Zero Trust Security

What Is Zero Trust Security?

Zero Trust Security is a cybersecurity framework that requires users prove who they are, that their access is authorized, and that they’re not acting maliciously before they can access an organization’s digital assets and network.

As the modern hybrid work environment has rendered traditional, on-premises network-based security models obsolete, Zero Trust Security has risen in prominence as a means to protect an organization’s data and people—especially as remote work and cloud-based services become the norm.

According to Forrester, Zero Trust Security denies users’ access to applications and data by default. It assumes that there is no longer a traditional network edge, taking a much more stringent, continuous, and dynamic approach to user authentication. The challenge, then, is ensuring that Zero Trust Security is seamless enough to avoid impacting the user experience.

Zero Trust Security

Zero Trust Benefits

Zero Trust-based cybersecurity solutions provide a much higher level of security than traditional systems, delivering a host of benefits.

Reduced Business Risk

Zero Trust prevents communication between applications and services until fully verified, a process that also highlights what is being used and where. This enables much greater oversight of business resource usage, reducing the risk of malicious abuse.

Unified Access Control

Bringing cloud and container environments under a uniform Zero Trust Security framework alongside traditional resources means that authentication is tied to workloads and assets that need protection. Security, therefore, remains at the same high level wherever users and business resources are located.

Reduction in Breaches

Compliance Support

Zero Trust shields users and workloads from the Internet. This lack of exposure makes it easier to demonstrate compliance with privacy standards and regulations. It’s also possible to create extra protection to separate regulated from non-regulated data.
A Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) is built around the principles of Zero Trust Security, using a series of components designed to make continuous authentication robust and as seamless as possible to the end user. The users are strongly authenticated in a continuous but unobtrusive fashion. In parallel, the devices that they use are constantly monitored for compromise. Infrastructure access is controlled by user authentication and device verification. Access to applications is granular, based on user need, and protected by multiple factors. The system is holistically monitored using security analytics that leverage advanced cybersecurity AI to detect threats in real time. Automated adaption of policies maximizes the cost-effectiveness of the approach. Conformation to the NIST 800-207 standard shows the Zero Trust Architecture upholds the central tenets of the Zero Trust methodology.

How Zero Trust Works

The critical difference between Zero Trust and traditional security systems is that authentication is never assumed but denied by default. With traditional security, once access has been granted within the network perimeter, it typically persists either permanently or for an extended period without the need for refresh. In contrast, Zero Trust continuously monitors user’s behavior and validates that they and their devices have the proper privileges and attributes. The risk associated with the user, their device, and context is taken into account based on real-time visibility of user and application activity.

Zero Trust leverages a variety of identity attributes to maintain optimum levels of security during access to enterprise or cloud assets, including:

  • Type of credential providing user identity verification.
  • Privileges associated with credentials.
  • Context, including device location (within corporate premises or in a public space) and user behavior.
  • Continuous authentication, potentially including multi-factor and background biometrics.
  • Device health, including operating system versions, patch levels, and firmware updates.
  • Applications installed on endpoints, assessing those that could pose a threat.
  • Detection of suspicious activity from user, device, and context.

Zero Trust Security constantly and dynamically monitors these attributes, applying analytics and AI/ML to provide a proactive policy response. Most cyberattacks are against credentials and identity stores, so this dynamic threat monitoring ensures greater system integrity.

Zero Trust Security isn’t a single product or service but a methodology backed by an ecosystem. For that reason, it may not entail a wholesale replacement of existing security infrastructure. An organization could already have some components in place that will be valuable for the journey towards Zero Trust. Considering that you will also need to take your users on this journey, maintaining familiar processes and practices will help smooth the transition.

The assessment of an organization’s readiness and steps required for the implementation of Zero Trust revolves around how identity is articulated in an organization, which could be at one of these four stages:

1. Fragmented Identity

An organization at this stage will likely rely on Microsoft Active Directory to manage permissions in a network perimeter security system. However, employees have tended to use weak passwords that are the same across multiple accounts, meaning that a compromise of one system leads to access to another. With much greater use of external resources (the cloud, mobile devices, etc.), this stage is at much greater risk than ever before.

2. Unified Identity and Access Management

A unified Identity and Access Management (IAM) system can be the foundation of Zero Trust Security. This consolidates all users into a central directory that tracks which enterprise resources they have access to. A Single Sign-On (SSO) eliminates the need for different logins for a portfolio of cloud-based applications. The SSO provides access to all resources the user has permission to use, which is also easier for them to use. IAM also facilitates the deployment of multi-factor authentication (MFA) to strengthen security further.

3. Contextual Access with Automated Provisioning

Beyond unified IAM are systems where policies track behavior, such as a user login from a different location to the typical one, which would then trigger MFA. Similarly, a device in a public location left unused beyond a typical timeframe could also trigger MFA. This system also enables automated provisioning and de-provisioning, allowing system administrators to add or restrict privileges, such as when an employee leaves their job or changes department.

4. Adaptive Workforce

Zero Trust is not a static implementation but a dynamic methodology. As new technologies arrive, such as password-free biometric authentication, they can be added to improve security and efficiency. AI and ML can be applied to evolve policies as new threats emerge and are detected.

Once an organization’s security or IT team has assessed what phase its identity systems are at and their readiness for Zero Trust, it can begin to implement the methodology.

Implementation involves three broad stages:

1. Visualization

An organization will probably have a good idea of the resources it makes available inside the traditional network perimeter. But Zero Trust requires understanding all resources, their access points, and the associated risks involved. An inventory of available resources should include all the services employees use, both on and off premises.

2. Mitigation

Once the full range of resources used has been mapped, the next step is to detect and stop associated threats, or mitigate the impact of a breach, from each of them. Mitigation involves setting comprehensive policies.

3. Optimization

The final stage of implementation extends protection to every aspect of IT infrastructure and every resource, whatever its location or the locations of the user accessing them. This stage incorporates enhancing the experience of end users and administrative teams to make the Zero Trust Security as seamless as possible and as close to the Zero Touch ideal as possible.

Implementing a Zero Trust access control model isn’t necessarily a simple task to undertake.

Organizations who understand the tremendous benefits to be realized and are determined to implement a Zero Trust architecture can expect to encounter several challenges along the way, including:

Technology Silos

Legacy operating systems and applications, development tools and  platforms, third-party applications, and services along with “homegrown” applications and many others

Lack of Technology Integration

Hurdles can emerge with owned and third-party platforms—any issues with these integrations can easily derail a Zero Trust implementation.

Rapidly Changing Threat Surface and Threat Landscape

This can potentially lead to challenges with technologies that are limited in deployment modality.


What is Zero Trust Security?

Zero Trust Security is a cybersecurity system whose default mode is not to trust entities such as users and their devices. Regular reauthentication ensures a higher level of integrity for infrastructure and application access, providing greater protection against cyber threats in a hybrid work environment.

Why is Zero Trust Security important?

With the rise of remote and hybrid work and the proliferation of mobile devices used both on- and off-premises, how we access applications, data, and services has changed. Business applications range from traditional on-premises software to containerization and the cloud. Zero Trust Security provides a solution to this varied access scenario.

What is a Zero Trust Assessment?

A Zero Trust Assessment is an organization’s measurement of how mature its existing processes are for implementing Zero Trust Security. This assessment focuses on how the organization handles identity, which can be at one of four stages:

  1. Fragmented Identity, where different logins are used for each service
  2. Unified Identity Access Management enabling a Single Sign-On and Multi-Factor Authentication across all resources
  3. Contextual Access with Automated Provision that adds dynamic policy adjustment based on context
  4. Adaptive Workforce in which the organization is ready to integrate new security technologies as they arrive.

What is a Zero Trust eXtended (ZTX) ecosystem?

Zero Trust eXtended (ZTX) is a development from Forrester that expands Zero Trust Security across a company’s entire digital ecosystem—beyond mere network segmentation and with a focus on identity and data. A ZTX ecosystem includes the entire suite of services and platforms an organization needs for a successful Zero Trust Security implementation.

What are the 3 stages of the Zero Trust Security Model?

Zero Trust Security Model implementation happens in three stages:

  1. Visualization reveals the company’s resources, access points and associated risks. 
  2. Mitigation then detects and prevents potential threats. 
  3. Optimization extends protection to every aspect of the IT infrastructure regardless of location on- or off-premises while providing the best possible user experience.

What is Zero Trust Architecture?

Zero Trust Architecture is built around the principles of Zero Trust Security, using a series of components designed to make continuous authentication robust and as seamless as possible to the end user. The users are strongly authenticated in a continuous but unobtrusive fashion. In parallel, the devices that they use are constantly monitored for compromise.

Zero Trust Security should be the goal of every security team. The methodology is ready to address the flexibility and challenges of modern hybrid work. Assessing and implementing Zero Trust entails an expert technology partner, which is why organizations choose BlackBerry® Zero Trust Architecture powered by Cylance® AI to protect their people, data, and networks.