A New Age of Security Built on Zero Trust

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Cybersecurity is undergoing an intense metamorphosis. We are in a race to meet the demands of a remote workforce, while facing methodical attacks that threaten our data security and customer privacy. The need for greater access to applications and data often exposes organizations to potential data breaches.

After more than 20 years in the security field, I have seen a lot of – but not so effective – security solutions. Without a complete end-to-end approach and an organized framework based on a common foundational element, like identity, organizations will remain vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks come in all sizes – from ransomware attacks to hackers – damaging business operations, revealing sensitive information, violating trust, and resulting in potential government probes and lawsuits. It can be costly. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that cybercrime will cost the world an astounding $6 trillion annually in 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

 

Shift to Zero Trust & SASE

True enterprise transformation embraces a cloud-first and application-centric model. An emerging framework that sits at the convergence of networking and security, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), consolidates identity with security solutions to provide the efficacy needed in an application-centric cloud-first world. Although there are different interpretations of SASE as a set of integrated security technology solutions, Zero Trust is the central driving force. Zero Trust starts with the mindset that every user, every device – inside or outside the network perimeter – is a security risk. Equipped with the attitude of “never assume, always verify,” the most effective solutions employ a unified multi-layer SASE model.

A Zero Trust approach to security shifts focus from defensive technologies alone to really start thinking about creating consistent policies for securing the environment. Among top considerations are implementing the idea of “least access” privileges, establishing complete visibility into every interaction between users and applications, and continuous monitoring.

So much more than firewalls and login protocols, SASE and Zero Trust is the realization that threats may be lurking inside the network perimeter. Instead of focusing exclusively on preventing breaches, we must also integrate identity verification into our security solutions. This approach allows us to protect sensitive data by requiring authorization to access cloud applications, monitor, and stop malicious access in real time.

 

Changing Needs for Application Access

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed how we connect and remain productive in dispersed and isolated environments. Users access enterprise applications and data from potentially insecure home networks limiting visibility and potentially compromising security for the organization. Many organizations find themselves battling the complexity of a mix of internal, traditional or cloud native applications, and SaaS. Further, security tools are typically fettered in a network-centric world, using disjointed identity policies to authenticate users and manage access to sensitive information.

In the meantime, malware and ransomware threats have grown in impact and frequency. It takes only a single compromised endpoint or stolen credential to infiltrate most environments. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, deployment of digital solutions within companies has accelerated by as much as seven years! SASE rollouts are gaining momentum faster than predicted as enterprises search for the next level of protection in this cloud-first world.

 

The Path Forward: Zero Trust Application-Centric Future

It sounds complicated, but it is not. From my perspective, cybersecurity should never be complicated or difficult to use. More complexity often leads to a greater chance of errors and risk to the organization. Ease of use or user experience has traditionally been viewed as being at odds with effective cybersecurity. As your data and applications are more secure, users face challenges accessing what they need to do their jobs. Conversely, if you enable your users to quickly access and use required applications and data, the entire environment is potentially exposed. Long-term cybersecurity must maintain high levels of protection without causing work stoppage or poor user experiences. If it does not, users will find creative workarounds!

You may be wondering how to begin implementing your own SASE Zero Trust security strategy. Adopt a secure agentless, SASE security solution that integrates seamlessly with existing workflows, security stacks, and infrastructure. This solution should be agnostic to the types of applications or endpoints allowing authorized users and devices to be easily connected to enterprise applications.

As a first step, it is important to always know who and what is connecting to the business network. Data resides in the applications, so it is important to monitor and control access within the application and know what is happening at all times. All users must be positively authenticated in order to access enterprise applications and data with a confirmed security policy. Consistent user authentication within the organization is essential, and authorization and access decisions should be based on the role the user has within the organization, regardless of how they are using the devices and applications.

SASE security solutions provide centrally managed access across all common IT systems, and limit access to only specific users, devices, or applications – adhering to the “least privilege access” principle. Policies defined by the business and the context of the access request allow access decisions to be made in real time. Such access permissions from devices to business-critical systems and applications should always be limited and tightly controlled. By unifying identity credentials and monitoring access to the applications, enterprises benefit from a reduced attack surface.

Preventing both targeted and opportunistic threats requires persistent, advanced security with SASE and a Zero Trust approach. Under this framework, single sign-on (SSO) technologies, combined with cloud-based multifactor authentication (MFA) identity, and a consistent Zero Trust policy controls the ability to access sensitive data. Since the Zero Trust solution is inline, you gain complete visibility into every interaction between users and applications. Using a cloud native solution designed for a cloud-first world ensures the approach fits seamlessly into your digital transformation. Further, using a solution not reliant only a single network topology or specific infrastructure platform ensures interoperability in a multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environment.

In the coming months, I expect to see an ever-growing list of companies adopting a SASE model based on Zero Trust. Using a secure agentless SASE model, cloud native solutions enable organizations to modernize their access security with minimal upfront and ongoing investment. The transformation for better enterprise security is well underway, fueled by the demands of a large remote workforce. The future is secure agentless SASE and Zero Trust – it’s here now and we’re ready.

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