Zero Trust refers to a particular strategic approach to network cybersecurity whereby no users, devices, or applications are assumed to be inherently trustworthy. Zero Trust principles can be applied to cybersecurity policies, procedures, and network infrastructure, and networks that implement this approach are often said to feature “Zero Trust architecture”.
How Does Zero Trust Differ from Traditional Security Models?
Traditional security policies usually operate on the basis of a network perimeter. This is a boundary that encloses a local network, separating it from the public Internet for the purposes of access control and security.
Typically, with traditional network security, a user, device, or application is granted access to a network once it has been authenticated, after which point it is regarded as safe. In this sense, we can think of the traditional network security model as a circle of trust, with everything permitted entry into the circle considered trustworthy after initiative verification. With Zero Trust security, however, this is not the case.
Zero Trust security operates on the assumption that every user, device, and application could be a potential threat, even if it has been authenticated previously. As such, Zero Trust systems insist on verification on each access instance, regardless of whether it is remote access or a connection from within the network perimeter.
What Are the Main Principles of Zero Trust?
There are a variety of different practices and policies that can comprise a Zero-Trust security model, and the specifics of how the approach is implemented will vary from one network to another. However, there are five essential principles that underpin Zero Trust. These are:
All network access attempts should be verified using robust access protocols, user device profiling, and multi-factor authentication.
- Least access
Those allowed access to a network should only be granted the minimum clearance to perform their necessary tasks.
Networks should be compartmentalized into small segments to enable to prevent the spread of threats.
- Continuous monitoring
Activity in each network segment should be continuously monitored and documented in traffic logs to facilitate the early detection of unusual behavior.
- Assumed breach
Administrators must understand that all networks possess vulnerabilities in some aspect, and should operate on the assumption that their network has already been breached to ensure vigilance.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Zero Trust Security?
Like any security model, Zero Trust has its advantages and disadvantages. The following are some of the key pros and cons of Zero Trust:
- Provides robust security that can handle evolving cyber threats
- Enables comprehensive data protection and compliance
- Facilitates swift threat quarantining and damage control
- Offers limited freedom and fluidity of use across different network segments
- Needs complex architecture that can be challenging to implement
- Can be resource-intensive due to the need for continuous monitoring and logging
Zero Trust is a network security approach whereby all access attempts are treated with caution until verified, regardless of whether users, devices, or apps are within the network perimeter or previously verified. The stringent nature of Zero Trust security makes it highly effective in protecting data and combatting evolving threats, however, its inflexible and resource-intensive nature means that its use is situational and generally reserved for use on large corporate or governmental networks with complex security needs.