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How to implement a Zero Trust framework

Modern technology has brought about a rapid rise in cloud computing and remote work. Additionally, cybercrime is expected to cost the world as much as $10.5 trillion annually by the year 2025. As the cost of data increases and more information is retained by organizations of all kinds, the need for enhanced cybersecurity has become so apparent that an executive order to improve cybersecurity was issued by the Biden Administration in May 2021.

The only way to meet the security needs of modern business is with Zero Trust Architecture. Here’s what you need to know to implement these policies within your organization.

What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is the security framework that requires users’ identities to be verified every time they attempt to access sensitive information. This framework was called out within the aforementioned executive order as the best way forward to address security concerns, and federal agencies are already putting policies into place.

This framework allows sensitive data to be secured at its source, but policy alone isn’t enough. To ensure your organization’s security strategy is comprehensive enough to withstand threats, your entire data security plan must be made with the Zero Trust framework in mind.

How to implement a Zero Trust framework in your organization

The concept of Zero Trust was coined by John Kindervag, a cybersecurity analyst noted to be one of the world’s foremost security experts. Kindervag’s five steps to Zero Trust provide an excellent roadmap implementing an effective Zero Trust. Here’s what that process entails:

Identify what needs to be protected

The first step to securing your data is to define the protect surface, which is the area that needs to be protected. Since this surface is always changing, you will need to identify critical data and assets at a high level. By defining this protect surface, your organization will be better able to  adapt to changing circumstances and threats over time.

The most effective way to identify your protect surface is to invest in a robust data discovery tool that helps you uncover the data stored by your organization. With a proper data discovery tool at your disposal, your organization can find data where it lives to offer insight into your decision making processes.

Map the data flow

The way your data moves across your organization’s network will determine what you need to do to ensure proper data security. Define and segment the way data moves within your organization, but avoid overcomplicating processes. This will allow for robust protection while providing flexibility to adapt to ever-changing operational needs.

By prioritizing data discovery accuracy, your organization can maintain organizational efficiency while ensuring effective security protocols.

Build the environment

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a Zero Trust architecture. Rather, network design must be customized to fit the needs of the organization. With the protect surface and transaction flows identified, you can begin to map the structure of the environment based on what is being protected.

Create policies to dictate access

Without adequately defined user roles, a Zero Trust framework doesn’t exist. You must properly identify who should be accessing a given set of data based on internal policies, the sensitivity of the data, and other variables as determined by your organizational architecture.

Monitor and maintain data over time

Data security is an ongoing process. Risks need to be proactively detected and addressed. By focusing protection on sensitive data being actively accessed, your organization can easily determine if classified information has been compromised, and potential threats can be exposed more readily to minimize potential damage.

Putting the pieces together for a cohesive data security plan

President Joe Biden’s 2021 executive order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity has pushed the Zero Trust Maturity Model to the forefront of both federal and civilian IT security discussions. You will need to create  a comprehensive plan to ensure your organization can stay in compliance and ahead of any threats to your organization’s data.

The Five Pillars of the Zero Trust Security Model

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers general guidelines to implementing a Zero Trust model. These guidelines are grouped into five pillars:

  • Identity. The guidelines for granting access permissions to users or programs in order to access data.
  • Device. All hardware assets connected to the network, including computers, phones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
  • Network/Environment. All architecture over which data can be transmitted, including the internet, intranet, and other media used to transport data.
  • Application Workload. Programs and executables including those on both internal systems and cloud environments.
  • Data. Information stored (data at rest) as well as information accessed by authorized users (data in motion).

Within these five pillars, CISA further suggests gradual steps which can be taken by organizations to work towards an ideal Zero Trust scenario. In general, the transition from traditional policies to optimal policies relies increasingly on automation.

Maximize the effectiveness of your Zero Trust framework

A Zero Trust framework secures data at its source, but to make the most of this framework, you need a full understanding of where your data lives. That’s where Spirion’s Governance Suite can help.

With real-time monitoring, the Governance Suite can give your security teams fast and accurate notification of abnormal behaviors in your systems. By creating the opportunity for a rapid response, your team can minimize the damage done by malicious actors. Should your data be compromised, Spirion’s comprehensive data discovery and classification tools can give you a greater insight into the scope of the breach for prompt and accurate remediation.

If you want to learn more about how to make business operations more efficient, reduce your risk, and create the ideal environment for a Zero Trust framework, contact us today for a demo to see how our suite of technologies can give your organization best-in-class protection.