As more companies adopt remote and hybrid work models, cybersecurity risks also increase. A 2022 Verizon Mobile Security Index report revealed that 45 percent of respondents had suffered a cyberattack in the past year, with attacks rising by 22 percent compared to 2021. Sometimes, the success of a cyberattack is the result of a highly sophisticated, well-planned, coordinated attack. In other instances, a successful cybercrime results from human error, with employees falling victim to malware attacks, phishing scams, or accidental information leaks.
Companies can mitigate the risk of cyberattacks by implementing a zero-trust security model. Zero trust is a security approach following the “never trust, always verify” principle. It requires constant monitoring and verifying of all users and devices to ensure they meet an organization’s security rules. In a zero-trust system, each action and connection needs to be authenticated and authorized.
This post will discuss the main sectors that would benefit from adopting a zero-trust infrastructure, plus the top tools and software to implement it.
What Is Zero-Trust Infrastructure?
Implementing zero-trust infrastructure is one of the most efficient ways for companies to control access to their platforms and digital interfaces. But what is this type of cybersecurity measure?
First conceptualized in 2010 by cybersecurity analyst John Kindervag, zero trust is a comprehensive cybersecurity defense framework that ensures that every attempt to access secure network information passes through a series of security checkpoints. Unlike other systems, such as VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), which may grant restricted access to pre-approved employees, clients, customers or colleagues, zero-trust infrastructure assumes that every login presents a possible threat.
This approach makes secure company data inaccessible to anyone who fails to prove that they are a legitimate system user.
The zero-trust method reduces the possibility of human error; since every login is viewed with the same threat level and restriction on authority. It becomes significantly more difficult for hackers to impersonate authorized employees or enact phishing campaigns to gain login information. Each device and user must pass through advanced authentication and authorization security protocols, so even an authorized user attempting to log in through a compromised device, or via an unauthorized network, will be liable to restrictions on system data access.
The U.S. Government recently made a public announcement about their widespread adoption of zero-trust infrastructure for shoring up national cybersecurity. Their plan outlines advanced-level adoption of multi-factor authentication, segmentation of the network, deep-level encryption methods, tightened identity management, and continuous, ongoing enforcement of cybersecurity policies.
Cybersecurity professionals like Therese Schachner have pronounced that all industries should follow the lead of the U.S. government, noting that companies and other organizations that contain sensitive medical, financial, and personal data should adopt zero-trust infrastructures to “help stave off cyberattacks and keep this data private.”
Zero-trust infrastructure can protect data for companies that consumers rely on heavily, including water and electricity providers, software developers, and shipping and transportation operations.
Manufacturing will also benefit from adopting this advanced-level preventive approach. In the last several years, manufacturing has seen widespread adoptions of digital, AI and machine learning technology. For example, 43% of manufacturing companies have reported increasing their budget for machine learning development by up to 25 percent, while 29 percent of manufacturing companies increased their AI and ML budgets by up to 50 percent.
To meet this rising technological adaptation, manufacturing companies will need to develop equally advanced cybersecurity measures to protect private software, strategies and data.
Zero trust will ensure a streamlined security system, as every login attempt is routed through the same singular connection point. This tightens the hold of security, as missteps and potential bad actors can easily be identified and rooted out at the first point of entry.
A zero-trust approach also boosts access security for hybrid and remote companies. Remote workers will have to go through the same level and process of authentication and authorization as other employees, meaning they can access top-level, sensitive data more securely.
Zero-trust infrastructures also ensure that businesses and organizations across all industry sectors remain compliant with the latest cybersecurity policies. Since zero trust assumes that 100 percentof all interactions present a possible threat, it presents the most industry-compliant level of cybersecurity for businesses and organizations.
Top Implementation Tools and Software
Implementing zero-trust infrastructure provides a more streamlined approach to protecting company resources. For companies with hybrid business models, specific traits will be invaluable, such as emphasis on secure network login attempts, while large-scale in-person corporations will need more protection when it comes to identity theft and customer data protection.
For companies that are ready to adopt zero-trust infrastructure to shore up their cybersecurity, there is a bevy of zero-trust tools and software options to choose from.
Some options, such as BetterCloud, provide advanced customer service and fast responses but are designed to be implemented by an in-house IT expert or team. Other tools, such as GoodAccess, a cloud-based VPN with zero-trust policies, are designed to be implemented by the CEO or company owner.
Each company must consider its needs and requirements before choosing the appropriate zero-trust software. Luckily, many cybersecurity software developers offer free trial periods, allowing companies to test before they invest.
At the same time, businesses should hire backend developers who understand security and make sure they have the budget for this. Generally, companies can expect to pay at least $60 per hour for an experienced freelance developer who understands security and zero-trust measures, which should be cheaper than working through an agency.
The networks that companies and organizations are increasingly relying on are highly complex entities. They are distributed across vast geographical regions and accessed via countless devices. Each network presents a dynamic landscape with a continuously shifting arrangement of users, applications, devices, services, and data flowing in and out of the network.
Since this is such a dynamic situation, the boundaries are constantly shifting, making it a difficult space to protect. The zero-trust infrastructure approach addresses the potential cybersecurity risks, monitoring the access of each user, application, piece of data, and attempted interaction.
This advanced-level cybersecurity infrastructure protects all sensitive systems and data sets, no matter where users may be located, or who is trying to access these details. And it does so without interrupting or noticeably affecting user engagement.
Isla Sibanda is an experienced cybersecurity analyst and penetration testing specialist with a background in computer science and ethical hacking.