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November 25, 2020

Deploying Zero Trust Effectively for the Modern WAN

Zero trust has become a buzzword in recent years; however, it can be difficult to implement effectively. Deploying a WAN with built-in software defined perimeter (SDP) functionality can dramatically simplify the zero trust deployment process.

What is Zero Trust?

Traditionally, many organizations have adopted a perimeter-focused approach to cybersecurity. They define a network perimeter, deploy cybersecurity solutions to protect and enforce it, and label everything inside of it as “trusted” and everything outside as “untrusted”. However, this approach to cybersecurity is outdated for a number of different reasons.

Zero trust is an alternative security model that is growing in popularity and is based upon strong authentication and the principle of least privilege. Under a zero trust model, all users must strongly authenticate to a system before use, and this authentication links them to their assigned role. Each role has associated access and permissions based upon the requirements of that users’ job.

When a user requests access to a particular resource, this request is compared to their collection of permissions. Whether or not access is granted and the level of access provided is then based upon and limited to what they require to do their jobs.

Why Organizations are Adopting Zero Trust

Zero trust is rapidly growing in popularity due to its ability to dramatically decrease an organization’s cybersecurity risk. In fact, 60% of organizations have actually accelerated their zero-trust adoption projects in 2020.

These organizations point to a number of different reasons why they are working to implement zero trust within their network ecosystems, including:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Data protection regulations are growing in number and complexity. As a result, organizations need to be able to demonstrate an ability to control access to and protect a growing number of types of sensitive data. Zero trust helps with this by limiting access to sensitive data to those who require it to do their jobs.
  • Breach Prevention: Data breaches are a growing threat to organizations’ security, reputation, and bottom line. By restricting access to sensitive data, zero trust can make it more difficult for an attacker to gain access to and exfiltrate this data from an organization’s network.
  • Attack Surface Reduction: As corporate networks expand, so do their attack surfaces. Zero trust helps to reduce organizations’ attack surfaces by limiting the systems and services that are accessible to the public or to a particular user. This helps to reduce an attacker’s ability to gain access to a network and to move laterally once inside.
  • Compromised Accounts: Compromised user accounts are a common problem for enterprise security due to the success of phishing attacks and employees’ propensity to have weak or reused passwords. Since zero trust limits user access based upon job role, the damage that a compromised account can cause is limited to what the employee has legitimate access to.

Challenges of Implementing and Enforcing Zero Trust Policies

Despite its obvious benefits, the process of adopting zero trust is not always an easy one. In recent years, many organizations have engaged in digital transformation efforts, but these efforts, designed to improve efficiency and operations, also complicate zero trust adoption:

  • Remote Access: Traditional remote access solutions, like virtual private networks (VPNs), have no built-in mechanism for access control. Instead, they provide a user with unrestricted access to the enterprise network. These solutions must either be augmented or replaced with a solution capable of enforcing zero-trust security policies.
  • Cloud Adoption: As organizations move to the cloud, they require security solutions that are designed for and effective in the cloud. The cloud’s public accessibility, lack of infrastructure control, and potential for a variety of different data flows (intracloud, cross-cloud, on-prem to cloud, and remote user to cloud) all make a zero trust implementation more complex.
  • IoT Devices: Internet of Things (IoT) devices are an increasingly common part of enterprise networks, yet they do not fit into traditional user roles for access control. Zero trust architectures must be capable of appropriately managing access for these devices as well.

SASE Enables Consistent, Effective Zero Trust Enforcement

To be effective, zero trust needs to be consistently applied and enforced across an organization’s entire network ecosystem. However, the diversity of the average enterprise network (including on-premises data centers, cloud infrastructure, IoT devices, remote users, and mobile devices) can make this complex.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) provides a solution. SASE is a modern WAN solution in which a SASE node, which incorporates SD-WAN network routing and a full security stack, is deployed in the cloud. This creates a versatile and high-performance WAN that offers optimal network routing without compromising security.

Part of a SASE node’s integrated security stack is SDP functionality, which is ideally suited to implementing the access controls required by zero trust. With SASE, instead of struggling to deploy and enforce access control policies in a variety of different ecosystems and endpoints, an organization can implement a consistent, scalable, and usable zero trust architecture.

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