What is Zero Trust?

While enterprises have rapidly embraced cloud computing in the last decade or so, the mass shift to remote work accelerated this transition. With an influx of employees accessing sensitive company data from unsecured devices, the security framework known as Zero Trust has been increasingly relied on as a data-protecting hero.

What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is the security framework embodiment of, “Trust no one.” Coined by John Kindervag, a cybersecurity analyst who believed computers to be too naive and lacking the capacity to trust as humans do, Zero Trust requires users’ identities to be verified any time they wish to access sensitive data. Once they’ve been verified, users are granted the least amount of access they need to get their work done. Users also need to be verified every time they try to access that data again.

Zero Trust was initially created for network-specific environments as a stronger follow-up to the “verify, then trust” security philosophy. This approach bestowed implicit trust upon a user logged into a specific network location. However, this practice left a gaping security vulnerability. A bad actor could simply use the credentials or device of a user already trusted by the local network and gain complete access to that network’s sensitive data. This threat has grown exponentially in today’s remote work environments.

The primary goal of a cloud-first Zero Trust architecture is to secure sensitive data at its source. But this process doesn’t  happen on its own. An organization’s security strategy must be conceptualized and implemented with the Zero Trust framework in mind. This is the only way to ensure that your Zero Trust framework is set up for success.

How to implement an effective Zero Trust framework

To implement a Zero Trust framework, the following processes must be put into place:

  • Data discovery to identify sensitive information everywhere it exists within your organization;
  • Data classification to ensure data is granularly labeled with context-rich tags so the proper protections, policies, and user-based access privileges can be applied; and
  • Data monitoring to keep track of user and device activity related to sensitive data and detect behavioral anomalies indicative of a threat in real time.

The sheer volume of information that organizations possess makes it impossible to manually discover, classify, and consistently monitor data. That’s why these processes must be automated in order to maximize your Zero Trust framework’s efficacy. 

While the most common objections to implementing automation center around operational disruptions, rest assured that a brief pause to ensure a thorough transition is much better than the alternative: leaving execution in the hands of already-strained IT teams with the threat of a simple but costly mistake perpetually looming. 

What an effective Zero Trust framework looks like

Once these practices are in place, the Zero Trust framework is essentially composed of a two-step process: verification and authentication. To successfully execute these actions, your framework needs to be able to identify sensitive data, define and enforce user roles, and keep tabs on user and device activity. This is all made possible through automated data discovery, classification, and monitoring.

Identifying sensitive data

No security strategy is complete without accurate data discovery. If you don’t know what sensitive information your organization possesses, how can you properly protect it? With this visibility, you’re able to build the foundation for a well-defined Zero Trust framework capable of securing data at the source.

Enforcing user roles

After discovery, sensitive data can then be classified with labels that put it into context. These tags will be based on its level of sensitivity, purpose for collection and use, regulatory compliance, and more. In turn, this level of detail can be used to enhance definitions for user roles and privileges, also making them easier to enforce within your organization. In addition, context-rich labels are vital to the verification and authorization of users, devices, and applications attempting to connect with sensitive data.

Monitoring user and device activity for abnormal behaviors

Human error is inevitable. In order to prevent a larger security mishap from occurring  as the result of such a mistake, the activity of every user role within your organization must be monitored. In addition, users’ endpoint devices need to be just as closely monitored, because they’re a common target for cyberattacks. When both user activity and devices are monitored, you can significantly reduce the time needed to detect unusual behavior, track it to a source, and remediate any discrepancies, reducing the negative impact on your organization.

Maximize the efficacy of your Zero Trust framework with Spirion

With a Zero Trust framework in place, your organization’s sensitive data can be secured at the source. Feel confident knowing that even in the worst case scenario—such as when a bad actor makes it past other safeguards—your most valuable information still has a final line of defense in place. 

How can this be achieved? With the capabilities of Spirion’s Governance Suite

Before an unauthorized user can fully gain access to your sensitive data, Spirion’s automated, real-time monitoring feature can detect and notify security teams of behavioral anomalies, for a prompt response to the breach and a minimized impact on your organization. If sensitive information does become compromised, the suite’s data discovery and classification tools ensure that you know what was breached and when, so you can start remediation quickly.

Contact us today to learn how our scalable solutions can help you implement a successful Zero Trust framework, make business operations more efficient, and reduce risk within your environment.