Guarding the Moat with Zero Trust Security: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

September 22, 2022     |    5 minute read

Guarding the Moat with Zero Trust Security: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

September 22, 2022     |    5 minute read

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Hybrid work environments are here to stay. The workforce has been moving towards more and more hybrid work opportunities for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic created a big and sudden transition. Some of the biggest companies in the United States have decided to keep a flexible hybrid work model permanently. As many as 1 in 4 American workers are moving to remote work as a result of the pandemic. 

While this shift is in response to a global pandemic, it’s a good change. Remote employees report greater productivity when working from their home office instead of going into a brick-and-mortar building. Without water cooler chat to distract them or commuting time to drain them, workers can focus better and take fewer breaks over the course of the day, leading to an increase in productivity. 

But working remotely has its risks, too. Employees still need access to business files and data when working from home. Personal Wi-Fi networks are inherently insecure, leaving a huge opportunity for hackers to find their way inside. Data breaches increased when the workforce shifted to remote working. The financial impact of these breaches is high. According to a recent study by IBM, data breaches cost an estimated $1.07 million more when remote work is a factor. 

Never Trust, Always Verify

It helps to think of cybersecurity in the context of a castle and a moat. The remote employee’s home is the castle. They’re in there working, safe and sound, being as productive as can be. Their Wi-Fi network is the moat around the castle. Trust in entering the castle is implicit. If you make it inside, the assumption is that the drawbridge was let down for you, and you were welcomed inside. Yet, that moat is only semi-secure – there is a password protecting it, but any bad actor with a boat or a catapult can scale that moat and breach the castle uninvited.  

Businesses are the same way. There is an implicit trust in accessing the business’ network, but just because someone has a password doesn’t mean they were granted access.  

So how are businesses supposed to keep their business healthy and secure while allowing remote work at the same time? 

The answer is simple: trust no one.  

By never trusting and always verifying every user every time, a business can keep its network secure even as technology and cybercrime become more sophisticated.  

What is Zero Trust Architecture?

Zero trust is a company mindset and approach to cybersecurity, and it’s designed to create explicit user verification, essentially trusting no one and verifying everyone. This way, even if someone does make it over the “moat,” they still must prove they belong in the “castle.”  

How to Create Zero Trust Security

By authenticating and authorizing each user, every time, an organization creates a zero trust system. The least privileged access is provided to all users, applications, and infrastructure – assuming that nothing inside the organization’s network should be implicitly trusted. But zero trust as a security model intends to remain flexible. Zero trust policies rely on many attributes to decide to trust an individual or application within a network. 

An organization can design its security protocols to the level of risk its organization is willing to tolerate. For example, some operations may require the user to be continually visible to the camera. Many testing centers moved to this practice when the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to take licensure exams from home. This adaptability to the particular business scenario is a core zero trust concept. But despite different business circumstances that might call for varying security solutions, each zero trust environment has three things in common. Access to all resources is continuously verified, attempts are made to minimize the impact of a data breach if one should occur, and the bigger landscape of infrastructure within an organization is considered to be sure that all technology (hardware and software) has a zero trust approach. 

How Biometrics Can Help

It may sound laborious to check everyone all the time. However, with an effective authentication solution, an organization’s administrators and end users won’t be impeded by strong and frequent authentication. Using one’s voiceprint, face, palm, finger, or eyes as a security measure means that the person can authenticate quickly and easily. What’s as important is that an organization can maintain strong security since, even if a user’s credentials were compromised, the thief could not access the system. Biometrics in a zero trust environment means that someone gets authorization to a system based on who they are, as opposed to only what they have (such as passwords or access cards). 

Zero trust security isn’t just for virtual spaces and places like a company’s corporate network; this type of system also works for physical spaces. By authorizing users with biometrics every time they enter the building or seek access to areas within a building, an organization can maintain a high level of security efficiently.  

The zero trust security model is being implemented in different ways across different industries. The Biden administration is calling for zero trust security in governmental offices.   

It’s one thing to continually enter your password or authentication code to gain virtual access to resources in a zero trust environment. That isn’t convenient or secure. In a physical environment where zero trust might have you continually scanning keycards or entering door codes, continuous authentication is even less convenient. Biometrics shows promise in helping streamline a user’s experience in the virtual and physical use cases. Things like facial recognition or iris scans can happen much more quickly than using badges or entering door codes – one needn’t even put their coffee down. 

Main Takeaway

The IT and cyber landscape moves at lightning speed. Evolution is constant and necessary. 

It is the responsibility of every organization to take steps to ensure the proper security protocols that fit the needs of their business are in place. 

The point of using a zero trust security model is that an organization never lets its guard down. Biometrics serves as a gatekeeper at speed. Trusting no one doesn’t need to be cumbersome or difficult. Zero trust security can be as simple as implementing biometric security at every step. Always guard the moat, and double-check the identity of anyone who makes it to the castle all the same. Vigilance is a key component of security. 

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