Why Zero Trust and Identity and Access Management are Essential to Enterprise Security

In an increasingly interconnected world immersed in remote work and online healthcare — and as manufacturing hurtles towards Industry 4.0 — enterprise cybersecurity has never been more crucial. In light of this, Zero Trust architecture continues to gain popularity as a security method, although many organizations continue to misunderstand the full scope of Zero Trust.

Organizations that don’t want to become the main character of the next big data leak splashed across headlines need to turn to Zero Trust to secure their operations and safeguard from bad actors. 

The Benefits of Zero Trust

Zero Trust architecture goes beyond simply limiting network access; it's a comprehensive security plan consisting of identity management, multi-factor authentication, and governance, including access provisioning and deprovisioning. The journey to Zero Trust begins with eliminating any broad access to the network, including things like always on VPNs, and replacing it with more granular control to get proper least privileged access implemented. On the employee authentication side, Zero Trust means employees go through proper multi-factor authentication when logging into any systems or networks and have restricted access to only the elements necessary to do their work.

Zero Trust is a crucial tool for both internal and external protection. There are different risks associated with internal users and external third-party vendors. With internal users, the majority of risk comes from how those accounts are managed, how the users store their credentials, and whether or not offboarding practices are properly implemented when a user changes departments or leaves the organization. When it comes to securing third-party remote access with Zero Trust, the risks are similar, but ultimately more challenging. When a third-party user who has access to your network leaves their organization, the third party typically doesn’t reach out — leaving a vulnerability through the lack of proper offboarding. Part of Zero Trust architecture for third-party users is not only requiring authentication upon login, but also checking that users have up-to-date, limited access; this prevents out of date access or logins being incorrectly used. The security benefits, along with upholding compliance requirements and streamlining workflows, make Zero Trust architecture a worthwhile investment for any organization.

Proper Identity and Access management is Crucial

Trust begins at the identity of users. Without proper identification, it's impossible to limit the correct access to the proper applications for the right employee. This means that organizations first need to examine their identity access management, both for third-party and internal individuals, and the controls around authentication for both. From there, multi-factor authentication should be established for everyone. This ensures that once a user has been verified and authenticated, they can be given the least privilege access for their role. Implementing least privilege access helps prevent breaches like the Uber data breach that is once again in the news spotlight.

With identity management out of the way, organizations can focus on access governance. This is an essential component of Zero Trust, auditing access and permissions to ensure that an individual’s access to various applications aligns with what they need. This means that through access provisioning, all teams can have access to the right elements of the network or software without having overreaching access to some other portion of it.

Just as crucial as access provisioning is access deprovisioning. Access deprovisioning should happen at two key points: when a user changes roles or leaves the organization. Deprovisioning ensures that any unnecessary access is revoked, or that the user is removed entirely if they’re leaving an organization. Ensuring proper deprovisioning prevents breaches like the Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack.

Zero Trust Must be Comprehensive to be Effective

Zero Trust is only truly Zero Trust if it’s a comprehensive system, including least privileged access, multi-factor authentication, access governance, and access deprovisioning. Industries with high compliance standards such as healthcare and manufacturing are pioneering the transition to Zero Trust, but all organizations — regardless of industry — should be striving towards implementing this type of architecture. To see how your organization’s cybersecurity strategy stacks up against zero trust, consult SecureLink’s available Zero Trust checklist.

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