July 7, 2023

    What is Zero Trust?

    Zero Trust is a security model that requires you to verify the identity of every user and device on your network, even if they're internal. It's an approach that began as a way to prevent unauthorized access to resources within an organization's network, but it has more recently been embraced by cloud service providers and managed security service providers (MSSPs).

    So What Exactly is Zero Trust?

    Zero Trust is the practice of not automatically trusting anyone, even those inside your network. In zero trust, you can't trust anyone automatically. Trust is earned, not assumed. It's dynamic and fluid—and it's not binary: it exists on a spectrum of more or less trust.

    Zero Trust means that employees have a role to play in securing data in their organization. A common misconception is that this amounts to "no trust at all," but in reality, employees are still trusted with access to resources within their job scope as long as they adhere to security policies and best practices. In this new era of remote work, this is even more critical given an employee can access data from anywhere.

    The point of Zero Trust isn't about distrusting your colleagues; rather, it's about protecting yourself from threats like malicious insiders who could steal sensitive information or cause damage through negligence (e.g., leaving an unpatched server on the internet). This new way of thinking pushes us away from our current state of business as usual towards a more secure future where everyone knows how important security is when using any given resource within an organization’s network

    A Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) uses zero trust principles to plan industrial and enterprise infrastructure and workflows.

    Zero Trust Means That You Always Verify Who You Are Communicating With, Whether They're Internal or External

    Zero Trust means exactly what it sounds like: zero trust. It's a way of thinking about security that has implications for how you choose to build and operate your business. In Zero Trust, you assume the worst-case scenario when making any decision related to authentication and authorization. If a user or device attempts to connect to your network, they will be treated as an unknown until they can authenticate their identity and prove they are who they say they are.

    For example, if a user attempts to access sensitive information at work through a browser on their laptop:

    • You first verify that it is actually this individual in front of their computer before granting them access (authentication).
    • If it looks like them but isn't really them (double-authentication), then you ask for additional proof before granting access (authorization).

    The Common Criteria Model

    The Common Criteria model is a risk-management tool used to assess the security and privacy of IT systems. It's a framework that can be used to assess the security and privacy of IT systems.

    One Example of a Zero Trust Approach is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF)

    The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) is a risk-management tool that can be used to replace or enhance the Common Criteria model. The NIST CSF consists of four major components:

    • Risk assessment: A formal process for evaluating information security risks and determining if they're acceptable.
    • Security control selection: The process of selecting appropriate security controls from a catalog of common controls, hybrid controls, and organization-tailored standard or non-standard controls based on risk assessment results and organizational needs (i.e., cost).
    • Control implementation: This refers to implementing technical, operational, and management safeguards that mitigate risk within an environment using selected cybersecurity controls (i.e., it's about more than just buying new software).
    • Assurance review & testing: This refers to verifying whether current control implementations are effective in mitigating threats by conducting periodic audits or reviews (i.e., checking if things are working as intended).

    Common Problems with Remote Access

    Remote access is a gateway to your network and the ability to access everything from anywhere, which means it’s also a gateway to potential problems. As an example, let’s say you’re traveling for work and need access to a file that's stored on your laptop. You have it saved in the cloud as well as in an encrypted folder on your computer. The file is not encrypted at rest, however, so if someone gets into this folder when you're away from home or office then they can steal information without knowing the password protecting it because they don't even need one! This is just one example of how remote access can create security problems within an organization - there are many more examples out there (for example malware infections).

    NIST Cybersecurity Framework Requirements

    In order for NIST Cybersecurity Framework to work, it requires the use of encryption and identity-based policies, which allow organizations to receive an audit trail of user activity on remote systems. To understand why the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is such a critical tool for organizations looking to protect their networks and data, it's important to understand what it is. The framework consists of four pillars:

    • Identify - discover assets, identify risks and vulnerabilities
    • Protect - implement technical controls and policies
    • Detect - monitor the environment for intrusions or anomalies
    • Respond - contain damage swiftly 
    • Recover - restore normal operations and begin recovery planning

    Protecting Data at Rest

    Protecting your data at rest involves using encryption and file system permissions to prevent unauthorized access and usage of data stored on servers and endpoints. You can use encryption to protect data at rest that includes:

    • Encrypting sensitive data stored in databases or file systems
    • Using file system permissions to control access to systems, applications, files, and folders that contain sensitive data at rest. You should also regularly review these permissions for each endpoint device in your organization (for example laptops and smartphones) to ensure users have the minimum necessary privileges required for their job function.

    It's important that you only give people access to what they need so no one else can get into their accounts or steal their credentials if they leave the company.

    Critical Aspects of Zero Trust

    The critical aspects of zero trust are based on verifying users' identities before granting them access to sensitive data, encrypting sensitive data wherever it's stored, and being able to cut off access when needed.

    Zero Trust is a model of security that focuses on verifying users before granting them access to sensitive data. This requires the use of encryption and identity-based policies, as well as the ability to cut off access when needed.

    In other words, Zero Trust says that you can't trust anyone and you need to verify their identity every time they want to do something with your systems or data (unless you've already verified them once before).


    Zero Trust is still a relatively new approach, but it's quickly gaining popularity among security professionals as a way to protect their organizations' data. It also makes sense that this would be an attractive option for businesses: by using these techniques, companies can eliminate many of their current vulnerabilities while also saving money on expensive cybersecurity measures like firewalls and antivirus software. It's not perfect by any means—and we'll talk more about how it compares with other popular methods later in the article—but if you're looking for an alternative to traditional defenses that might just work better at keeping your company safe from cyberattacks without costing too much money or manpower (or both), then Zero Trust could be worth considering!

    Arvind Mistry

    Arvind, Sharetru's Director of Compliance, brings 11+ years' experience in cloud solutions for Federal Govt. & public sector from esteemed companies.

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