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Implementing Zero Trust: A Practical Guide

According to the Harvard Business Review, 2022 saw more than 83% of businesses experiencing multiple data breaches. Ransomware attacks, in particular, were up 13%. With cyber security being such a hot topic for business owners, it’s no surprise implementing a zero trust policy has become so important.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to implement zero trust and why it’s important for your business to do so. Let’s get started.

Decoding Zero Trust Implementation 

Zero trust is sometimes called the zero trust architecture, or ZTA. It’s a cyber security strategy implementing a policy where users have their identity verified each time, with no assumptions based on past behavior. Let’s break it down further to better understand how it works.

Understanding the Essence of Zero Trust

Zero trust means no person, system, or application is trusted on a specific network or server. Even if a user has logged in before or the system is on a corporate LAN and connected to a permission-based platform, zero trust requires full verification.

In short, nobody can access a zero trust system without the appropriate security protocols and passwords. These protocols must be implemented every time someone uses the system.

Benefits of Implementing Zero Trust

Cloud environments make accessing, stealing, or ransom data easier than ever. Sensitive business information, including personal and financial data is often targeted. Zero trust offers the highest level of protection against these risks, including:

  • Granular access: Businesses use granular access to define authority for certain groups in certain areas of the system. Individual access to each individual system is granted on a bespoke basis based on need.
  • Narrow attack space: The granular setup provides smaller areas to access. Cybercriminals can never access everything at one time.
  • Less time and money spent: When a smaller area is targeted, less work is involved in cleaning up the resulting mess.
  • Greater compliance support: Maximizing your security efforts by implementing a zero trust policy only enhances your compliance efforts. Zero trust is necessary for some of the most respected security certificates.

These are only some reasons modern businesses choose to implement zero trust architecture.

Components of a Zero Trust Policy 

The zero trust framework is unlike traditional security models. There’s no assumption that everything within a business network is safe to staff and management. Zero trust treats every attempt to access the system as a potential threat. The core components of this design include:

Identity and Access Management (IAM) 

Identity and access management verifies users and their access levels. It often includes specific login-in or access requirements, such as biometrics or two-factor authentication. IAM ensures a strong verification process is in place for the no-trust architecture to function.

Network Segmentation 

As the name suggests, network segmentation divides a network into sub-networks or network segments. This restricts moving laterally within a network. When users accessed a traditional network setup, they could move around unimpeded.

Segmentation prevents users from accessing other sections of the network from the area they are authorized to use. Each segment has its own authentication process.

Continuous Monitoring and Analytics 

Even when you implement a no-trust policy, there’s room for error. Constant monitoring and analytics reporting keeps you on top of potential risks and system flaws. You see who accesses what, for how long, and what happens there. Nothing is left to chance.

Data Protection and Encryption  

Encryption is an additional method to protect data on top of your standard authentication procedures. If data gets out somehow, despite a no-trust architecture with a granular design, data is still unable to be stolen or shared until decrypted.

Least Privilege Principle

The “Least Privilege” principle of the no-trust business architecture automatically grants any user the least amount of privilege possible. Minimum access, minimum authority, and minimum ability to change, save, or move data. The fewer high-access personnel in an organization, the less chance of high-risk data going missing.

Navigating Zero Trust Phases: The Evolution of Security 

Now that we have a handle on what zero trust is and how it works, let’s look at its evolution. There is an initial, intermediate, and advanced phase to consider.

Initial Phase: Establishing a Baseline 


Businesses should know the current cybersecurity landscape before implementing zero trust. A system audit helps identify current trust settings, vulnerabilities, and authenticated users.

Intermediate Phase: Segmentation and Micro-segmentation  

Refine network segmentation by developing a granular network model. Break down systems into micro-segments. This limits the potential for a system-wide cyber attack.

Advanced Phase: Conditional Access and Continuous Monitoring

Conditional least privilege access maintains a real-time authentication process. Ongoing monitoring maintains the integrity of this process, ensuring there are no weak points or errors in the system.

Steps to Zero Trust Implementation  

Zero trust implementation takes time and a well-thought-out strategy to implement. Here are some steps to get your zero trust architecture in action.

1. Assess Your Current Environment 

Determine your current infrastructure and software risks. Check your security protocols. Run an audit of your system with a professional IT or software engineering team.

2. Define Scope and Objectives  

Create a clear and realistic set of goals for your security setup. What is it protecting? Who should have access to what? What objectives are in place to direct security and authentication?

3. Design Zero Trust Architecture 

Design a zero trust blueprint for your organization. Use this to develop a strategy to implement zero trust protocols.

4. Implement Identity and Access Controls 

Create access protocols and passwords. Determine which individuals are verified for what and create authentication processes.

5. Enable Network Segmentation

Divide the network into micro-segments to minimize broad-scale risk. The smaller each segment, the less damage a cyber attack causes.

6. Deploy Monitoring and Analytics Tools 

Use tools to continuously monitor and report on changes and updates to your system. Every time someone logs in, which authentication process they used, data access, etc.

7. Implement Data Protection Mechanisms 

Implement encryption, along with other security features, to enhance zero trust protection. This decreases the risk of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.

8. Apply Least Privilege Policies

Offer the lowest level of access to all systems and employees by default. The fewer individuals with access to secured data, the fewer errors are made.

9. Build a plan for when things go wrong

Some breaches of your security still might occur. Have a plan for how to manage a security incident effectively while minimizing access to sensitive data. You’ll need to delineate different levels of data access while still enabling responders to fix the incident. Blameless can help.

Overcoming Challenges in Implementing Zero Trust  

Zero trust implementation creates a barrier against cyber attacks, but it’s not perfect. Overcoming challenges is an important step.

Organizational Resistance and Change Management 

Internal resistance and new training requirements are some of the biggest setbacks when you implement zero trust tactics. Most people don’t enjoy change. Show employees how this change is beneficial to them. Even if implementing zero trust creates stressors in the short term, it prevents crises in the future.

Integrating with Legacy Systems 

Older systems may not be compatible with modern security upgrades. Consider updating or phasing out old systems to enhance current security strategies.

Balancing Security and Usability 

Finding the balance between user-friendliness and security is important. You want your system to remain operational despite new security protocols.

Ensuring Continuous Monitoring

Monitoring your system is tiresome but necessary. Keeping tabs on all the changes in your system, prepare you for access issues, security risks, and more.

Zero Trust Deployment Checklist: Ensuring Success 

As you begin to implement zero trust in your business framework, it helps to have a checklist. Here’s a sample checklist for zero trust deployment.

Establish Cross-Functional Teams

Zero trust relies on several teams and departments. Security, IT, and even business operations may need to partner up for development and training.

Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

KPIs, or key performance indicators, tell you what metrics are important to the integrity of your zero trust measures. KPIs for zero trust could include number of breaches, frequency of usage reviews, or steps required for a practitioner to complete a task. These need to be measured for continuous monitoring.

Conduct Comprehensive Testing and Validation 

Before you roll out the official no trust architecture, thoroughly test your system. New security protocols can be tricky to navigate and get used to.

Provide Training and Education  

As security procedures update, your staff should be made aware of changes. Training protocols ensure staff use authentication methods properly and understand why they’re being implemented.

Regularly Review and Update Policies

Cyber threats are constantly evolving. Your policies and security protocols should as well. Regularly revise your policies so they maintain relevance.

Conclusion: Embracing a Secure Future with Zero Trust 

Zero trust architecture sets the modern standard for organizational cyber security. Let’s take a look at how zero trust architecture works in the real world.

Recap of Zero Trust Implementation Steps

Modern security risks call for a modern solution. To implement zero trust is to build a diversified plan of attack against potential threats. Businesses must:

  • Assess current security performance
  • Develop a security plan with zero trust architecture
  • Decide who has access to what, when, and how
  • Define the scope and objectives of your security strategy
  • Integrate your zero trust setup with legacy systems
  • Test zero trust architecture
  • Implement zero trust protocols
  • Continuously monitor and report
  • Make changes as needed

Leveling up your security operation is a long journey. Blameless can help. Our best-in-class security features allows you to effectively resolve incidents without incurring any additional risks of breach. We incorporate zero trust policies alongside other cutting-edge security features. To see it all in action, check out a free personalized demo.

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