The Journey to Zero Trust Begins with Identity

Organizations have increasingly viewed the zero trust security model as a way to achieve and accelerate their digital transformation goals. When the pandemic hit, digital transformation and zero trust efforts were kicked into overdrive as organizations suddenly had to support large numbers of employees to work remotely outside the office network efficiently. As a result, 71% of executives say their zero trust investments will increase in the next 12 months.

But zero trust is not a one-size-fits-all model since each organization will have unique requirements. Prior infrastructure investments, varying levels of cybersecurity knowledge and executive buy-in can influence how a company adopts a zero trust architecture. They also have to factor in developing new products and services, employee behaviors, regulatory compliance and more.

However, the most important factor is changing the organizational mindset. With zero trust, you must assume anything and everything can be hacked and that nothing is trusted. Undoubtedly, bad actors will continue to get creative in their exploits and organizations must evolve to keep up.

Unlike traditional security architectures, zero trust relies less on guarding the network perimeter and more on identity controls. The network is a crucial component, but the concept of trusted perimeters is untenable with the expansion of IoT devices, users, APIs, cloud resources, data, etc. To handle this growth, every organization must assess their zero trust posture regarding people, processes and infrastructure to meet their unique needs.

Identity Creates the Foundation

The critical principle of zero trust is “never trust, always verify,” meaning that all users and devices must first be authenticated and authorized before they can gain access to sensitive resources or data. Identity should play an essential role in enforcing trust beyond the network to a more granular level, such as users, devices and other resources.

Once those needs are determined, zero trust offers organizations numerous new benefits and capabilities to transform their security posture.

  • Go passwordless since passwords continue to be the top security threat to organizations and the main entry point for bad actors. A robust identity platform allows organizations to reduce the number of passwords via capabilities like single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Ultimately, they can remove passwords from the equation with advancements in passwordless login and biometrics and the adoption of standards like FIDO.

  • Centralized management is another crucial benefit. Most enterprises have a variety of applications, including legacy software, SaaS, mobile and more. These apps typically create silos over time, which can be difficult for IT to maintain. A strong identity management solution can consolidate and enable an organization with streamlined and straightforward authentication across the board.

  • Zero trust also enables organizations to improve the user experience for employees, customers and partners. The user experience is critical to zero trust success, especially with the acceleration of remote work. Enterprises are wary of locking things down too much at the expense of employee productivity. When done correctly, identity ensures seamless access so the workforce can stay efficient and secure.

  • Dynamic risk or ability is another key benefit to continuously monitor and assess risk versus being constrained by the static nature of perimeter-based security. Identifying everything and anything is the foundation for integrating risk management solutions that can leverage tools like machine learning and analytics that detect and respond to potentially harmful activity.

Partner Carefully

Organizations should be wary of any vendor or solution touting itself as the single answer to their needs. A zero trust ecosystem has many components. It is not just about technology, as people and internal processes are critical to successful implementation.

To see a successful rollout, organizations need executive buy-in and adherence to zero trust principles from their IT and security teams. But many security practitioners have built their careers on implementing network security tools focused on securing the perimeter.

Communication is key. Your stakeholders must understand how identity security will help them manage everything at scale. Adopting an identity-centric approach also lessens business disruption by minimizing friction for employees and administrators.

Working with different vendors and solutions is inevitable in zero trust implementations. Enterprises require coverage for all their applications, including homegrown and legacy. They also need integration into the other aspects of the security stack, especially device management and security analytics and monitoring.

That’s why integration and orchestration capabilities should be key factors when making zero trust decisions. If teams cannot manage everything efficiently, the investment will be wasted. In addition, viewing identity as the foundation of your zero trust strategy will help ensure execution is more successful because identity is the fabric that ties it all together.

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