ZERO TRUST AND YOUR DATA
There’s a rather hackneyed idiom that goes ‘Never trust anyone farther than you can throw them.’ While I’m not sure about that, I do believe that you should never trust anyone with your IT network and precious data. This is where zero trust comes in, an IT security model first proposed 10 years ago by former Forrester researcher and now Field CTO at Palo Alto Networks, John Kindervag.
HOW ZERO TRUST WORKS
Zero trust assumes that everyone that logs onto a network is suspicious and prevents them from freely moving through a system. Therefore, a user cannot access files, devices, or other networks without further authentication for each additional connection. Put simply, zero trust reduces or prevents lateral movement and privilege escalation within a network.
CRITICISM AND CYNICISM
Initially, people were skeptical about Kindervag’s model. Some said it was taking cybersecurity too far, and the policy still has its cynics. James Lewis, VP of Strategic Technologies at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said:
“Zero trust is the buzzword du jour. We haven’t done the basics. So, why immediately go to the nuclear option?”
While zero trust may be the cybersecurity catch-phrase of the month, experience has taught me that to protect any IT network and the critical data contained therein, it may be the future solution for preventing system intrusion and hacking.
WHY DO WE NEED ZHERO TRUST?
In 2015, Chinese hackers breached the government Office of Personnel Management in the United States, stealing sensitive security clearance information on millions of American citizens.
Last year, Texas-based software firm, SolarWinds, was a victim of severe hacking when malicious code was inserted into updates for its software. The updates were received the 18,000 SolarWinds customers and at least 9 government agencies and 100 companies were further targeted by Russian hackers. So the need for zero trust has become increasingly apparent, although remains an aspirational goal for many US state department.
Another major cyberattack was disclosed in March this year. Microsoft reported that Chinese hackers had exploited flaws in its software for email. Hackers used vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange code to break into more than 30,0000 organizations, thereby exposing millions of files. The Chinese cyber espionage group monikered ‘Hafnium’ targeted attacks on email systems used by a range of industry sectors, including infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defence contractors, policy think tanks, and NGOs.
TRUST NO ONE
I don’t like saying it, but when it comes to those accessing your IT network, I say ‘trust no one.’ Extreme as it may be, at least you will have peace of mind and know that your systems are secure as they can be. While zero trust may not completely block hacks, it will limit the damage and prevent hackers from moving from one part of your network to the next. Here are some closing words from John Kindervag:
“In cybersecurity, in a threat environment that’s constantly escalating, we can’t settle for keeping things the way they are. Organizations have to find a way to reach the top of those stairs.”