Entrusting The Trust In Zero Trust Cybersecurity

Mohammed Eissa, Regional Sales Director, MEA, Entrust highlights the advantages and challenges of Zero Trust cybersecurity and explains in detail how Zero Trust effectively shields the networks and data from malicious actors

Can you explain the fundamentals of ‘Zero Trustcybersecurity?
In order to understand the fundamentals of Zero Trust cybersecurity we need to understand what Zero Trust is. Simply put, it is a strategy that assumes every connection, device, and user is a potential threat and should be treated as such. Comparing this framework to other cybersecurity strategies, the Zero Trust framework eliminates implicit trust and requires all users, whether in or outside the organization, to be continuously authenticated before they’re granted network access.

Fundamentally there are three principles that are integral to this framework; these include continuous authentication, limiting the blast radius, and giving the least privilege access to the users. Continuous authentication means granting access to users based on their identity, location and data classification. After this contextual analysis, the user can either be simply allowed or prompted to provide additional information via another authentication challenge, or if the risk is very high, they are blocked.

Limiting the blast radius means organizations should always anticipate data breach and as such, have maximised visibility into user activity. This will empower organizations, to drive threat detection and always improve their defenses.

Lastly, organizations should also ensure that are access control policies in place to ensure that user access should be limited based on just- in-time and just-enough access time to only have permission to use the resources the users need to do their jobs and complete critical tasks.

Why is zero trust cybersecurity important for modern businesses and how does it challenge traditional trust models?
Cyber threats are evolving and becoming more sophisticated day by day. In the UAE, there are a daily of 50,000 cyber-attacks, ranging from ransomware to phishing attacks. If companies are to protect themselves from these attacks using traditional trust models – typically relying on a combination of technology such as antivirus software and human judgment —that will ultimately increase the potential of human error. With an infrastructure based on implicit trust, it’s only a matter of time before an attack slips through the cracks and bypasses an organization’s cyber defences.

This is where Zero Trust framework comes in. This framework defines access policies through a “never trust, always verify” lens. Regardless of where a request originates or what resource it aims to use, zero trust environments will fully authenticate, authorize, and encrypt before granting network access — never afterward. Your employees can only use them under the right circumstances, as determined by a number of contextual factors. These factors include user identity, role at the organization, the sensitivity of the resource requested, the device in use, and so on.

By utilizing AI, organizations can further enhance their Zero Trust mitigating real-time threats, enhancing data protection and integrating threat intelligence feeds to enhance organization’s ability to combat phishing and ransomware attacks effectively.

Can you discuss the challenges organizations face while setting up aZero Trust framework and how can they overcome those challenges?
Implementing a Zero Trust framework can be a daunting task for organizations, as it requires a significant shift in the traditional security paradigm. One of the biggest challenges that organizations face is the complexity of the process, which can require significant time and energy. There is a significant investment of time and resources needed to design and deploy a Zero Trust architecture that can provide a high level of security without impacting the productivity of the workforce.

The Zero Trust framework is a strategy and not a product, therefore it requires organizations to continually monitor and update security protocols to ensure that they are effective and up to date.

Lastly, one of the other challenges that organizations face when implementing a Zero Trust framework is dealing with legacy systems. Many organizations have legacy systems and applications that may not be compatible with a Zero Trust model, making it difficult to fully adopt the framework. These legacy systems may be outdated and not designed with modern security considerations in mind, which can make them vulnerable to cyber threats.

While Zero Trust framework had its own sets of risks, to overcome these challenges, organizations must take a systematic approach to Zero Trust implementation. They should start by identifying their most critical assets and data and prioritize their implementation efforts accordingly. Organizations should also invest in employee education and training to ensure that they have the required support from the organization to transition towards a Zero Trust framework and ensure these employees understand the benefits of Zero Trust and how it can help protect the data.

How do you ensure that all elements of the network, from devices to people, are verified and trustworthy in a Zero Trust environment?
The Zero Trust framework is a holistic and comprehensive approach to enterprise-wide IT protection that is built upon five key elements: Identity, Devices, Networks, Applications, Workloads, and Data. A Zero Trust environment is all about verifying the identity of the user before granting access. This is accomplished by implementing by Identity and access management (IAM) and Multifactor authentication (MFA) solutions to prevent unauthorized access. Since all devices connected to a corporate network can be vulnerable to emerging data threats, it’s crucial for organizations to maintain an inventory of these connections and continuously monitor their integrity for rapid threat detection.

Additionally, all network traffic is reviewed and secured, regardless of its origin or destination, and compartmentalises the entire system to limit movement of potential threats. Organizations should always protect both on-premise and cloud-based workloads by implementing application-level access policies and other security mechanisms. Finally, data security ensures that all data, whether at rest, in use, or in transit, is encrypted, monitored, and safeguarded to prevent unauthorized disclosure. By focusing on these five areas, organizations can establish a robust Zero Trust security model that effectively shields their networks and data from malicious actors.

How important is internal upskilling for the implementation of a Zero Trust Framework? What is your advice to businesses trying to do this?
To fully implement a Zero Trust framework within a business, upskilling is a fundamental component. Without effective training teams will not be able to adapt to changing threats, let alone align with Zero Trust principles.

Employees require resources and training to effectively contribute to the implementation of the new standards and processes and to bolster the data security posture of the organization. Without these necessities, employee performance may be impacted as an immediate impact to organizational changes, resulting in a loss of competitive edge for the company. To mitigate these risks, ensuring a smooth is vital to business continuity.

Understanding the importance of investing in employees’ education and skills will undoubtedly enhance an organization’s cybersecurity posture and reduce the risks associated with today’s complex threat landscape. At Entrust, we see this as a crucial element to adoption, and we actively encourage our channel partners to promote continuous learning.

Why is it importance fora CIO/CISO to consider a Zero Trust framework?
Implementing a Zero Trust framework is imperative for today’s Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) due to the rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape. Traditional network perimeters have become obsolete as remote work, cloud computing, and mobile devices redefine the way organizations operate. A Zero Trust approach recognizes that threats can originate from both inside and outside the organization and centers on safeguarding data, not just the network. This data-centric security strategy addresses the increasing threat of data breaches and ensures that sensitive information remains protected.

Moreover, Zero Trust mitigates insider threats, which are a significant concern in the security realm. It follows a “never trust, always verify” philosophy, requiring continuous authentication and authorization, significantly reducing the risk posed by insiders. In addition, as organizations embrace cloud services and expand their remote work capabilities, Zero Trust offers a secure means to access resources and data from anywhere, without relying on the traditional network boundary. It also helps meet stringent compliance standards and enhances user experience by providing secure access while limiting the attack surface. By adopting a Zero Trust framework, CIOs and CISOs can fortify their organization’s cybersecurity posture, ensuring data protection and resilience in the face of advanced and persistent threats.