Implementing Zero Trust at Scale For Security and Performance Optimization

by Josh Biggs in Tech on 29th June 2021

Zero trust has become a major buzzword for security, and many organizations have it as a major part of their networking roadmap. However, implementing it effectively (and gaining the full security and performance benefits that it promises) can be challenging without the right technology.

Benefits of Zero Trust Architecture for Network Security

Zero trust security models move organizations from a “trust everything” model of access management to “trust but verify.” Users are assigned access and permissions based upon their job roles, and requests for access to any corporate resource are granted or denied based on these permissions on a case-by-case basis. This provides several security benefits to an organization, including:

  • Stronger Authentication: Whether through compromised credentials, malware, or other means, account takeover attacks are some of the most common threats to enterprise cybersecurity. Zero trust’s requirement for strong user authentication can help mitigate the risk of account takeover because it provides stronger assurances that a user is who they claim to be.
  • Insider Risk Management: Companies are increasingly struggling with insider risk. An employee may steal sensitive data intentionally or cause an inadvertent leak due to negligence or a successful social engineering attack. Zero trust helps to reduce an organization’s insider risk by limiting a user’s access to just the resources they require to perform their duties.
  • Lateral Movement Prevention: Cybercriminals rarely gain immediate access to their objective when performing an attack. Instead, they usually need to move laterally through an organization’s environment from their initial foothold to their final objective. Zero trust makes this more difficult by limiting the access and permissions that an attacker has within an organization’s environment.
  • Increased Visibility: A zero trust architecture is based on imposing access controls on every request made by a user within an organization’s environment. In order to achieve this, the system requires visibility into all of these activities. This increased visibility provides valuable insight into how an organization’s environment works and aids incident detection and response.

Zero Trust Can Help Network Performance As Well

Often, security is the focus of discussions regarding zero trust. However, while zero trust was designed as a security model and provides several security benefits, it can also improve the performance of an organization’s IT infrastructure. Some of the ways in which a well-implemented zero trust architecture can help the networking team, as well as the security team, include:

  • Decreased Congestion: A primary goal of zero-trust security is to block unauthorized requests for resources. By identifying and blocking these requests, a zero-trust architecture reduces network congestion and the load on the systems that would otherwise be responsible for filling them. This leaves additional resources available for legitimate requests or allows an organization to downsize excess resources.
  • Increased Understanding: Zero trust security provides additional visibility to security teams, enabling them to detect threats more effectively. However, this increased visibility can also improve IT administrators’ understanding of how their environment works. By observing patterns in legitimate requests, administrators can learn how their systems interact and potentially make changes to optimize performance.
  • Fault Detection: Ideally, every legitimate request will be fulfilled, and every illegitimate one would be blocked in a zero-trust architecture, but this does not always happen. By monitoring the requests authorized by the zero trust solution and those that successfully execute, it is possible to detect legitimate requests that fail for some reason (potentially indicating a fault in a service) or ones that are inappropriately allowed or blocked.

Zero trust is commonly billed as the solution to many of the challenges facing security teams. However, the features that it provides also offer significant benefits to networking teams and IT administrators as well.

Implementing Zero Trust at Scale with SASE

For many organizations, the question of implementing a zero-trust architecture is not one of “if” but “how.” To be effective, zero trust requires consistent enforcement of access controls and security policies across an organization’s entire IT environment.

As organizations increasingly adopt cloud computing and remote work, this can be difficult to achieve. The variety of different platforms in an organization’s environment can make it difficult to identify security solutions that are universally usable or to consistently enforce policies across multiple different security tools.

SASE offers a solution to the zero trust challenge by moving security to the network layer, where it can be universally and consistently applied. SASE points of presence (PoPs) incorporate a complete network security stack and create a secure WAN optimized by SD-WAN technologies.

With SASE, zero trust policies can be applied immediately at the SASE PoP where traffic enters the corporate WAN. This minimizes the load on corporate resources (since invalid requests are dropped before they reach the target server) and enables consistent security and policy enforcement (since all SASE PoPs are identical and centrally managed).

Categories: Tech