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Mastering Zero Trust - Pillars for Security

Emily Arnott

What is Zero Trust?

 Zero Trust is a heightened security measure that blocks people and devices from accessing company data by default, only allowing access to those who prove they require it. Zero Trust assumes restricted access to company resources by all:

  • People
  • Software
  • Applications
  • Devices

Anyone or anything accessing company resources requires verification each time the system is accessed. There are no options to “trust this device next time” or “save password for next time”. Even users from inside a company network must be verified.

Zero Trust strategies are implemented by company DevOps and security teams. At Blameless, we streamline Zero Trust protocols for enterprise brands through team empowerment with our Zero Trust out of the box protocols. We find role-based access control groupings are the most successful.

Individuals involved in a security incident fall into three categories:

  • Observer – Low-level permissions
  • Responder – Mid to high-level permissions
  • Lead – High-level permissions

The outcome is firm control over access to unnecessary data, and intuitive assigning of access to data based on role, role requirement, and tool/data access requirements.

Pillars of a Zero Trust Maturity Model (ZTMM) 

Zero Trust maturity model (ZTMM) eases businesses into Zero Trust protocols. Minor adjustments to the ZTMM are made through unique pillars.

The Zero Trust pillars include:

Identity and Access

Access breaks down to the identity of people, device type, and service type. Identity verification is the most important facet of this pillar. It ensures that only those authorized to access a system get in.

Identity authentication comes in many forms, including multi-factor authentication (MFA). For example, some businesses require a one-time use PIN to be sent to a mobile phone number during the login process. The user must enter the pin along with a username and password to gain entry.

Another authentication protocol implemented in modern business is strong passwords. Long passwords, including capital letters, numbers, and symbols, are more complex and difficult to hack. Using a password manager can allow users to use long, complex patterns that they don’t need to personally remember.

Network Segmentation

The network segmentation pillar of the Zero Trust maturity model breaks networks into smaller parts called micro-perimeters. By dividing the networks up, each section receives customized security and authentication protocols.

Network segmentation minimizes the risk of large-scale security breaches. The tighter the compartments, the less sensitive data there is to access in each segment. These preventative measures limit unauthorized visitors and support the identity and access pillar.

Continuous Monitoring

Limiting access to sensitive data isn’t enough to prevent a security breach. Systems must be continuously monitored for:

  • Unauthorized access
  • Data leaks
  • Strange user behavior
  • Privacy violations
  • Security breaches

Real-time security analysis and reporting pinpoints areas of weakness so they are dealt with promptly.


Further dividing network subsections creates a granular approach to system security. Each individual subsegment operates with its own set of unique rules and authorization standards. An employee may need an entirely different password for two subsegments in the same network.

The smaller the area, the more limited the movement of a cyber attack. It limits the amount of information available in each segment and keeps companies in the know regarding what information has been made vulnerable.

Policy Enforcement

The Zero Trust pillars require ongoing enforcement to maintain reliability and consistency. Policy enforcement comes with a variety of unique restrictions and permissions. These rules are designed to moderate and monitor:

  • Access to systems and subsegments
  • Access to data
  • Permissions for different forms of data use (sharing, saving, deleting, etc.)
  • Resource usage

The goal of most policy enforcement is to ensure users with the least amount of privilege only access systems and tools absolutely required for their roles.

Ascending the Maturity Ladder: Journey to Zero Trust

Each Zero Trust pillar supports the eventual maturation of Zero Trust. Within each pillar, there are levels to ascend to maximize outcomes and minimize risk. These levels are as follows:

  • Level 1: Initial Awareness: Become familiar with and assess current security levels and security goals.
  • Level 2: Defined Strategy: Use your initial audit to develop a strategy to build your ZTMM.
  • Level 3: Controlled Implementation: Control each step of the ZTMM implementation with monitoring and real-time updates and alerts.
  • Level 4: Advanced Security Practices: Implement advanced protocols, including automation and tracking.
  • Level 5: Continuous Improvement: Update security protocols as technology changes. Use ongoing vulnerability scans to detect areas of weakness.

Working with an experienced leader in Zero Trust offers a greater chance for a successful transition.

Guiding Lights: Key Considerations for Implementation

A Zero Trust Maturity Model requires a group effort. Most businesses have already begun outfitting systems with Zero Trust security protocols as recommended by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

Whether you’re updating or starting from the beginning, these key considerations will help.

Executive Buy-in and Support

Modifying an entire method of accessing data and systems requires the assistance of a strong leadership team. Your key executives need to be on board and help the transition and maturity of the Zero Trust system. Get them involved by:

  • Engaging leaders in Zero Trust updates and initiatives
  • Working with investors and departments to obtain a workable budget and resources

Collaboration Across Teams and Departments 

Zero Trust impacts every level and department in a company. Collaboration is the key to a successful transition. Some ways to simplify the process include:

  • Cross-functional team development
  • Inter-team communication and education opportunities

Continuous Learning and Adaptation 

Zero Trust maturation models don’t happen overnight, and they’re never fully complete. Technology is in constant flux, and security protocols need to evolve right along with it. Some ways to stay on top of things and adapt are:

  • Following updates on new technologies
  • Monitoring emerging threats
  • Reviewing Zero Trust strategies regularly and modifying as necessary

Zero Trust implementation vastly reduces security risks, but enforcing a Zero Trust policy is no easy feat. This is especially true across large and diverse teams.

DevOps leaders need to keep aware of evolutions in standard Zero Trust protocols and the 100s of employees your company onboards. This is where Blameless comes in.

Zero Trust Implementation with Blameless

Blameless offers a streamlined approach to Zero Trust implementation with incident management. Our role-based access controls automate much of the process for you, ensuring new users automatically receive the least permissive access in your system and nothing is compromised.

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