A security framework focuses on avoiding breaches by eliminating undue trust. A traditional network is based on the idea of inherent trust; a zero-trust framework assumes that every device and user, on-network or off, represents a security risk.

Conceptually, zero-trust is termed a “never trust, always verify” approach to security that uses multiple protection levels to prevent threats, block lateral movement, and enforce granular user-access controls.

Three basic principles of zero-trust security–

Working of the zero-trust framework is based on three basic principles –

1. Check with users and devices – Stay alert about who and what is connected to the business network

As companies struggle with having the predominance of their workforce working remotely, a significant challenge is securing access to internal tools. Cybercriminals are constantly using various techniques to gain access to usernames and passwords, such as social engineering, spear-phishing, and buying stolen credentials on the dark web to gain network access and then steal valuable company and customer data.

Mitigation against credential theft, fraud, and phishing attacks is offered through cloud-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) services.

2. Building secure access – Tracking access permissions between devices and business systems

In the zero-trust framework, access management aims to provide a means to centrally manage access across all standard IT systems while limiting that access to only specific users, devices, or applications.

Based on the business’s policies and the access request context, the decisions should be made in real-time. The single sign-on (SSO) technologies and MFA can improve access security and minimize users’ password burden.

3. Constant monitoring – Keeping end-to-end network security while employees work remotely

It is due to coronavirus that malware and ransomware threats have accelerated to such an extent. The risk of attack has never been so high since the users have started working from home. It isn’t easy to keep users safe as they navigate the internet outside the network.

As employees are stuck at home, chances are higher that company laptops may be used for a major amount of personal web surfing and email checking. Staying on top of threats requires persistent, advanced security that goes beyond traditional antivirus.

Effect of COVID-19 on zero trust security

The pandemic situation has made 60% of enterprises accelerate their Zero-trust networking strategies. The Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) research report shows COVID-19 has made about 15% of organizations slow down, while about 25% reported no effect.

Everyone has a different definition of zero-trust.

According to EMA, zero-trust is a network-security model that reduces the risk by applying granular policies and controlling network access and network communications.

Zero-trust is stated as a dynamic policy engine evaluating network communications’ legitimacy within the network perimeter. Changes in location, security state, device state, behavior, and other factors are responsible for initiating the reauthentication process.

Zero-trust contributing to WFH

Zero-trust is proving out to be a generous contribution today during the pandemic. A zero-trust network can access solutions that will grow and secure network connections for people who are working remotely. Zero-trust security practices control what amount of information remote users can access while connected to the network.

An increase in implementation of Zero-trust policies was evident during the pandemic scenes.

The EMA research stated that several employees are accessing the corporate network through a secured remote access solution such as an SSL VPN or software has tremendously increased. This even excludes the number of employees who are performing work from home without a secure connection. However, 53% of enterprises hope that these remote workforces will be around even after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Simultaneously, 76% of these enterprises noted an increase in the number of personally owned devices connected to their networks during the pandemic, with 33% reported this increase as significant.

Organizations that are more successful with their Zero-trust strategies stated more growth in the use of personally owned devices, emphasizing that successful Zero-trust initiatives give IT organizations the flexibility to support them on the network better.

Don’t let the pandemic divert zero-trust

The free COVID-19 trial from reputed vendors has facilitated many companies to move to a zero-trust security model while testing advanced security solutions. This could help them to choose the right product that can help them to keep their security practices and sign up permanently for the services.

With the availability of in-hand tools, the companies who avoid adopting remote work due to security concerns are left with no excuses. Similarly, it develops another hurdle for cybercriminals to crack upon corporate networks.

Proven that Zero-trust networking enhances secure remote access, many enterprises are keen on implementing Zero-trust initiatives to stay on track during the pandemic. EMA (Enterprise Management Associates) took the initiative to have a closer look at organizations that reported that the pandemic had slowed down their Zero-trust strategies.

Enterprises that have specifically allocated a particular amount to support Zero-trust are the ones that experience good results from their Zero-trust projects amid the pandemic. Then there are ad hoc Zero-trust strategies, where IT leaders don’t plan to formalize an initiative and decide on a dedicated budget, which is most likely to be slowed by the pandemic.

In other words, during the pandemic, ad hoc Zero-trust strategies are vulnerable to derailment. Such businesses will find themselves quickly side-tracked due to different problems. Network and security may fail to adhere to Zero-trust principles without a budget and help from IT management. A study has also found that these ad hoc strategies are least likely to report success in their networks, applying Zero-trust principles.

For more information on security and other security practices, download our latest whitepapers on security.