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Zero Trust (ZT)

Reviewed by John MeahCheckmark | Last updated: August 26, 2021

What Does Zero Trust (ZT) Mean?

Zero Trust (ZT) is a data-centric cybersecurity strategy for enterprise computing that assumes no end-user, computing device, web service, or network connection can be trusted -- even when an access request originates from within the organization’s own network perimeter.

The Zero Trust model has evolved to take into account distributed computing and an ever-expanding attack surface. Unlike a single sign-on (SSO) strategy that allows users to log in once and access multiple network services without re-entering authentication factors, Zero Trust requires authentication factors to be verified -- and re-verified -- each time a network resource is requested.

Because untrusted threat actors exist both internally and external to a network, Zero Trust supports the following principles:

  • Never Trust
  • Always Verify
  • Enforce Least Privilege

An important goal of the Zero Trust Model is to prevent malicious actors from using a compromised account to move laterally across a target network.

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Techopedia Explains Zero Trust (ZT)

In the past, cybersecurity efforts were focused on protecting the network perimeter. With the growth of the distributed cloud and edge computing, network elements that historically weren't a part of access control decisions have become essential -- and need to be protected just like any other attack surface.

How Zero Trust works

Zero Trust protects critical data and resources both inside and outside the traditional network perimeter by using information gathered in real-time from multiple sources. This requires DevOps teams and security engineers to work together and design an integrated set of security processes capable of inspecting and logging all types of network traffic.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) uses the principle of least privilege (POLP) to limit access to network resources. ZT Identity and Access Management (IAM) processes rely on a combination of contextual factors, including username, password, device type, IP address, and physical location to decide whether an access request should be allowed or denied.

Microsegmentation is playing an important role in Zero Trust because it logically breaks a large network into smaller, more manageable segments. Dividing the network into microsegments allows network security engineers to detect and contain intrusions significantly faster and more effectively than is possible with traditional, monolithic cybersecurity architectures that are only designed to protect the network perimeter.

A Zero Trust architecture requires a robust cybersecurity infrastructure capable of making, logging, and enforcing access decisions for disparate (but related) cybersecurity capabilities. Network and engineers will need to know how to use software-defined networking (SDN) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to look for data patterns that indicate malicious activity in real-time. To ensure access control enforcement remains as granular as possible, security engineers will also need to know how to work with artificial intelligence (AI) and the robotic process automation (RPA) programming that will grant or deny access permissions.

Zero Trust Challenges and Advantages

Zero Trust implementation is not easy. Moving to a Zero Trust security model requires everyone in an organization to understand and commit to the need for verification and re-verification requests.

At its best, a successful Zero Trust strategy will help ensure damage can be quickly contained and remediated when a particular user credential, hardware device, or network service is compromised. When implemented poorly on the back end, however, Zero Trust can cause latency and a poor user experience (UX).

History of Zero Trust

While the term Zero Trust is often credited to John Kindervag, some security experts credit Stephen Paul Marsh with coining the term.

A report published by Forrester research analyst, Dr. Chase Cunningham, entitled, "The Zero Trust eXtended (ZTX) Ecosystem Report" delves further and outlines how an eXtended Zero Trust framework can support networks, data, workloads, devices and people.

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Synonyms

Zero Trust Policy, Zero Trust Architecture, Zero Trust Access Management (ZTAM), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

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Tags

CybersecurityEnterprise ApplicationsIT ManagementInformation AssuranceEdge Computing

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