MTE Explains: What Is Zero Trust and Why Is It So Important?

It seems as though hacking is getting more rampant, and many companies are scrambling to find out what to do to prevent falling victim to the onslaught of attacks. For many years they’ve operated under a model that was somewhat lucrative, but its time is apparently over, judging by the impressive amount of records breached from databases around the world. It’s time for something new. It’s time for zero trust models. But what is this? And how can this help companies avoid leaking data like a bottomless bucket?

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As the name implies, zero trust models discourage companies from trusting any part of their IT infrastructure whenever possible. Until recently the vast majority of businesses focused on distrusting the outside world. However, the recent increase in sophistication of hacking attempts also compromises their internal networks.

Basically, you can no longer trust what goes on inside the walls of your company, either. If someone brings a phone infected with malware into an internal network, it’s quite possible that the infection can be spread through the system and compromise the entire infrastructure without much effort from the hacker that planted it.

Infiltration isn’t as hard as it used to be. You can manipulate people into giving you access to things you otherwise shouldn’t have access to. The proliferation of convenience-oriented technologies in businesses also presents significant weak points┬ásince they aren’t always built with safety in mind.

The motto, “trust, but verify,” is no longer applicable here. Instead, zero trust models change this to “never trust, always verify.”

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Although zero trust architectures aren’t built to combat hackers, they are meant to make it as difficult as possible to compromise an entire system. Instead of interconnecting everything in a network, each piece of it has a separate segment that forces would-be attackers to repeat the exploitation process every single time they want to move “laterally.”

To put this simply: This makes the network so difficult to chew that hackers would give up and search for greener pastures elsewhere. If you compromise one part of the architecture, the rest of it remains in its own space, making progress incredibly cumbersome.

Let’s put this idea into practice: If you have a sales department, you will only give them access to the data that they need to do their jobs. This means just giving them access to the customer data that is relevant to marketing (such as which products they bought, etc.). Financial information, on the other hand, should only be accessed by the accounting department.

This type of model would make it impossible for a hacker to gain access to a commercial database by compromising the credentials of a sales representative.

In addition to compartmentalization, a zero trust model should also have other principles in place:

  • Restrict the amount of access each employee has so that they only have the data required to do their job correctly.
  • Log everything and make sure that you can see how data flows through your infrastructure, making it easier to understand the path an attack takes when it happens.
  • Use multi-factor authentication to avoid more straightforward attacks.

As I said earlier, zero trust is not meant to stop attacks, but it works as a proactive method to ensure that hackers have a tough time doing whatever they want.

Do you know any creative ways where companies have integrated zero trust architecture? Tell us all about it in a comment!

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