Cybercrime is a significant risk on every business leader’s mind these days, and for a good reason: during the first quarter of 2023, businesses reported a 7% increase in global cyberattacks per week compared to last year.
Yet frequent incidents like the recent UPS SMS phishing, Suncor ransomware or the DraftKings credential stuffing attacks show that despite developing increasingly sophisticated tactics, criminals still aim to infiltrate your system by targeting one’s credentials.
Organizations are recognizing that they need an identity-driven cybersecurity strategy, realizing that they need to look beyond relying on a one-time fix like advanced technologies for data protection.
Instead, they are shifting their organizational mindsets to seeing security as an ongoing journey, and as a result, the Zero Trust framework is growing in popularity as a solution for preventing identity-based cyber attacks.
This article dives deep into how identity works within the Zero Trust model and how you can incorporate the approach so your organization remains safe.
In 2023, we access workplace data entirely differently than we did ten years ago, so we need to adjust our cybersecurity approach too. Today, we don’t just access our data in the office, but we also use unsecured networks at hotels, restaurants, train stations, airports, and beyond. Unfortunately, your office firewall won’t protect users accessing your assets remotely.
This model allows you to protect your proprietary data and still access data on the go. While traditional cybersecurity approaches assume that everything inside your network is trustworthy, zero trust means both internal and external networks can be undependable and inherently untrusted.
This philosophy has three guiding principles: 1) Verify explicitly, 2) Least privileged access, and 3) Assume breach. With Zero Trust, your network inherently mistrusts every user, constantly requesting them to prove their ID. Once you’ve authenticated them, you still control the user’s experience end-to-end.
While your organization’s Zero Trust strategy should focus on six key pillars (or areas of security): identity, devices, infrastructure, networks, application, and data – identity should be the foundation of your entire framework. However, in an era where our office extends beyond its physical walls into the digital landscape, identity needs to operate as the new security perimeter.
A user’s identity makes or breaks their ability to gain and maintain access to your network. As a result, you need to operate with the constant awareness that users are the gateway into your network. And remember, it isn’t just a human person; it can also refer to a device or service!
An identity-driven Zero Trust framework enables you to control your environment’s conditions so only the right users have administrative power and privileged access to your assets. That way, you can operate with the flexibility to adjust as roles and contexts evolve.
By focusing on identity, you can leverage the extensive analytics available through AI tools so your system can obtain detailed insights on a user’s behaviour. You can use those insights to ensure that your authentication and authorization systems will make decisions based on various identity-based contextual clues, such as a user’s role at the organization, device, and previous behaviour patterns. The system might also factor in attributes like the other applications a user may have installed on their device, their geo-location, or the hardware type.
After this process, your system will automatically make identity-driven decisions and enforce your organization’s access policies, using real-time analysis to identify potential risks and protect your organization from harm.
By centering identity in your approach through specific evidence-based mechanisms and best practices, organizations can successfully implement a Zero-trust framework that keeps their networks and systems safe and their operations running smoothly.
With a Zero Trust framework, your organization must embed ID verification throughout a user’s journey on your network, including vetting every access request before you allow authorization to access any of your assets and continuously evaluating and reassessing an identity’s access status.
You can’t rely on someone to prove their credentials with the correct username and password when they log in and assume everything’s fine afterward. Instead, there should be different layers of protection to provide enhanced security, similar to the many checkpoints travellers experience before they board a plane at the airport.
Zero Trust offers various authentication processes for verifying user identity and bolstering your cybersecurity posture. Continuous authentication allows your system to analyze user behaviour as they navigate your environment, looking for suspicious activity in case it needs to block continued access.
Rather than relying on outdated authentication practices, your organization should explore more modern tactics such as multi-factor authentication.
Also known as two-factor authentication, MFA adds an extra layer of security that requires a user to provide two or more pieces of evidence to gain access. In recent years, cybercriminals have developed tactics to bypass these layers, particularly with Microsoft 365 applications. At PC Corp, we’ve mitigated that risk by enabling number and location matching.
Many organizations find single sign-on authentication methods appealing since users can use one set of credentials for multiple applications. While this may feel more user-friendly and convenient, this approach can be risky, so multi-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security.
Many organizations that embrace the Zero Trust philosophy also turn to passwordless authentication. Rather than inputting a password to log in, the user may need to supply biometric evidence, such as a fingerprint or face scan. In other cases, the organization may rely on hardware proof, such as signing in from a trusted device.
Your leadership team should determine “conditional access” rules that control who can access certain resources while enabling your system to automatically address any instances of inappropriate access.
Your system can label identities with a specific role, so users can only access relevant data and applications based on previously established permissions associated with that role.
For example, a manager role should be able to see sensitive financial information and take administrative actions, or a sales representative shouldn’t be able to access development environments.
When managing roles, organizations usually rely on two important frameworks: identity and access management (IAM) and identity governance and administration (IGA).
IAM focuses on handling the essentials of user identity, like provisioning, managing permissions, and granting privileges. IGA takes a deeper dive into an identity’s entire lifecycle, defining policies, performing regular audits, and ensuring compliance. Entitlement management and privileged identity management technologies can also make it easier to oversee a role’s access entitlements, as well as which identities can access your organization’s top-level resources with the most open permissions. This allows you to prevent inappropriate identities from misusing these assets.
Imagine a work environment where you live in constant anxiety about potential vulnerabilities and threats, whether from cybercriminals or employees with unrestricted access.
When you partner with PC Corp for our comprehensive Managed IT Services, you can leverage our knowledgeable cybersecurity experts to implement a solid Zero Trust framework. Together, we’ll assess your existing infrastructure and business needs, developing a unique approach that reflects your goals. Afterwards, our procurement team will source cutting-edge tools to carry out our vision. Our staff will also provide education to empower your team with Zero Trust best practices.
Connect with us today to discuss how PC Corp can help your business build a resilient IT infrastructure that enables growth and success. Curious about learning more? Watch our recent webinar to get a comprehensive overview.