What Zero Trust Architecture Means for the Future of Security

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the workplace for good. The rise of remote and hybrid work means computers and other assets need to access sensitive data from long distances, and potentially even from the other side of the world. Organizations increasingly turn to the cloud to handle their workflows. Meanwhile, cybercriminals continue to sharpen their attacks.

In consequence, cybersecurity needs to change as well. The protections that used to be adequate can no longer be relied upon. That’s why zero trust architecture is emerging as not only the most cutting-edge approach to cybersecurity, but also the best.

Conventional cybersecurity is inadequate for today’s threats

Traditionally, work was centered around a physical location, so cybersecurity focused on establishing a physical perimeter and hardening it. This approach falls woefully short today, however. Workers can be widely dispersed, and efficient collaboration necessitates cloud-based computing. According to recent statistics, 60% of corporate data was stored in the cloud in 2022, and that amount continues to balloon.

Meanwhile, cybercriminals are quick to respond to changes in the IT landscape, adapting their methods to exploit vulnerabilities as soon as they appear. Notably, hackers used the cloud to execute 45% of their security breaches in 2022.

What’s more, cyberattacks are on the rise. According to a Forbes article, cybercriminals increased their penetration efforts 7% in the first quarter of 2023 alone. On average, individual businesses confront 1,248 attacks per week. For educational institutions and research organizations, the numbers are even higher.

Protecting today’s enterprises, therefore, requires systems that authenticate users’ identities and extend access only to the right people, no matter where they are located. That’s where the zero trust architecture model of security comes in.

Zero trust security protects today’s enterprises

Zero trust architecture works just like it sounds. These systems extend zero trust to assets or users until they have been verified. That goes for laptops currently cruising at 30,000 feet, as well as those sitting on a conference table in headquarters; computers using the local network, as well as those connecting via the Internet; and the tablets and mobile devices that the company owns, as well as those private individuals own.

Before access is granted, the system authenticates and authorizes not only the device, but also the specific person using it. A session is opened only once the individual and device have satisfied the requirements on that part of the system. If those requirements are not met, the system automatically rebuffs the attempt.

How to implement zero trust architecture

Zero trust architecture is a strategic approach, not a software suite. Implementing it requires rethinking an organization’s workflows and culture from beginning to end. This is not to say zero trust should be implemented uniformly across your organization, though. Rather, it should be adapted as appropriate for each separate part of your processes.

To get started implementing zero trust, the first thing leaders should do is draw up a comprehensive list of your network operations. What workflows, assets, users, and data require protection?

Each aspect should then be given a rating. How sensitive and/or critical is that part? The higher the stakes that depend on any part of your processes, the more protection it should receive, with increasingly rigorous authentication procedures. While the least sensitive parts of your network could be accessed through a simple login with a password, the most sensitive could require biometrics, as well as the use of special equipment dedicated only to that task.

Keep in mind, however, that human beings often experience clearing the highest levels of security as onerous. Few people enjoy going through the TSA checkpoint at the airport, after all. That’s one of the reasons the most difficult security protocols should be reserved for only the parts of your operations that truly merit the extra vigilance.

Zero trust: The future of security

The way we work has changed forever, which means the way we protect our work must change as well. Businesses of all kinds should shift their security posture to successfully overcome today’s threats. Zero trust architecture ensures the best outcomes, which is why it will be the future of security. 

Eric Sugar
Eric Sugar, President of ProServeIT, has been with ProServeIT since its inception in 2002 and has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry. He loves seeing technology’s positive impact on people and organizations and always takes a people-centric approach to his role, whether it's helping his employees remove roadblocks, educating customers on how various technologies can make their lives better, or instructing leaders on the importance of corporate and personal cybersecurity.