One of the most complex challenges every organization faces is managing the growing volume of data and, more importantly, protecting it. But one must agree that irrespective of how sensitive data might be, it is of no use if left unused. It should flow like water; otherwise, it runs the risk of stagnation. Then again, when data flows, it presents an entirely diverse set of challenges, mainly data security.
Most organizations still spend resources and energy chasing data on protecting it at every touchpoint. The most traditional data security approach is the “castle-and-moat” approach which believes that the entities that use data also protect it. However, the recent spate of data breaches affected influential organizations, proving these assumptions false. Sometimes, even the most trusted users are likely to harm the organizations through careless data usage, either inadvertently or maliciously.
There is now a need for a more rigorous approach towards data protection, namely, the Zero Trust approach. Coined in 2010 by a Forrester expert, John Kindervag, the Zero Trust approach operates on only one basic principle: Trust No One. This simple tenet includes the following rules:
- Every unit of data is privileged and protected.
- No user, device, or network can get automatic rights to access any data within the organization.
Simple as it may sound, implementing this approach can be overwhelming for any organization. That is why security experts recommend that one must first recognize the five pillars of any organization and apply the Zero Trust approach to each of those pillars.
Five Pillars of an Organization
One cannot deny that data lies at the heart of all organizations. It is what every organization strives to protect. But before trying to protect data, the organization must define its data. Only then can they come up with appropriate strategies to protect their data. However, the most critical plan is to provide data-centric security by applying persistent, granular usage controls.
The only living pillar of the organization, the user, is also the weakest link of the entire security chain. Users often handle data maliciously by stealing it or carelessly sharing it without understanding its implications.
It is possible to apply robust security policies to networks with the help of a combination of advanced firewall options and powerful authentication options. To best use the Zero Trust approach, an organization must divide the networks into micro-perimeters or zones. As a result, each zone is protected separately with only limited gateways to access the micro-networks, thus reducing the attack surface and protecting the data.
The new normal has popularized the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach, making the traditional organization-specific devices obsolete. However, this creates a security challenge when various devices – laptops, tablets, mobiles – access data anywhere. As a result, only authorized devices can access the data for a limited time. That’s why an organization needs to authenticate every device each time it accesses the network.
The rise in the popularity of the distributed workforce has also resulted in a surge in cloud collaboration. Therefore, to curb any risks to cloud security, an organization must continuously monitor all the data workflows across the cloud and ensure formal processes for exchanging data.
It is essential to understand that the entire process of implementing the Zero Trust approach to an existing security model is gradual. But it doesn’t require ripping out the current structure. Tackling each pillar and applying the needed policies can ease the shift to the Zero Trust approach.