When we think about cybersecurity, we usually think about it in terms of an inside and an outside. You have your network, application, and data all instead one system, and cybersecurity is about keeping the bad guys on the outside. For awhile, this “castle and moat” model of cybersecurity made a lot of sense. However, as technology has advanced and business needs have changed, experts are now shifting towards a new way of thinking about cybersecurity: zero trust.

The problem with the traditional approach to cybersecurity is that the lines between inside and outside are now blurred. Instead of keeping all our applications and data in a central location, the introduction of cloud-based services has spread out our network into multiple locations with multiple points of access. What’s more, with the recent rise in remote work, our networks are less centralized than ever before.

In many ways, hackers have understood the implications of these changes far faster than we have. Today, brute force attacks have taken a backseat to credential compromise, phishing, and other attacks that allow bad actors to gain access by using your network settings rather than breaking them. And if you use the traditional cybersecurity model, once a hacker gains access to your network, they can spend months freely moving around your network before launching an attack.

That’s why cybersecurity experts are pushing what is called “zero trust” cybersecurity. In essence, this strategy involves verifying the identity and access needs of every single user — no matter if they are coming from inside or outside your network. Instead of assuming that it’s okay to trust anyone already in your network, zero trust means everyone should be mistrusted until proven to be legitimate.

One aspect of zero trust involves using technology to secure your network from the inside out. Multi-factor authentication, network segmentation, and identity and access management systems are all key tools for a zero trust security posture. It’s important to keep a close watch on the access employees have to move around your network. Best zero trust practice means only giving access to an employee for specific business needs then revoking that access after a fixed period of time. Using these practices can help protect your network if an employee’s credentials are compromised.

While using cybersecurity technology will help you build towards a zero trust framework,  without proper governance structures and an overall zero trust culture your organization will remain vulnerable. It’s essential that business leadership understands the concept of zero trust and are active in crafting a culture that values this model of security. If an employee receives an invoice from a vendor, for example, it should be standard procedure to verify the identity of the vendor and the payment request before releasing funds.

At the end of the day, a zero trust approach to cybersecurity requires an active and ongoing effort to prevent cyber threats. Security technology, policies, and culture should be built into your business strategy by design rather than retroactively applied.

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