One of the most common questions a Solution Architect receives that has only increased over the years is, what is Zero Trust security? This article sets out to answer this and another critical question, why is Zero Trust important in today's interconnected world?
What is Zero Trust Security?
Zero Trust is a modern approach to the decades-old problem of how best to secure endpoint devices and critical services in an ever-evolving world. Instead of treating the network perimeter as the primary security control device, Zero Trust security works by trusting no one, regardless of if you are inside or outside the corporate network perimeter.
Fun Fact: The blockchain is zero-trust. We have an article if you want to learn more about the Blockchain.
Several providers have devised their own way of designing a zero-trust solution, some using their own proprietary solutions, others focusing on open-source approaches based on the NIST 800-207 standard. Cloudflare's Zero Trust security is one of the world's largest CDN provider's approaches to Zero Trust through the following two solutions: Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), a Software Defined Perimeter (SDP), and Zero Trust Application Access (ZTAA), a software solution to deploy a zero-trust application architecture that applies access controls on an individual device basis.
How Does Zero Trust Work?
Zero Trust works off the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP) and removes the traditional treatment of the network's perimeter as a security gateway that provides trust once inside. Zero Trust treats all network resources as a protected asset that requires continuous authentication, which you previously had and currently maintain. By treating each resource as its own protected asset with defined security access rules, you are able to balance the availability of data while ensuring your corporate controls on confidentiality and integrity.
Why is Zero Trust Important?
Zero Trust is critical in today's tech-savvy world because of the way we use technology at every level of a business and how it is intertwined with our life. We can no longer treat security and access as a binary answer; with Zero Trust, we are treating every interaction with protected resources as a way to ensure authentication and validate access privileges. Before diving into Cloudflare-specific details, if you like what you have heard so far and would like to implement Zero Trust security, you can do so with our 5-step process.
Features of Cloudflare Zero Trust
- Continuous monitoring and validation: By design, Zero Trust requires continuous authentication and validation to verify that they still contain the proper privilege to access the requested resources. All of this is logged and can be reviewed in Cloudflare Zero Trust Dashboard.
- Access control: Control which devices and users have access to the Zero Trust environment and with what privileges based on user and device rulesets.
- Micro-segmentation: Allows you to split up your network into multiple small discrete security zones, typically isolated based on best practice security practice with the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP). Each zone gets its own set of security rules based on what the user's tasks are and the goals of the zones.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Zero Trust
Advantages of Zero Trust
The most significant advantage of Cloudflare Zero Trust is increased security. These security increases manifest in three different ways:
1. Reduced Attack Surface
With no traditional network edge, you are able to reduce the attack surface while keeping critical services accessible to users that need them. A reduced attack surface is accomplished in multiple ways, but the biggest one is done by having various small silos of resources or services instead of one massive silo.
Each silo access scope is defined by its use, and only those ports are opened. For example, a website using an Apache web server may only expose port 80 (HTTP) and port 443 (HTTPS) to the public. In comparison, developer users may be given access to ports 21 (FTP) and 22 (SSH) to accomplish their development tasks. This website does not need access to the file server using port 445 (SMB), so it would be in its own silo with those users that require access to this resource.
2. Lateral Movement Prevention
Deploying a zero-trust solution correctly requires you to follow the practices known as the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP). POLP and a micro-segmented network are two key ways that make it harder for a malicious actor to gain privileged access to execute an attack or data extraction.
In a traditional security perimeter, once a bad actor has gained access to your corporate network, they have gained the keys to the kingdom. They can bypass internal systems or extract data from systems unprotected by a second layer of security.
Lateral movement can happen with little to no insight and often goes unnoticed for months, even years, in some cases. With a zero-trust solution like our partner Cloudflare, the risk of this lateral movement and data extraction can be reduced by limiting the security incident to a single device and user with all access history available for future review in your dashboard.
3. End-User Security
Being able to scope security ruleset to individual resources and individual users, you are able to keep your end users in mind, which helps limit the risk of them trying to bypass your security to accomplish their designated tasks.
Disadvantages of Zero Trust
There are not many disadvantages of Zero Trust, but there are a few that have some clear concerns that should be addressed:
1. Vendor Lock-in
Due to vendors having their own flavor of Zero Trust, it is possible and a significant concern to be locked into a vendor's ecosystem. Locked into a single vendor, you must trust the provider since they can change any aspect or even cancel the product. You may be made to pay for their new pricing scheme or find a new solution and try to migrate.
Deploying a zero-trust solution can be an increasingly complex task the more extensive your footprint grows. This is why it is vital for smaller companies to get started early, where possible, to avoid a large shift in the future. However, even the largest projects, when broken into smaller projects, can be simplified and deployed in a zero-trust solution.
3. Initial Time Sink
Hunting down misconfigurations and pre-planning initial deployment can take additional hours compared to traditional security services like a perimeter firewall for the initial setup of new users or devices, but once set up, the time sync is typically lower.
Is a Zero Trust Solution Right for You?
If you are taking advantage of Liquid Web's enterprise solutions like VMware Private Cloud or Server Clusters. It makes sense to take advantage of Liquid Web's Cloudflare partnership for their world-class CDN and their powerful Zero Trust solution. Zero Trust can tap into advanced features of our environments in a more secure manner.
Regardless of the type of business you run and the type of data you are storing, Zero Trust can be implemented to benefit your organization in a tech-savvy world, helping you stay protected and evolve as your organization requires.
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