Basic Knowledge

Zero Trust Network (ZTN)

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Ngoc Vo

Marketing Executive @CyStack|May 24, 2023

Learn the benefits of the zero trust network (ZTN) security model and how implementing its key principles can protect your organization from cyber threats.

Zero Trust Network (ZTN): A Modern Approach to Network Security

Cyber threats are becoming more and more sophisticated, and traditional network security measures may no longer be enough to protect your organization. With a focus on constant verification and adaptive access controls, the zero trust network (ZTN) model offers a fresh perspective on securing your operation and assets.

Let’s explore how this can help protect your organization from emerging threats and maintain a robust security stance.

What is Zero Trust Network (ZTN)?

Zero trust network is a security approach that leaves no room for blind trust when it comes to protecting an organization’s digital assets.

Instead of relying on a “trust but verify” mindset, this model assumes no trust and demands constant verification for any user, device, or system trying to access resources on a network.

With the rapid expansion of remote work and cloud-based services, traditional security measures can fall short. Zero trust offers a fresh perspective by putting verification at the core of its strategy. This means that access to sensitive data and systems is strictly granted on a need-to-know basis, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access and enhancing overall security.

Traditional Network Security and Its Pitfalls

Traditional IT network security often follows the castle-and-moat principle, where a strong perimeter is thought to be enough to keep threats at bay.

This approach focuses on building robust firewalls and network defenses to prevent external attacks. However, it often overlooks the risks posed by insiders, whether they are employees or compromised devices within the organization.

The main drawback of the castle-and-moat principle is that once malicious actors manage to breach the perimeter, they usually have free rein inside the network.

This can lead to devastating consequences, as they can access sensitive data, cause disruptions, and even take control of critical systems. In today’s interconnected world, where organizations increasingly rely on remote work and third-party vendors, the focus on perimeter defense alone is simply no longer sufficient.

As businesses expand and evolve, so does the complexity of their networks. The traditional security model is becoming outdated as it struggles to adapt to the ever-changing threat landscape.

When you add to this the increasing number of connected devices and the growth of cloud-based services, it becomes clear that a new approach is necessary.

More and more organizations are turning to the zero trust model to address these challenges. By removing the assumption of trust from the equation, zero trust demands constant verification and provides a more proactive approach to securing an organization’s IT systems.

How Zero Trust Network Works

Never Trust, Always Verify

In a zero trust network, every traffic is treated as hostile, even if it’s already inside the perimeter.

This means that all users, devices, and systems must go through continuous authentication and authorization to access resources, regardless of their location or affiliation with the organization.

Microsegmentation

Microsegmentation is a technique that divides the network into smaller, isolated segments. Each segment, or microperimeter, has its own security controls and access policies.

This approach helps contain potential breaches, limiting the attacker’s ability to move laterally within the network and minimizing the potential damage.

Device access control

Zero trust networks implement granular, context-based policies for device access. These policies take into account factors like user role, device type, and location, allowing for more refined control over who can access what resources.

Policies are also adaptive, adjusting to changes in user behavior or the threat environment to maintain a strong security posture.

Least-privilege access

The principle of least-privilege access means that users and devices are granted the minimum level of access necessary to perform their tasks.

This limits the potential harm that can be caused by compromised accounts, as attackers are restricted in what they can access and modify within the network.

Continuous monitoring and validation

In a zero trust network, monitoring and validation are ongoing processes, not set-it-and-forget-it measures. Organizations must continuously assess the effectiveness of their security controls and adapt them as needed to stay ahead of emerging threats.

By actively monitoring user behavior, network traffic, and device activity, they can identify potential risks and respond quickly to mitigate any issues.

Benefits of Zero Trust Network Security

Adopting a zero-trust model for network security brings several benefits that help organizations stay protected in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.

First and foremost, it reduces the attack surface by demanding continuous authentication and authorization. It would be harder for malicious actors to gain unauthorized access. This, in turn, leads to fewer operational disruptions and a lower cost of recovery in the event of a breach.

Also, the zero-trust model helps minimize damage when an attack does occur.

Microsegmentation and least-privilege access limit the scope of an attack, preventing it from spreading throughout the network. As a result, organizations can contain incidents more effectively, protecting their sensitive data and maintaining business continuity.

The zero-trust approach is also better suited to modern computer networks by acknowledging the increasing complexity of today’s IT ecosystems.

With the rise of remote work, cloud-based services, and a growing number of connected devices, traditional perimeter-based defenses are no longer enough. Zero trust offers a more adaptable and resilient solution that can keep pace with these changes, ensuring organizations remain secure in the face of new threats.

Use Cases of Zero Trust Network

Container and Cloud Environments

In cloud and container environments, zero trust offers more visibility and finer access control, as it treats every access request as untrusted by default.

Thanks to the granular, context-based policies, organizations can ensure that only authorized users and devices can access their cloud resources. This helps protect sensitive data and applications, even in highly dynamic and distributed environments.

Third-Party Access

Zero trust is particularly useful for managing access rights for suppliers and third-party vendors. It helps maintain security while still allowing for efficient collaboration with partners.

Organizations can require continuous verification and limit access to specific resources. These requirements ensure that external parties have only the access they need, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches.

Remote Work

As remote work becomes increasingly common, zero trust can augment traditional tools like VPNs and provide an extra layer of security.

By continuously verifying the identity and context of remote users, organizations can better manage access to their internal resources.

This helps protect against threats such as phishing attacks and compromised credentials. As a result, remote workers can stay productive without compromising the security of the whole system.

OT Environments

In operational technology (OT) environments, such as manufacturing plants and utility networks, zero trust can help protect critical systems from both external and internal threats.

Segmenting the network and applying least-privilege access controls limit the potential damage from a breach or intrusion. Organizations can maintain the availability and integrity of their critical infrastructure, preventing costly downtime and ensuring the safety of employees and customers.

Best Practices of Zero Trust Network Security

Zero-trust networks offer many benefits by assuming a proactive approach to security and consistently verifying access to resources.

To get the most out of this security model, consider implementing the following best practices:

  • Behave as though no network edges exist
  • Partition the network
  • Monitor everything
  • Verify with multi-factor authentication
  • Apply the Principle of Least Privilege
  • Maintain device updates
  • Get Started with Zero Trust Network

    The zero trust network (ZTN) security model offers a more effective way to safeguard your organization from today’s complex cyber threats. This paradigm shift not only helps prevent unauthorized access but also fosters a more robust and dynamic cybersecurity posture.

    To learn more about how CyStack’s security services and solutions can help your organization implement a zero trust approach, we encourage you to get in touch with us today.

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