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How to Implement a Zero Trust Model?

Today, we see increasingly distributed workforces and work regularly outsourced to contractors, partners and freelancers alike. As a result, the traditional company network perimeter has altered dramatically and many businesses have struggled to keep up with the rate of change. All that is a prerequisite for external cyberattacks and potentially harmful internal data breaches.

At its core, Zero Trust is a framework in which an organization forgoes one large perimeter in favour of protection at every endpoint and for every user within a company. This approach relies on strong identity and authentication measures, trusted devices and endpoints, and granular access controls to protect sensitive data and systems.  Zero Trust requires granular visibility.

So, implementing a Zero-Trust framework does more than increasing the security. It also helps your data management and accessibility efforts by providing the visibility into connected endpoints and networks that a great percentage of organizations lack.

Implementing a Zero Trust Model

While establishing a Zero Trust architecture can increase security, many organizations find the implementation challenging. Understanding the steps involved, can help move toward a zero trust security approach.

  • Establish strong authentication processes (Identity and Authentication)

Identity authentication is the foundation of a zero-trust security strategy. To continuously evaluate access to resources, you must first centralize user management and establish strong authentication processes. In order to track and manage all users across your systems, user identity must be centralized in a user and group directory. As employees join the company, change roles or responsibilities, or leave the company, the databases should update automatically to reflect those changes. The user and group database acts as the single source of truth to validate all users that need to access your systems.

A single sign-on (SSO) system, or centralized user authentication portal, can validate primary and secondary credentials for users requesting access to any given resource or application. After validating against the user and group directory, the SSO system generates a time-sensitive token to authorize access to specific resources. A centralized user database supporting a single sign-on system is essential. Data in a SaaS application environment must be assumed vulnerable unless access is limited to an endpoint that you control. Once that database is in place, you can introduce an authentication process such as 2FA (two-factor authentication) or MFA (multi-factor authentication) to harden your system and ensure that the users accessing your applications are who they say they are.

  • Define and implement policies around Access Management

Building on the identify and authentication mechanisms, the next step is to define and implement policies around who can access specific data and when they can access it. What makes the Zero Trust approach unique is that in order to minimize the ‘perimeter’ of any given individual and isolate the risk associate with that user, the Zero Trust approach supports the idea that an employee should only be given the minimum access and permissions needed for that employee to do their job. By limiting access in this way, risk is minimized. Should an attacker gain access to the credentials of a user in marketing, for example, that perpetrator is ‘laterally’ limited in that they cannot gain access to any of the tools, assets, or information outside of that user’s specific role.

There are several ways to ensure that an employee’s access is restricted to the tools and assets required for their job. The first is granular, role-based access and permission levels. These should be defined for each role within your organization, with cross-functional input agreement. Your organization’s appetite for risk and the breadth of access needed to effectively collaborate across teams will determine the level of granularity needed for team and individual role-based access levels. Once these role-based access levels have been defined, you can begin to map out the controls needed for each system and vendor in your organization. While your SSO or identity provider may be able to support some of your access control needs, you may find that not all applications provide the level of granularity needed to limit access in this way. Access controls are an important part of any vendor risk management assessment and integral to the long-term implementation of Zero Trust.

In order to adhere to the “continuous verification” tenant of the Zero Trust model, you will also need a way to consistently analyse audit logs to verify access controls and identify suspicious or unsanctioned activity in your systems. This information helps detect suspicious activity within your systems and supports the application of access and permission levels by allowing you to verify that those levels are implemented correctly and that there aren’t any suspicious actors that have gained access to a user’s credentials.

  • Monitor and audit everything

In addition to authenticating and assigning privileges, it is vital to monitor and review all user activity across the network. This helps organizations to identify any suspicious activity in real-time. Deep visibility is especially important for administrator accounts which have rights to access a wide spectrum of sensitive data.

  • Implement Principle of Least Privilege

Every Zero Trust architecture should include Principle of Least Privilege, which is based on the concept that individual users should only be granted sufficient privileges to allow them to complete specific tasks. For example, an application developer should not be allowed to access financial records. For maximum effectiveness, PoLP should be extended to “just-in-time” access, which restricts users’ privileges to specific time periods.

Implementing the Zero Trust security model is no simple task. For many organizations, especially large, established enterprises, implementation can take a considerable amount of time and effort. But the upsides are significant. Beginning to implement the foundational elements of Zero Trust Security is the key to securing your sensitive company data in the midst of the proliferation of cloud applications, devices, and user identities.

What is a Zero Trust Security Model?

Digital transformation and the adoption of hybrid multicloud are changing the way we do business. Users, data and resources are spread across different locations and it is getting more and more challenging to connect them quickly and securely. But focusing primarily on perimeter security and firewalls is no longer enough. That is why organizations start implementing zero trust security solutions to help protect their data and resources by making them accessible only on a limited basis and under the right circumstances.

  • What is Zero Trust and how it works?

Zero Trust is a security model and a coordinated cybersecurity and system management strategy based on an acknowledgement that threats exist both inside and outside traditional network boundaries. Zero trust can be defined under the following approach: “never trust, always verify.” This security approach treats every access attempt as if it originates from an untrusted network — so access will be denied, until trust is demonstrated. Once users and devices have been regarded as trustworthy, zero trust ensures that they have access only to the resources they need, to prevent any unauthorized lateral movement through an environment.

Zero Trust embeds comprehensive security monitoring, granular risk-based access controls and system security automation in a coordinated manner throughout all aspects of the infrastructure in order to focus on protecting critical assets (data) in real-time within a dynamic threat environment. This data-centric security model allows the concept of least-privileged access to be applied for every access decision, allowing or denying access to resources based on the combination of several contextual factors.

Adoption of zero trust can help address common security challenges in the workforce, such as phishing, malware, credential theft, remote access, and device security (BYOD). This is done by securing the three primary factors that make up the workforce: users, their devices, and the applications they access.

  • Identity and Authentication

Identity authentication is the foundation of a zero-trust security strategy. To continuously evaluate access to resources, you must first centralize user management and establish strong authentication processes. In order to track and manage all users across your systems, user identity must be centralized in a user and group directory. Ideally this database system integrates with your HR processes that manage job categorization, usernames, and group memberships for all users. As employees join the company, change roles or responsibilities, or leave the company, these databases should update automatically to reflect those changes. The user and group database acts as the single source of truth to validate all users that need to access your systems.

A single sign-on (SSO) system, or centralized user authentication portal, can validate primary and secondary credentials for users requesting access to any given resource or application. After validating against the user and group directory, the SSO system generates a time-sensitive token to authorize access to specific resources. A centralized user database supporting a single sign-on system is essential. Data in a SaaS application environment must be assumed vulnerable unless access is limited to an endpoint that you control. Once that database is in place, you can introduce an authentication process such as 2FA (two-factor authentication) or MFA (multi-factor authentication) to harden your system and ensure that the users accessing your applications are who they say they are.

There are several ways to ensure that an employee’s access is restricted to the tools and assets required for their job. The first is granular, role based access and permission levels. These should be defined for each role within your organization, with cross-functional input agreement. Your organization’s appetite for risk and the breadth of access needed to effectively collaborate across teams will determine the level of granularity needed for team and individual role-based access levels. Once these role-based access levels have been defined, you can begin to map out the controls needed for each system and vendor in your organization. While your SSO or identity provider may be able to support some of your access control needs, you may find that not all applications provide the level of granularity needed to limit access in this way. Access controls are an important part of any vendor risk management assessment and integral to the long-term implementation of Zero Trust.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and has increased the threat landscape, with more targeted attacks on organisations from cybercriminals and nation-state groups. As well as remote work, the Internet of Things (IoT), operational technology (OT), and network-enabled smart devices introduce areas of potential compromise for enterprise networks. In such uncertain times, the best thing companies can do is to implement technology that can be scaled and adapted to meet unpredictable challenges. Beginning to implement the foundational elements of Zero Trust Security is the key to securing your sensitive company data in the midst of the proliferation of cloud applications, devices, and user identities.

For more information about Zero Trust Network Access, watch PATECCO video here:

7 Important Features of a Privileged Access Management Solution

Nowadays IT organisations are under increasing business and regulatory pressure to control access to privileged accounts. Establishing controls for privileged access continues to be a focus of attention for organisations and auditors. Prevention of both breaches and insider attacks has become a major driver for the adoption of privileged access management (PAM) solutions, in addition to compliance and operational efficiency.              

But what is actually Privileged Access Management?

PAM is a set of technologies designed to help organisations address the inherent problems related to privileged accounts. According to the analyst company Kuppingercole, Privileged Access Management has become one of the most relevant areas of Cyber Security associated with Identity and Access Management that deals with identifying, securing and managing privileged credentials across an Organization’s IT environment. Once considered a technology option for optimizing administrative efficiency by managing passwords and other secrets, PAM has evolved into a set of crucial technologies for preventing security breaches and credential thefts. PAM today concerns Security and Risk Management leaders as well as Infrastructure and Operation (I&O) leaders across the industries for several security and operational benefits.

To effectively and efficiently control privileged accounts, it is required a combination of adaptive access management features. In this article, we list the most critical features that can help you secure privileged access to your company’s sensitive data.

  • Privileged Session Recording

It is important that the privileged access management solution has the privileged session recording feature to record the actions performed by the user within the system while using a privileged credential. This is one of the main tools to check if users are performing actions relevant to their tasks, ensuring the confidentiality of the company’s sensitive data and that all actions are tracked and audited.

Next-generation privileged session management should enable you to observe the date, time, and location of each session. Moreover, you will have a visibility over their very keystrokes to ensure the authenticity of each privileged user. This can prevent insider threats and hackers alike by making sure users use their permissions according to business processes. 

  • Multifactor Authentication

Despite the availability of multiple security protocols, there is still a possibility for privileged accounts to be breached. That is why PAM software must have an additional layer of security with multi-factor authentication protocols when a user requests access. Multifactor authentication can include passwords, hard tokens, time of access monitoring, and behavioural analysis. The last of these proves especially important; it allows your cybersecurity to conduct continuous authentication even after the initial log-in.

  • Centralization  

You should take into account all users, applications, databases, and everything else that could comprise your IT environment. For that reason you need to keep an eye on all of these moving parts simultaneously to ensure proper permission and privileges policies. 

Legacy identity management solutions cannot possibly provide your IT security team with the centralized view necessary. In this case Privileged access management can help, because it centralizes your view, controls, and authority over users’ identities.

  • Backup

One of the most important elements of a PAM solution is to have automatic backups. Even with all the security locks, the backup appears as one of the last information security features. This ensures that even with leaked and/or deleted data, the company is able to have access to all data protected by the privileged access management solution.

  • Access Reporting

Access reporting is also a key feature, so that the responsible person has a complete view of the actions performed through privileged sessions, allowing the identification of security breaches and points for improvement. A complete set of reports optimizes time and work, as there is no need to conduct audits from session to session.

  • Real-time notifications

It’s critical to stop the attack in time. And the earlier it is prevented, the lesser its consequences will be. So, to be able to respond to a possible security incident in a timely manner, you need to be notified in a real-time. That’s why, when selecting a privileged access management solution, you should make sure to check if it has a fine alerting system.

Most PAM solutions offer a set of standard rules and alerts. For example, responsible security specialists will be notified every time the system registers a failed login attempt for a privileged account. To go further, you can create custom alerts for specific events, activities, or even groups of users.

  • Centralised Audit Logging

Protecting privileged accounts includes centralized audit logging with a detailed record of user activities. Effective PAM solution could deliver consolidated audit logs and reports from across your server domains and be kept on a separate security domain.

The misuse of privileged access can lead to disastrous consequences, allowing attackers to easily get the most valuable and sensitive information. Deploying a quality PAM solution is a crucial step for every modern organization, which needs secure and properly managed privileged access.