What is a Zero Trust security model? (and how to implement it)

The Zero Trust security model means your workplace computer network verifies every user’s permission to be using it at all times. In today’s cybersecurity landscape, it’s vital.

Because you might have been able to just about “get by” up until now. But cybersecurity attacks are massively on the rise. They’re also getting more and more serious.

In a recent survey, nearly a quarter of SMBs that suffered cyber attacks then went out of business.

Plus, remote working and cloud computing are increasingly in use everywhere. Larger organisations and governments are also demanding cybersecurity standard compliance from their partners.

Only a model like Zero Trust – that verifies rather than assuming legitimacy – prepares SMBs and larger organisations for what the future of work is going to look like. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a Zero Trust security model?

The Zero Trust security model starts from a position that says any device connecting to your work network, any app, or any user could potentially be malicious or compromised.

Largely, it’s a mindset. But it’s also a model that’s based around three principles:

  1. Always verify – every request to access your data should be checked and verified, whether from a trusted internal or untrusted external source.
  2. Minimise access level – every user or device should only have access to the minimum level they need to do what they need to do.
  3. Assume you will suffer a breach – be prepared to fail. Eventually, someone may be able to access your data. Have a plan for what you’ll do when it happens.

How to implement Zero Trust

Individual businesses have different needs when it comes to implementing Zero Trust. It really comes down to your unique needs as an organisation and your current cybersecurity setup.

It’s also worth knowing that this isn’t a box that can just be “ticked”. Implementing Zero Trust is an ongoing process. It describes an approach to how you’ll handle your cybersecurity from now on.

To implement this approach, here are the factors you’ll need to focus on:

1) Verify all identities

Do everything necessary to explicitly verify all users, apps, and devices that try to access your data. This should include using:

  1. Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) for all users and on all devices
  2. Passwordless checks (registered smartphones, One-Time Passwords, and so on) where possible
  3. Azure Active Directory for Microsoft technology

All of this should be done with least-privileged access in mind (ensuring each user only has access to the level they need for the time they need it).

2) Monitor all endpoints

Endpoints are essentially devices – all the laptops, desktops, and so on – that are connected to your network.

It is vital that you monitor and secure all endpoints and plan what to do should any suffer or be the cause of a breach. Key tools to do this include:

  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (this can detect and even respond to breaches)
  • Microsoft Intune (this lets you see and manage what devices are on your network)

3) Secure all applications

Making sure all applications that can access your data are known, managed, and verified is a key part of the Zero Trust model. You will need to:

  • Know what apps are used on company devices and used to access company data
  • Keep all permitted apps up-to-date (for security purposes)
  • Pay special attention to cloud-based apps (one of the best tools for this is Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps)

4) Protect all data

Data is what we’re all here to protect. Zero Trust is all about knowing and restricting who has access to your business data. It involves knowing:

  • Where your data is
  • How it is classified (ideally, all your data should have a level and type)
  • How sensitive it is
  • Who and what has access to which data
  • Where the data is backed up (it should be)

One of the simplest ways to do this is to use Microsoft Azure Information Protection (AIP). This is a great tool for letting you label and monitor your data in different places.

5) Train your team

Human error is still the overriding failing in even the most modern cybersecurity setups. Minimising this risk requires proper team cybersecurity training.

Your team should know about the most common forms of cyber attacks, how to spot them, and what to do about them. They should also be aware of the need to notify a responsible person when they believe they have experienced one.

Understanding and implementing Zero Trust

Working out how to implement Zero Trust takes time, effort, and planning. In the modern cybersecurity landscape though, it’s vital if you want to protect your company and grow in the future.

Not sure where to start on your journey towards a Zero Trust security model?

Let’s talk it over. Dial A Geek has already helped over 1000 businesses in Bristol and the UK protect and grow their businesses (read more on our Protect & Grow page).

Arrange a cost and commitment-free chat with Chief Geek Gildas Jones today to discuss the most effective steps to take to protect yours.