3 Key Building Blocks of Zero Trust Architecture

There are a number of steps involved in achieving Zero Trust, we recently highlighted these in our podcast episode titled ‘Zero Trust – Demystified’ and in our recent blog on implementing a Zero Trust framework. In this week’s blog we’ll cover the three key building blocks associated with developing a long-term Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) framework.

Zero Trust is about designing and architecting security and networks where nothing is trusted until it can prove its trustworthiness, where the perimeter is moved as close to the devices, data or applications as possible.

Zero Trust is not one single technology, you can’t buy Zero Trust off the shelf, nor is it a single service offering. It’s a long term strategy and shift in organisational mindset that informs all IT security decision making and is built upon people, process and technology.

The common misconception with Zero Trust is that it’s just technology, and it is an essential part of the framework, however, understanding the processes before, during and after Zero Trust, are essential in shifting your organisation forward. Not only that, Zero Trust has made the security perimeter about people and users, therefore, the way you view technology in a ‘ZT’ model, needs to put people first.

Achieving Zero Trust with People

People become the perimeter

Employees, partners, customers and users (as well as bot technologies and the like) become the perimeter and need to be absolutely protected across every device and application. Not only that, it’s essential for users to be able to ensure the maintenance of customer and employee experience.

Each individual user within and outside of the organisation needs to be considered within the Zero Trust model. The major component that achieves Zero Trust through people is Identity and Access Management, or IAM. This can be an area that is highly vulnerable to external attacks, but where significant security gains can be made in the foundational phase of the Zero Trust Architecture framework.

Starting with people, you can begin to map out the most critical IAM objectives to achieve the security standard, for instance implementing multi factor authentication (MFA) and single-sign-on (SSO) can help to resolve many problems in security compliance.

One of the most significant aspects of Zero Trust IAM is in understanding that you don’t need to give more access to data and applications than each individual user requires, this is known as Least Privileged Access and can be managed through a review process where sectors with ownership of applications can re-assess the entitlements different users are granted. The same is true for users with privileges that don’t require admin-level access to systems they don’t require to effectively do their job.

Although this involves specific technical use cases, the point here is that people are now the perimeter and that requires a mindset shift and educational process to enable this thinking throughout your IT team and organisation as a whole.

Educating users and involving stakeholders

Other considerations for people include educating your employees on how day to day business and workflows will change with Zero Trust security in place. User education is a key component to ensure the successful implementation of Zero Trust.

It’s also important to balance risk and productivity in any IT project, especially with Zero Trust. Ensuring all relevant stakeholders have bought into the Zero Trust journey is critical to ensure its success in the long term.

Establishing a Zero Trust Architecture requires an organisational mindset shift and it’s important to address why Zero Trust is being implemented, how it will protect your employees and customers and why it's important that the organisation endorses it. Bringing the business along from the start will ensure the Zero Trust journey can be as smooth as possible, whilst also meeting the critical goal of absolute security across every individual and its devices, applications and data.

Achieving Zero Trust With Process

Process is essential for Zero Trust and should be considered well before implementing new technologies. In our previous blog we covered where to start in implementing Zero Trust, with four simple steps;

  1. Map your environment: assess your ‘current state’ by taking inventory of all assets within your IT environment across the entire organisation 
  2. Assess the pathways and process flows: assess the most important process flows across your business departments to determine priorities and least privileged access
  3. Design Policies and Rules for the Microperimeter: achieve deeper granularity across every endpoint to minimise the attack surface with effective policy
  4. Ongoing monitoring and enforcement of the Zero Trust Architecture: in order for Zero Trust to work effectively, ongoing monitoring and governance must be in place - and as dynamic as possible.

Process underpins everything you do with Zero Trust, and it's important to understand that it's a long term strategy that will take time to integrate, evaluate and improve. Map out the process flows at the beginning of your ZT roadmap journey, and this will make life much easier as you get into the enforcement of rules and policies in your Zero Trust Architecture.

Achieving Zero Trust with Technology

Once people and processes are thoroughly covered, existing and new technologies can be leveraged to implement a solid Zero Trust Architecture. At Cloud Solutions Group, we define the technologies across a core framework to achieve the strategy and outcomes of Zero Trust. Each organisation will already have particular technologies in place, which is why it’s essential that you map your environment and assess your current inventory before implementing new technologies.

Our technical ZT framework incorporates:

  • Identity and Access Management
  • Email Gateway
  • Endpoint Protection
  • Device Management & Protection
  • Secure Collaboration
  • Network Monitoring & Security
  • Perimeter & Posture
  • Backup & Data
  • App Whitelisting
  • Patch Management

Understanding where to focus on a technical Zero Trust security level comes back to evaluating the risk associated with implementing new technologies and modifying existing ones to suit your ZT framework. It's important to define the core business objectives and essential elements of your Zero Trust Architecture before implementing new technologies, this will support your organisation to minimise complexity and map out a realistic strategy that balances risk and productivity.

Zero Trust can be achieved with the right people, process and technology in place. Our cybersecurity expert team at Cloud Solutions Group have built a Zero Trust Architecture Assessment and Roadmap process to achieve a pathway to Zero Trust.
In this assessment and roadmap engagement we work with you to:
  • Identify and document your cybersecurity perimeter
  • Review security architecture against modern threats
  • Assess readiness for simulated attacks
  • Highlight a maturity scale of cybersecurity improvements
  • Assess the suitability and configuration of all your Zero Trust Architecture components including Identity & Access Management, Email Gateways, Endpoint Detection and Response systems, Device Management and many more.
Schedule your discovery session at the link below to get started on your Zero Trust Architecture journey today.