The Basics of the Zero Trust Security Model

Cyber programs have evolved as the threat landscape has become more dangerous. New advances in AI and machine learning have also improved capabilities when it comes to protecting against malicious threats.

Unfortunately, things like AI are also being deployed by large criminal groups to make ransomware, phishing, credential compromise, and other attacks more effective.

Between January 1 and June 30, 2020, small and mid-sized companies accounted for two-thirds of the Canadian organizations that became victims of cyberattacks. 

Another disturbing figure is the increase in ransomware remediation costs for businesses. Over the last year, they’ve more than doubled from C$970,722 to C$2.3 million.

Without strong protections put in place by cyber security companies, Canada has a big problem with protecting company and government infrastructure. For example, Canada’s signals intelligence agency identified 235 ransomware incidents against Canadian Targets from January to mid-November of 2021. More than half of those were targeting critical infrastructure providers, such as hospitals.

To combat these more sophisticated cyber attacks, cyber security firms are turning to a newer cyber security model called Zero Trust.

What is Zero Trust Architecture?

The Zero Trust security model is not one type of software that you use to protect your technology infrastructure. Rather, it’s a way of thinking and an entire architecture of how cyber security is developed by a company and its cyber security consultant.

Rather than only protecting the perimeter of a business technology network (the castle and moat approach), Zero Trust doesn’t assume that just because a user or process is already inside the network, that they belong there.

A benefit of using a Zero Trust approach is that it includes more checks and balances because it does not assume any network edge. This means that cyber security services and safeguards are applied throughout an IT environment, not just at an “external to internal” barrier. 

How Zero Trust Works 

Zero Trust works by applying its principles to the implementation of all layers of cyber security protections. This would include things like using multi-factor authentication on all cloud account logins and deploying monitoring systems on endpoint access to company data.

Some of the key principles that Zero Trust security addresses are based upon National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines. These include:

Continuous Verification

This will involve verification of users, and not only at the time of initial login. As well as verification that certain programs and processes are authorized to run.

For example, rather than using a list of malicious programs to block from running in a system, which can miss newer threats not yet identified, a Zero Trust approach is used. This involves the use of a safe list instead that identifies the programs and processes allowed to run and blocks all others by default.

Limit the “Blast Radius”

This includes systems in place to silo damage to keep it at a minimum should an attacker breach a network. 

This may include additional verifications needed before one trusted program can take commands from another. It may also include what’s known as application ringfencing, which restricts the types of interactions different trusted systems can have with each other. 

Automate Context Collection & Response

A more accurate threat response can be launched when a system has the context of the entire infrastructure, not just for one specific application or process. Zero Trust looks to integrate behavior data and systems to learn from this using machine learning for improved accuracy and speed of threat responses.

Zero Trust in Layers

We’ve discussed the approach behind the Zero Trust architecture. Let’s now take a look at what this means for the types of IT security you implement.

When working with Zero Trust, cyber security companies in Canada and around the world will put in place some of the following safeguards:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Continuous systems monitoring and validation
  • Rule of Least Privilege (users are granted the lowest access possible for their job)
  • Device access control
  • Small security perimeter zones to mitigate the damage if a system is breached
  • Prevention of lateral movement within an IT infrastructure
  • Application safe-listing and ringfencing

Benefits of Zero Trust

Improves Access Control for Cloud Security

Using a Zero Trust approach will help you reduce your risk of a credential breach that allows a bad actor to gain access to an employee cloud account.

Credential compromise is now the #1 cause of data breaches.

Reduces Risk

Because Zero Trust cyber security programs take a stance of distrust of users and processes by default, instead of the other way around, you reduce your risk of falling victim to a cyber attack. This is especially true for zero-day exploits and newer, more sophisticated attacks.

Improves Compliance

Using a Zero Trust approach improves data security, which also improves compliance with data protection regulations.

How to Implement Zero Trust Security 

  1. Get an assessment of your current IT security strategy.
  2. Identify gaps that leave systems at risk from an unknown threat.
  3. Work with a cyber security consultant to create a Zero-Trust framework for your technology infrastructure.
  4. Prioritize your framework implementation to address the most vulnerable areas first.
  5. Implement the principles of Zero-Trust throughout your data, device, network, and cloud security.
  6. Take a “Zero Trust first” stance when adding any new IT security safeguards.

Conclusion  

Using a Zero Trust security model isn’t just for large enterprise organizations. It should be deployed by all sized companies to reduce the risk of a costly breach that could seriously damage their business wellbeing. 

Get Started Implementing Zero Trust in Your Organization

Dynamix Solutions can help your Toronto or Calgary organization improve your protection against cyber threats with a Zero Trust approach.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation! Call Toll Free: 1 (855) 405-1087 or reach out online.

You may also call us at our Toronto office (416) 657-2449 or our Calgary office (403) 456-2183

Dynamix Solutions is CyberSecure Canada Certified by the Canadian Federal Government.

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