Imagine a world where nobody is inherently trusted—not hackers, insiders, or IT teams. Zero Trust eliminates implicit Trust and requires strict identity verification on every user and device, regardless of location or network perimeter. It also relies on continuous verification and the principle of least privilege to limit the “blast radius” if a breach does occur.
A zero trust framework redefines processes to assume that users and devices are untrustworthy at the beginning of every interaction. This combines strong authentication and authorization with micro-segmentation to prevent attacks from reaching internal systems or data. Zero Trust protects applications, networks, and data from breaches by verifying user and device behavior and assessing permissions. This reduces the impact of those that occur by limiting the “blast radius.” This framework is also hyper-accurate in detection and protection, so you can stop threats faster and limit their damage even if they make it past your moat. In addition, it allows you to automate and prioritize the most valuable assets to be protected first by reducing the number of manual, risk-based decisions that need to be made. As more business-critical apps move to the cloud, Zero Trust makes it easier for businesses to adopt a consistent architecture without compromising their agility. It also eliminates the need for patchwork solutions that may not work with existing tools, leading to expensive security gaps and headaches. Zero Trust can be implemented quickly and in stages so that your organization can benefit from the granular security it offers in a matter of months, not years. For example, you can use a single lightweight agent to validate all users and devices and deploy Zero Trust across your hybrid workplace in a fraction of the time it would take with a traditional perimeter-based model.
As the name suggests, continuous authentication is verification that continues during a user session and constantly looks for anomalies. While some platforms use non-continuous authentication methods (i.e., a one-time password or multifactor authentication) to verify identity and watch for threats, this method doesn’t offer the security of a Zero Trust model. To implement continuous authentication, advanced security technologies like risk-based multifactor authentication, identity protection, next-generation endpoint, and robust cloud workload technology must be used to automate context collection and response. This allows the system to continuously check and analyze a user’s behavior, access patterns, device, location, environment, network hygiene, and cloud application usage to determine whether the user or system is who they are, not someone else using their device. The continuous authentication process uses machine learning algorithms and others to categorize users and devices as trusted or untrusted. It also uses ML to assess the user or device in different environments and contexts, including remote access to enterprise apps, email, and cloud workloads, to detect potential breaches and limit the damage from insiders and external attackers. Many high-level IT teams have already implemented this type of user monitoring for their student proctoring systems. However, continuous authentication can help protect all types of sensitive applications and data, from financial software to federally protected records, while dramatically reducing the risk for malware, infected workstations, phishing, social engineering attacks, and other common threats.
As threats become more sophisticated and traditional castle-and-moat methodologies are ineffective, Zero Trust allows for dynamic identification of users, devices, applications, and application functions to provide only the bare minimum privilege needed to execute a workflow. This minimizes the attack surface, reduces the threat window, and mitigates the risk of breaches, data theft, or misuse of critical systems or sensitive information by third parties. Modern identity and access management (IAM) solutions can implement most minor privilege policies through just-in-time privilege elevation, allowing for privileged access to be granted temporarily for each use. This enables human and machine accounts to be accessed from on-prem, virtual, and cloud environments, leveraging various operating systems and applications. It also considers various other factors, like the device health of endpoints, ensuring that even if a privileged account is accessed from an unusual source, it won’t be able to gain any further access. Incorporating the least privilege into your security policy will help improve workforce productivity, bolster system stability, and enhance fault tolerance. It also helps reduce malware propagation and makes your organization more compliant with GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS regulations. In addition, lessening privileged access will prevent the spread of ransomware or compromise other critical systems by limiting the amount of privilege an attacker can exploit.
Unlike the castle-and-moat cybersecurity model many organizations still rely on, Zero Trust is built around a philosophy of “never trust, always verify.” This means that access to resources inside and outside a private network is only allowed once identity and authorization are verified. Various technologies, including IAM, multifactor authentication, push notifications, orchestration, and analytics, can power continuous authentication and verification. Zero Trust solutions also enforce the principle of least privilege, which means that users and devices are granted permissions only for what they need to do their jobs. This approach, combined with software-defined micro-segmentation of your data centers, distributed hybrid and multi-cloud environments, and data workflows, removes a resource’s network location’s role in its security posture. Instead, it’s protected by software-defined micro-segmentation based on user and device identities. Cyber resilience aims to accept that attacks will happen and build processes and tools that minimize their impact and recovery time. A Zero Trust framework provides a foundation for this by shifting the emphasis from preventing attacks to rapidly detecting them, escalating their impact, and mitigating their effect on business. This is critical to an organization’s ability to stay in business after a cyber attack. And it’s precisely what you need to survive the subsequent data breach, the next hacker, or the next insider threat.