Zero Trust and the Age of Global Connectivity

Global connectivity is omnipresent when it comes to smart phones and tablets.  It's not so much a case of looking for a power adapter when on the road, it's constantly about 3G and 4G signal strength or availability of contract hotspot wifi services.  However, global connectivity has also had a profound impact on enterprises.  There is no longer a rudimentary partitioning of network infrastructure into
public and private areas.  The firewalls of old have been replaced by application firewalls, data loss prevention operations and advanced tracing, tracking and event monitoring.  The internal 'trusted' network no longer exists.  Employees often pose the biggest threat to information assets, even though they are trusted with legitimate accounts on protected internal machines.

Zero Trust as a New Model

Zero Trust is a recent security approach that looks to move away from network segmentation and focus more on data and resources and who can access them, when and from where.  This helps to remove the antiquated approach of being on trusted grounds, which often helps create a singularity point which malware and hackers can focus upon.  By defining more context around individual information assets or services, allows for the opening up of those resources to globally connected devices, whilst securing access based on the who, where and why and not just their network location.  Access is permitted on the traditional 'need to know' basis, whilst being under continual review.  This would require all access to start from a minimal (if none-existent) level, whilst every connection being tracked and monitored.

Internet of Things & Modern Connectivity

I wrote recently of Protection & The Internet of Things and how, with the proliferation of previously 'dumb' devices enriching the Internet, comes a need for increased security context and reliance on the identity of things.  By extending a 'zero trust' model to this brave new world of increased interconnectedness, we can start to see the benefits of things like personalised search results, personalised home and environment settings, dynamic ordering and choice removal.  All devices, services and assets should start from a place of zeroaccess, with trust relations being built between identities and data which the devices can help bridge and create connections.

Zero Trust or Zero Protection?

But should the assumption be of zero trust or zero protection?  Many penetration testing organisations and web security auditors, promote the message that an organisation will be hacked at some point, so it's advisable to put in place recovery plans.  By focusing simply on prevention, an organisation can be opened up to irreversible damage if a breach were to occur.  So, do we take that approach to all services, devices and identities?  Perhaps.  With the increased level of services, API's, identity providers and data being created and consumed, existing models for security relationships are open to many potential failures that could impact the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability paradigm of traditional security.  Do we follow a zero trust model or simply say, well my phone will be hacked at some point, so I will not rely on it so explicitly?  Time will tell.

By Simon Moffatt