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By Shawn Keve

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You can’t afford to fall short with your cybersecurity.

Cybercrime is on the rise. It’s thought that 33 billion data records will be compromised by cyber criminals by 2023. There were 12 billion this year. That’s a 175% rise in data breaches over the next 5 years.

Oh, and cybercrime’s expected to cost $6 trillion to combat by 2021.

Now more than ever you need to take your security seriously. Attackers are becoming smarter, malware is becoming more advanced, and security professionals are struggling to handle the challenge.

Traditional methods are clearly failing. As the threat of cyber-attacks increases, how do you ensure the security of your systems… your customer and employee data… your intellectual property… your Brand?

Zero trust security is one approach that you might want to consider. But what is it? And how will it help you?

Keep reading to find out.

What’s the Traditional Security Way?

The traditional approach to security emulates the example of historic fortifications against attack. Think back to your high school history classes. Castle and moat saw a heavily fortified building (the castle) surrounded by water.

The entire system was based on keeping people out. Only those within the castle could allow outsiders access. Friends are inside; enemies are outside. Attackers would find it difficult to gain entry. However, once they were in they could cause as much havoc as possible, with relative ease. History proves that, even in medieval times, castles could be overcome by other means than force, including deception, stealth and treachery.

The same is true for traditional methods of IT security. The castle-and-moat system puts in reinforcements that make it hard to gain access to a network. Those inside are trusted; the lack of trust is reserved for external individuals.

However, that means an attacker that gains entry has full access to what’s inside.

What’s worse is that modern companies often no longer keep their data in one place. It’s spread out, perhaps in different cloud systems. That’s like having one army to protect multiple fortifications. It’s far harder to secure.

Such flaws are relatively easy to manipulate by an attacker.

What’s Zero Trust Security?

The clue’s in the name.

First described by Forrester Research in 2010, zero trust has been gaining traction in recent years. The basic principle is a total lack of trust in all traffic to your site.

It makes no difference whether you’re inside or outside the network to begin. This initial stance of mistrust protects the systems from potential attack.

Zero trust systems aren’t centered around one particular technology. It’s more of an approach to security that encapsulates a variety of specific ideas.

Remember, the key assumption is that everyone has the potential to negatively impact your security. Least-privilege access is one component of this philosophy: users get access to data on a need-to-know basis.

Imagine a building with lots of doors. If a user only requires access to one room, they only get a key to that specific door. Past approaches would be like giving a master key to everyone inside.

Other Zero-Trust Methods

Here are a few more examples of how to use zero-trust in your security systems.

Micro-Segmentation

Micro-segmentation takes a secure network and separates it into a number of individual secure zones. Imagine the castle-moat setup again. Then imagine gaining entry to the castle, only to find another set of smaller castles, each with their own moats.

That’s the basic premise of micro-segmentation. Rather than just one secure zone, you have many. And each one requires their own authorization to enter.

Single Sign-On

Single sign-on is the process of authenticating a user and then issuing them a time-bound “token” (or key, if you will) that allows the user to automatically present their credentials when engaging with applications and systems, without having to re-type their credentials (e.g. ID and Password).  These tokens usually expire after a certain time (i.e. a session) and, therefore, the user needs to be re-authenticated from time to time (i.e. they don’t get perpetual access) to obtain a new token (set of credentials).

Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

MFA is another buzzword associated with zero trust security.

You’ll be familiar with it if you use a Google account. Simply, one password isn’t enough. Once you input your password you need to verify your identity via a secondary method (such as a code that’s sent to your phone).   You can also think of this as “something I know” (e.g. my password) plus “something I have” (e.g. my biometric, a certificate/key, a hard or soft token).

MFA is now essential. It is no longer enough to have a single password to allow entry to a system.

The Benefits of Zero-Trust

Here are a few reasons you should incorporate zero-trust into your security.

Reduced Chance of Hacks

We’ve already seen how companies are facing ever greater threats to their security.

Companies that take a zero-trust stance have significantly heightened their defenses. The number of breaches experienced by organizations drops within weeks of applying these best practices.

Financial Savings

The zero-trust systems will require investment upfront. However, you will almost certainly save money in the long-run.

It’s said that the average cost of a breach is almost $4 million. That’s enough to drive most companies out of business. No attacks mean no money spent on data recovery and response to the incident.

Enhanced Customer Trust

Customers, clients, and subscribers also benefit from your zero-trust policies.

They can rest assured that their data is in safe hands. Personal details, banking information, and so on, all have less chance of being impacted. It’s somewhat ironic that taking a zero-trust stance with your data can promote the development of trust in new users. The challenge is how to establish zero-trust with as little friction (i.e. maintain ease of use for customer) as possible and while respecting end-user privacy.

Time to Lose Trust (to Gain Trust)

There you have it: everything you need to know about zero-trust in relation to your online security systems.

There’s never been a greater need for fool-proof security systems. Cyber-attacks are on the rise, and the impact of them can be dramatic. You stand to lose money, data, reputation and business. Traditional security systems aren’t entirely sufficient.

Trust has traditionally been granted to anyone inside a network. That’s no longer a safe way of operating. A growing trend, described as zero-trust, is to treat everyone as a threat from the outset. Are they still who they said they were, or have their credentials been compromised? Moving forward from this standpoint can significantly reduce the chance of cyberattack.

Go forward in your security with a never trust, always verify stance. You’ll protect your business, save money, and develop trust with your users all at once.

Are you interested in improving the security of your company IT systems? Be sure to contact us today to learn how our identity and access management solutions can help.

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