might undergo to support ZTA, the exercise can be quite draining for the security team. Creating security policies for various layers demands expertise to ensure there are not security gaps in the system after implementation. For example, there is a high chance of locking a user from accessing required data if they change a project, and the same changes do not reflect in security protocols in real time.
  • Perimeter for everything – Traditional cybersecurity solutions treat the entire network as one and protect its perimeter. The assumption is that everything inside the network is safe. However, with the increase in novel cyberattacks, insider attacks, and data value, the call for a more comprehensive security installation has been high, giving rise to the rapid adoption of a micro-segmentation policy. But micro-segmentation calls for multiple secure pockets within the network, thereby having multiple secure perimeters, and finally system’s complexity.
  • Demands change in mindset – Cybersecurity teams need to accept that ZTA protects and secures access to data than the network’s perimeter. This mindset shift is vital when defining security policies. Additionally, security teams should be able to see every connection, device, and access as a potential threat to the system and thereby implement strict policies to verify and authenticate any process periodically.
  • Requires more man-hours – Enterprises continue to evolve regularly, meaning more connections, people, and devices are on board daily. User access controls need to be constantly changed, and policies are defined from time to time depending on the requirement, requiring a dedicated workforce. For example, companies might need to respond to act in a time-bound situation for restricting or granting access to an employee or a third party. ZTA demands constant monitoring and maintenance activities.
  • Negative impact on end-user – Security is everything when it comes to data. But how far are the end-users comfortable with a multifactor authentication system? The job of securing the network and, at the same time, ensuring end-users have a smooth experience falls on cybersecurity experts. Often, users ditch a particular platform if they feel the authentication process is a tad restrictive for them.
  • Issues with Legacy Systems – Legacy systems, infrastructure, and other resources pose a significant challenge in implementing ZTA. Most legacy systems currently function on the premise that they would operate on an isolated network. With enterprises evolving rapidly, interconnectivity among sensitive networks became inevitable. These legacy systems cannot support modern security protocols and have to be entirely replaced from the network.
  • Not 100% foolproof – No security system is certain, and ZTA is no exception. There have been cases where a failure in configuring security policies has led to vulnerabilities. Parallelly, the compromise of user credentials is not new in cybersecurity. Services connecting users and applications – Trust brokers can be a point of failure. The physical stealing of devices and exfiltrating data from them has always been challenging.
  • Can create gaps and vulnerabilities – Active legacy systems, misconfiguration of security protocols, failure of trust brokers, and ZTA requiring a high level of customization, maintenance, and monitoring can end up leaving gaps in the security posture. These gaps or voids can become significant vulnerabilities threatening the entire network.
  • Cost Intensive – ZTA is a tedious and lengthy exercise for an enterprise. Implementing ZTA requires the assistance of an expert team, and an entire workforce, leading to extra costs. Additionally, replacing legacy infrastructure (software and hardware), creating awareness and training the workforce, and losing time due to multifactor authentication can be cost-intensive towards the end of a fiscal year.

Overcoming Zero Trust Security Challenges

Like every other cybersecurity product, Zero Trust Architecture has flaws and drawbacks. However, irrespective of anything, ZTA is the best option that can effectively tackle the current cybersecurity threat landscape. It is so comprehensive that it brings many aspects of a network’s security into play and supplements the monitoring team with analytical data, helping them have a detailed granular view on every process on the network. Therefore it is essential to understand how to overcome Zero Trust Security challenges to make the best use of the product.

  • Understanding Zero Trust Security is not a turnkey solution – If it was so easy, every enterprise could switch to ZTA and feel secure. But it is not. Zero Trust security is not a turnkey solution that provides everything as a single package. Implementing ZTA across an enterprise involves strict practices, protocols, and infrastructural upgrades in place. It is a phased process that considers all the stakeholders.
  • Initiate at a small scale – Securing a vast network can be pretty daunting. Initially, it is better to start implementing ZTA on a small scale. Applying stricter policies, multifactor authentication, timed sessions, and least privilege access to critical workflows and sensitive data is an excellent place to start. Likewise, one should not abandon the legacy system in the initial phases as it can leave out considerable gaps in the security posture.
  • Have trail runsA trail run that lets the employees, admins, and other resource personnel interact with a ZTA (on a small scale) is essential to understand how they interact with systems, security issues, and incidents while new security policies are in place. Doing so will help generate feedback that makes vital lessons. In addition, the feedback will help the Security Team assess and develop strategies to implement ZTA with fewer network disruptions.
  • Scale it slowlyZTA is an exciting security solution for which every CISO wishes to get approval from the C-suite. But after implementing ZTA at a small scale and running trails, it is essential to increase its network coverage slowly. An exclusive team should be in place to understand workflow and other processes to minimize service disruption. To ensure no systems are left unprotected, enterprises should lock crucial systems.
  • Having people in mind – Human error is the most common reason behind most successful cybersecurity attacks. Getting everyone from C-Suite, administrators, developers, network, and communication teams onto the same page about Zero Trust security is essential. Explaining, creating awareness, and training the workforce about ZTA, its implementation, and best practices ensures everyone knows what to do and what not to do. One should note that implementing Zero-trust security is more a team sport than a single individual. 
  • Secure the hardware – No enterprises can run on insecure hardware. Therefore, securing hardware is a critical element of Zero Trust Security. Always opting for trusted vendors is one way, and implementing security measures like signed OS, trusted platform module, secure boot, geo-fencing, and geo-tracking are among others. These measures help protect hardware from both within and outside.
  • Routinely manage and administer – At all times, all the hardware should support the latest security patches and software updates. For example, if a client suffers a data breach, the enterprise should be able to lock out all the systems on short notice and be equipped with all tools and techniques to minimize the breach. Automation tools come in handy to keep track of firmware upgrades of devices. Other tools for monitoring, data collection, and analytics ensure that administrators are always on top of their game to ensure effective ZTA implementation.
  • Request Customized solutions – Every enterprise is different, and so are its needs. As an enterprise, it is your right to request customized solutions from the vendor. For example, Sectrio provides customized solutions to meet its clientele’s needs and demands as much as possible. Its Zero Trust Security solutions and other cybersecurity products let clients configure to suit their needs, and it is always around to assist the clientele in every way possible.

Zero Trust Security Best Practices

Having a protocol sheet is always helpful in cybersecurity. The rules, guidelines, procedures, and checklists help prevent uninvited events. Best practices help build effective processes and streamline workflow across the system. They also serve as a ‘go-to’ procedure in predicting possible problems that might arise and the steps one needs to take to tackle the issues. Cybersecurity experts recommend that keeping threats and vulnerabilities at bay saves resources (time and man-hours) and significantly improves an enterprise’s reputation in the market.

  • Encryption and TDF – All the data should be encrypted using industry-standard secure algorithms. Using TDF (Trusted Data File) format is one way of encrypting sensitive data. The TDF format secures the data irrespective of its location – cloud and private servers. In addition, the TDF format deploys military-grade encryption and checks for necessary authorization on the receiver’s end before allowing access to the data.
  • Focus on ‘protecting data’ then ‘attack surface’ – ZTA has brought a paradigm shift regarding the change in the mindset of data. Previously, cybersecurity experts were more concerned about reducing the attack surface area on a belief that it directly translates to the probability of an intrusion. However, with changing times and attackers adopting novel techniques to intrude, we must emphasize ‘protecting data’ rather than worrying about the attack surface.
  • Revoking Access – Credentials of former employees continue to be active and valid even after they leave an enterprise. Many enterprises did confide that there have been security breaches, with former employees misusing their credentials to break into the systems. Hence, enterprises should strictly revoke all access and permissions of their previous employees with immediate effect. Such a practice can prevent any unauthorized login and misuse of the access to the network.
  • Micro-segmentation – One of the key principles, micro-segmentation is a bare necessity when it comes to best practices of ZTA. Helping unauthorized access and limiting blast radius from successful intrusions (inside and outside), micro-segmentation is vital for the success of a Zero Trust Security model. The practice focuses on segmenting the network into small pockets and securing them as separate entities. To access those secure pockets, verification and authorization are a must, with sessions often time-bound. Additionally, storing different types of data at different locations based on sensitivity, access, and other parameters helps minimize the risk of a data breach.  
  • Map connections on the network – Traditionally, security products had focused on traffic flow on the network when it came to network architecture diagrams. It is prudent to say such an effort does not suffice modern security needs. Network architecture diagram should map the connections through the network comprehensively, along with traffic flow, helping administrators identify the points of installation of new security policies throughout the network. As a result, it becomes easier to set up necessary security protocols and access policies upon determining associated data sets, data transmission paths, and applications.
  • Round-the-clock monitoring – Constant traffic monitoring is a crucial practice for an efficient ZTA on the network. It helps security teams identify any malicious behavior or anomalies on the network on short notice. Despite analytical automation taking the front seat in detecting unusual behavior, inspecting logs and making changes to gain better visibility by the security team can boost the ZTA implementation. Network monitoring, deep inspection, ranking alerts (based on threat type and risk factor), automation, and other tools come in handy in monitoring.
  • End-users drive business – End-users are responsible for the growth of any enterprise. While Zero Trust Security can secure data and connections, it should not impact the frictionless experience end-users expect while using the services and products.
  • Device VerificationAs a thumb rule, every device should be verified, authenticated, and mapped before it becomes active on the network. Enterprises should ensure all devices meet their security standards and support security policies to ensure security posture is unaffected. Often unidentified devices creep into networks through various means. Hence, scanning the network for such devices should be periodic. The system administrator should isolate any unknown device on the network and immediately launch a thorough investigation for any unusual activity.

Zero Trust Security of OT and IoT Networks:

Industry 4.0 is around the corner, and it won’t be long before the world witnesses another industrial revolution. But cybersecurity experts are asking everyone to hold their horses, raising three critical questions that need our attention.

  1. Physical security at manufacturing places and data centers
  2. Redundancy of the hardware and systems
  3. Cybersecurity aspect.

While enterprises can take measures like increasing vigilance and improving quality checks to tackle the first two, many find it challenging to address cybersecurity – an ever-evolving battle with threat actors evolving rapidly every second.

Zero Security and IoT Networks

Irrespective of the type and size of the enterprise, IoT devices have found their way into complex and sensitive networks. Most IoT devices come with vulnerabilities due to the lack of homogenous manufacturing processes and poor testing. Having such devices on the network can adversely affect the security posture. Often IoT devices come with the following threats:

  1. Zero-day attacks
  2. Ransomware
  3. Eavesdropping

Owing to poor testing and using open-source code, many IoT devices host zero-day vulnerabilities waiting to be exposed. With most IoT devices off-the-shelf, there is hardly any reliable support after sales. Even if enterprises offer support, there is always a constant delay in security patch updates and OS updates, making it easy for bad actors. A successful zero-day attack can open doors for a more powerful attack. Hackers take over every possible device on the network leading to a complete failure of cybersecurity at all levels. Similarly, ransomware attacks have been on the rise and are likely to increase in the future.

Check out: IoT and OT Ransomware Preparedness Playbook

There have been cases of state-sponsored cyber warfare and eavesdropping activities as a part of an espionage act. With the security of IoT devices at the mercy of attackers, the catastrophe looming is unimaginable. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise after Israeli scientists proved (in 2020) spies could eavesdrop by measuring the change in light output.

Zero Trust Security comes to the rescue. Zero-day attacks are challenging to execute thanks to their holistic and comprehensive security tools. Even if an attacker finds a zero-day vulnerability, it is almost impossible for someone outside the network to intrude on it and modify (instruction set) the device. Enterprises should strictly avoid open-source code, rigorously test the code, and get the code reviewed by third-party experts to improve IoT devices’ security.

Similarly, the micro-segmentation practice ultimately foils the plans of ransomware groups. Even if there is an intrusion, it is almost impossible for attackers to go beyond a secure pocket, as every pocket requires verification and authentication. Additionally, having a daily backup of sensitive data helps the enterprise during a ransomware attack. The enterprise need not give in to the bad actors’ demand to pay any ransom. The sensitive data is secure, thanks to micro-segmentation and encryption (TDF) and multiple copies of the data.

Network scanning and analytical tools keep monitoring the network for anomalous behavior. The constant monitoring efforts help identify any unexpected and unauthorized activity – a key factor in preventing eavesdropping. Likewise, monitoring the usage of bandwidth and other resources gives the security team an idea of whether unidentified foreign devices have made it onto the network. Unfortunately, there have been cases of tampered IoT devices right from manufacturers. Tampered devices often carry some form of electronic surveillance equipment in hardware and data-stealing code in the firmware. Therefore, enterprises should only purchase and install IoT devices after thorough testing and investigation. Hence, one should buy only branded and international-compliance met devices from prominent brands.

Zero Security and OT Networks

Despite industries still struggling with security threats, IoT devices have propelled the amalgamation of OT and IT networks. Enterprises across the globe are adopting cloud processing and IoT functionality to maximize efficiency, optimize the use of resources, and improve data-backed decision-making. Many isolated OT networks have become more visible after connecting to IT networks to attain cloud and IoT connectivity. In reality, these OT networks, which have been ‘off the grid,’ come with a host of vulnerabilities, that could threaten their existence. The path towards convergence of OT and IT on the back of IoT devices exhibit a dual nature – constructive and destructive. Most OT networks host the following vulnerabilities:

  1. Designed for reliability, not security
  2. Lack of visibility
  3. Remote Connections

The design and engineering of OT systems point towards longevity and redundancy. OT devices and systems often tend to work for decades, given that they are ‘off-the-grid.’ However, changing times and call for higher efficiency meant OT networks had to come to ‘life,’ in a way opening a Pandora’s Box. Many vulnerabilities arise with OT networks going ‘life’ from being ‘off-the-grid.’ Most of the current OT systems do not support modern-day security protocols.

By implementing Zero Trust Security principles like Privileged Access Management, one can limit the number of users accessing sensitive zones on the network. As a result, the chances of intrusion due to credential leaks are slim, with fewer users accessing the sensitive zones. Parallelly, implementing other policies like no password sharing, 2FA (2-Factor Authentication), and removing access to USB drives on the floor helps maintain the network’s security posture. Furthermore, with ZTA tools leveraging cutting-edge technologies like AI and ML, RBVM (Risk Based Vulnerability Management) and threat detection has taken a great leap, thanks to correlating and a better understanding of a threat’s context.

Zero Trust Security brings almost 100% visibility of endpoints, users, applications in use, network connections, and data flow paths. The granular visibility functions on the principle of ‘Reveal and Protect,’ helping security teams to identify, remediate, and handle a threat.  

Owing to global uncertainties, along with IT enterprises, many industrial and manufacturing units have opened doors to remote access. OT networks heavily rely upon remote access by various third-party entities and employees. Remote access opens doors to these highly sensitive and fragile industrial network ecosystems. Enterprises can choose to limit a session length, deploy multifactor authentication (password, one-time password, geo-location, and IP logs), and well-defined navigation for each user, following the footsteps of Zero Trust Security. Like earlier said, the MFA should not stall the user experience but rather increase security without causing any hindrance.

Significant cyberattacks in North America:

  1. A successful attack on Kaseya IT firm allowed hackers to install ransomware on systems belonging to 1000+ organizations in July 2021
  2. The United States and Canada together saw 165+ significant (losses over $1M) cyber-attacks between 2006 – 2020
  3. As of May 2021, SQL injection attacks, MitM (Man-in-the-middle) attacks, phishing attacks, and DDoS are leading the race.
  4. NSA revealed that Russian attackers siphoned sensitive data from American enterprises using a bug in the email server.
  5. The average cost of a data breach for 2021 in the US was $9M, and in Canada, $5.4M
  6. Over 89.7% and 85.7% of companies in the US and Canada, respectively, were successfully affected in one year.
  7. Ransomware attacks affected 78.5%, 61.2%, and 75% of US, Canadian, and Mexican companies in 2020.
  8. There has been a significant rise in Zero-day attacks from 2019 – 2021 in North America. There were 28 in 2019, 37 in 2020, and 66 zero-day attacks in 2021.
  9. The 2010 Stuxnet attack targeted the Iranian nuclear program on a large scale by exploiting four zero-day vulnerabilities.
  10. January 2021 HAFNIUM attack affected 100,000 mail servers
  11. On a survey of 400 companies in the US, the average time to apply, test, and fully deploy patches is 97 days.
  12. Blockchain technology Company Polygon paid $2M as a bounty to an ethical hacker who identified a flaw that otherwise would have allowed repeated double withdrawals from their systems.
  13.  As of June 2022, Microsoft sent NSNs (Nation-state notifications) to 67,000+ customers whose systems were compromised or targeted in the US alone.
  14. Microsoft noted a 100% increase in attacks on critical infrastructure, from 20% to 40% (2020 – 2021) of total cyber-attacks.
  15. A third-party attack saw data leak of over 90,000+ US-based Mattax Neu Prater Eye Clinic patients.
  16. The Colonial Pipeline attack in May 2021 disrupted fuel supplies on the US East Coast. The company paid $4.4M in ransom.
  17. REvil hacker group demanded $50M from ACER after accessing the latter’s network, thanks to a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange Server.
  18. The attack on US-based CAN Insurance saw a data breach of 75,000+ employees and encryption of 15,000 devices by a hacking group in 2021
  19. In Nov 2022, Iranian hackers allegedly managed to carry out cryptojacking on the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and stole sensitive information, exploiting the log4shell vulnerability.
  20. In June 2022, Blockchain bridge company Harmony’s Horizon reportedly lost $100M in theft after hackers managed to access personal data.

Read more: 2022 IoT and OT threat landscape assessment report

Outlook of the North America Cybersecurity Market

  1. According to market data, the North American cybersecurity market will reach $111.4B by 2027 from $75.70B in 2023, at a 10.14% CAGR. The rise is driven by sophisticated cyber-attacks and increased frequency, with many enterprises taking large-scale digital expansions.
  2. The US occupies a substantial space in North America regarding attacks and market share. Over 60% of the North American cybersecurity market is from the US, with more than 55% of large companies in the US under constant threat and more than 85% of financial cyberattacks targeting US financial institutions. 
  3. Enterprises will spend about $630 on cybersecurity services per employee across North America and $413.50 in the US in 2023.
  4. Cybersecurity solutions will contribute 40.01% of the revenue, and cyber solutions contributing 35.69%.
  5. The Q3 2022 saw a cybersecurity market of $9.6B in North America, a staggering jump of 17.1% from the Q3 2021
  6. The GAFAM (Google/Alphabet, Facebook/Meta, Apple, and Microsoft) invested $2.4B in cybersecurity spread across 23 deals.
  7. Soon, cybercrime is likely to skyrocket. From $8.44T in 2022, it will likely reach $23.82T by 2027.

Key Takeaways:

Zero Trust Security is the Hercules of cybersecurity woes. The suite of tools and techniques it brings onto the table help enterprises run their day-to-day business without worrying much about cybersecurity threats and dangers in the modern world. Zero Trust Security impacted how businesses operate, how security organizations approach modern-day networks and the architecture design of applications and infrastructure. Thanks to ZTA, enterprises are agile, stepping into new markets and operating more effectively. In addition, security organizations are experiencing a paradigm shift in protecting data and dealing with existing and future threats.

Likewise, the architecture design of upcoming and existing applications and infrastructure will incline toward Cloud platforms and DevOps. Most enterprises are starting to prefer infrastructure and processing power on the cloud, then run their private servers and infrastructure. Though enterprises will have less control depending on a third party for cloud services, major cloud service providers have been at the forefront regarding security. ZTA can help protect all the resources on the cloud and at the premises.

The biggest question one needs to ask and address is why many are jumping on the bandwagon about implementing Zero Trust Security. The answer lies right in front of us – disruptive events. These events range from pandemics (like Covid19) to geopolitical tensions that can lead to state-sponsored cyber-attacks. Additionally, evolving business models, increasing trends of working remotely, technological changes, and other geopolitical forces drive enterprises towards adopting and implementing Zero Trust Security.

Primarily, the key drivers towards the adoption of Zero Trust Security are as follows:

  1. Remote working is the new normal
  2. Rapidly evolving ecosystems and partnerships between enterprises
  3. National interests and security concerns
  4. Chang in communication patterns

Zero Trust Security depends on the following:

  1. Assume a breach, and verify and authenticate every connection
  2. Granular visibility and micro-segmentation
  3. Device access, Privilege Access Management, and Securing Data

How is Zero Trust Security helping enterprises?

  1. It helps protect resources
  2. Better data protection and compliance
  3. Aids in agility and optimization of resources

Challenges enterprises face with Zero Trust Security implementation

  1. Complexity in implementation can hamper productivity
  2. Requires constant monitoring and maintenance
  3. If not handled well, it can be cost-intensive

A cybersecurity partner like Sectrio helps you implement and execute Zero Trust Security. At Sectrio, we believe that educating our client’s workforce is the way to go forward when dealing with cybersecurity solutions, especially Zero Trust Security. In addition, Sectrio’s experience and expertise in the domain bring down the cost factor. We ensure that Zero Trust Security platform implementation is completed within budget and time. And forget not, we are as punctual as an atomic clock and even delivering products ahead of time.

Our best-in-class solutions help protect your assets with minimal effect on your productivity. After a thorough review of the current security posture of your enterprise, our team of experts will engage with your security team and necessary personnel to better understand your requirements. Our agile approach helps us prioritize your needs, resources, and other constraints that we might face during the implementation of ZTA.

Our data and asset-centric security strategies ensure that your data and clientele’s data are always safe, as are your infrastructural assets. In addition, Sectrio’s world-class tech support is only a call away throughout the product’s life cycle. With our team’s constant follow-ups, we tick everything on the checklist and continue to provide the best-in-class experience to your enterprise.

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Sectrio is a technology market leader in the Internet of Things (IoT), Operational Technology (OT), Information Technology (IT) and 5G Security products for securing the most critical assets, data, networks, supply chains and device architectures for diverse deployments across geographies. Sectrio solutions minimize the attack surface and eliminate all risks from hackers, malware, cyber espionage, and other threats by securing the entire digital footprint covering services, applications, and surfaces through a single platform powered by real-time threat intelligence sourced from Sectrio’s largest honeypot network active in 75+ cities around the world.

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