Cleared Systems zero trust

Corporations allow their employees to access data using cloud software and mobile devices regardless of their location. As a result, the security perimeter has grown beyond the office walls. Valuable data is transferred between IaaS, SaaS, IoT devices, data centers, and many more platforms and devices.

Consequently, this has exposed corporations to cyber incidences. As a result, cybercrimes have increased considerably over the last several years. This is facilitated by a combination of factors like including wider attack vectors and more entry points. This has made it necessary to institute robust security measures for information or data protection, and Zero Trust Security is one such paradigm.

What is Zero Trust Security?

It is a framework that helps organizations enforce processes and policies for authentication, authorization, and continuous validation of all devices and users. Zero Trust Security follows the mantra of "Never Trust, Always Verify," meaning that no device, user, system, or workload should be trusted regardless of its location. Simply trust no one.

Following a critical zero trust security principle of least privileged access, trust is based on context with policy checks at every step. Azure Active Directory (AD) conditional access capabilities form the policy decision point for accessing resources based on environments, user identity risk, and device health explicitly verified at the access point.

Zero Trust and CMMC

Is there zero trust required for the Defense Industrial Base? Well, in most cases, Yes. Certain policies require contractors to enact policies or conduct activities directly aligned with Zero Trust. For instance, CM (Configuration Management) 2.062 requires companies to employ the principle of least functionality by configuring their systems only to provide the essential capabilities.

Although CMMC 2.0 doesn't spell out Zero Trust implicitly, the administration has an overarching push towards implementing it in all Federal systems. For example, the Biden administration released an executive order in May 2021 mandating all the federal agencies to be NIST 800-207 compliant as a requirement for Zero Trust implementation. Zero Trust addresses the following essential principles based on NIST 800-207 guidelines:

  • Limiting the "blast" radius: Minimizing the impact in case of an insider or external breach
  • Continuous verification: Always verify access for all resources, all the time
  • Automation of context collection and response: It incorporates behavioral data and obtains context from the entire Information Technology stack

The order also states that CISA will review current agency-specific cybersecurity requirements (including CMMC 2.0) and recommend to FARC the standardized contract language. In addition, zero trust enhances security for the DIB as more operations move to cloud platforms like GCC and GCC high.

Implementing Zero Trust Security

Evaluating and Bolstering Security Tools

Conduct a security assessment on all your security tools. If you discover gaps, identify the technology or tools which can add a layer of protection. For example, organizations can implement zero trust security using tools like:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • IAM (Identity Access Management)
  • Orchestration,
  • Encryption,
  • Network micro-segmentation
  • Granular access control
  • SSO (Single sign-on) for all data and Applications
  • Advanced threat protection tools like Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR), Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP), and Extended Detection & Response (XDR)

Define And Apply The Zero Trust Policies

Once the right tools are in place, the next step is creating a zero-trust policy to guide you when managing and configuring the tools. Zero trust policies are strict rules that allow resource access only when needed. It should have details that explain:

  • The network segments that can access other segments
  • When and which workloads and devices can share or access services and data
  • Which and when users can access services and data

Monitoring And Alerts

One of the critical parts of zero trust is rigorous monitoring and reporting technology.

  • The monitoring tools give insights into whether that security policy is effective for security personnel. It also tells them whether there are gaps in the framework
  • The alerting tools capture the malicious activity whenever it occurs and escalate it to the necessary staff for swift action

Remember, nothing is safe with a zero-trust model. Hence, the security teams should keenly follow what happens in the environment and perform a root cause analysis when a cyber incident occurs.

What Does Zero Trust Mean To Organizations That Want To Implement It?

Organizations that seek to adopt these cybersecurity models should expect many benefits, including:

Reducing Organizational And Business Risk

Zero Trust solutions prevent all services and applications from communicating unless verified using their identity attributes. Zero trust reduces risks since I can uncover what is in the network and how the assets communicate. It can further reduce the risk by eliminating the overprovisioned services and software and continuously checking every communicating asset's "credentials."

They Will Gain Access Control Over Container And Cloud Environments

Security practitioners fear two things the most when moving to the cloud; loss of visibility and access management. Despite the cloud security provider (CSP), workload security is still a shared responsibility.

Zero trust security ensures that security policies are applied based on the identities of the communicating workloads, and it is tied directly to the said workloads. This keeps the security closer to the asset being protected and is unaffected by the network constructs like protocols, ports, and IP addresses. The protection remains constant even with changes in the environment and travels with the workload.

Companies Will See a Reduced Risk of a Data Breach

Using the least privilege principle, all entities are assumed hostile. All requests are inspected, devices and users authenticated, and the permissions evaluated before granting "trust". As context changes, the trust is re-evaluated, such as the accessed data and the user location. This ensures that any user who penetrates your cloud instance or network using a compromised device won't steal or access the data.

Can Demonstrate Compliance with Privacy Regulations and Standards.

Zero trust shields the workload and user connections over the internet to avoid being exploited or exposed. Such compliance makes it easy to show compliance with privacy regulations and standards. It helps organizations comply with FISMA, HIPAA, CCPA, and PCI DSS standards. Implementing Zero Trust's micro-segmentation can create perimeters around sensitive data using fine-grained controls to separate non-regulated and regulated data.

It is time to as hard questions about your organization's cybersecurity posture. The economic costs of data breaches are dire, and to a contractor in the Defense Industrial Base, it could result in severe fines. In addition, malicious adversaries can nowadays persist within your network for months without detection. Moreover, a cyber breach can cause significant damage through a reputational fallout. Zero trust is an excellent opportunity to ensure you can handle emerging cyber threats. Visit Cleared Systems to learn more about Zero Trust and how you can apply it in your organization. Remember, never trust, always verify.

Carl B. Johnson
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