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Now that technology has successfully spread into virtually every area of our daily lives, it’s safe to say that we are a highly technologically-dependent society.

From waking up to working, working out to eating out, both business and pleasure tend to involve some aspect of technology. Along with that, our use of data is also increasing—be it saved payment methods on Uber or personal health information on your smartphone or smartwatch.

And with this increased traffic of data that goes on every day, the risk of having your information stolen or compromised is even higher.

Cybercriminals, fraudsters, and hackers wait for the moment when personal banking information or a company’s client details are unguarded and ready to be accessed for nefarious purposes.

Because of this, data security is more important now than ever, and will likely continue to accelerate in necessity as technology inevitably becomes more and more entwined with human existence.

But why do we need this data security, you might ask? Well, let’s take a closer look at the interplay of technology, data, and where security models can come into use, primarily the Zero Trust Security system.

Data Security
and Why It is
Important

In today’s day and age, the network is not fully secure on its own. Many people find issues with data compromisation, information leaks, and even outright hacking—the network is hostile in many cases. Because of this, everyone who uses the network as a connection truly requires some level of protection.

But why exactly is this need for data security so important? Let’s go over some of the reasons for protection and why it’s absolutely essential for internet users.

Why Do We Need Data Security?

Whether you are an individual surfing the web or running a company that handles money transfers and customer details, your network use relies on information that is stored in computers, clouds, and user logins. This sensitive information includes transactions, data collection, computer IDs, employee records, and even payment details.

And unfortunately, there are a variety of third-party fraudsters, identity thieves, and phishing scams whose sole purpose is to target this information and use it against you or your company, often resulting in the loss of money, data, or other devastating consequences.

Just consider what you might have stored in your network chains and how it could be used against you

If these types of sensitive information are not protected from other network users at large who might not have your best interests in mind, you and your business holdings can be put at great risk, not to mention possible clients, shareholders, staff, or even family members.

Therefore, data security during network use is essential to all modern-day internet dealings, no matter how sundry or unimportant they might seem.

The use of a network opens up a gateway to your most important and private details, and so needs to be guarded at all costs!

Data Security In The Modern Day

Before the internet, you might have used a safe or lockbox to keep your information secreted away, modern technology offers some better methods for ensuring your data is safe.

Data security nowadays includes stringent protection from unauthorized access, which is the key issue that faces all internet users.

As older safeguards become obsolete—such as simple password protection without numbers, special symbols, or capital letters—computer scientists have their work cut out for them to develop new types of security mechanisms to keep your data safe.

However, it is very important to keep up with the latest offerings of data security, as the cybercriminals you are attempting to guard against are constantly updating their methods as well, and finding new ways to circumvent your safety nets.

And while it can seem complicated to always have your security measures updated, it’s the best way to avoid slipping through the data safety cracks.

Types Of Data Security

Luckily for network users, many types of data security measures can be put in place to protect your information. Let’s explore a few of the most popular and effective options for your data’s safety and what they have to offer.

Data Encryption

One of the most widespread and successful ways to keep your data safe is through encryption. Falling under the umbrella of cryptology, this method of secure communications involves cryptography and cryptanalysis, working in conjunction to ensure data is encrypted in such a way that unauthorized users cannot decode it or access the actual data

1

In order to be processed by the user, any encrypted data that is transmitted must be decrypted by the same method it was first protected by.
2

This commonly includes the conversion of data like plaintext into unintelligible garble by using a reversible translation that is based on an algorithm.
3

However, to gain access to this information, software must then translate the encrypted data by using the same ciphertext that allows it to be read intelligibly, which is nearly impossible without using the exact algorithm from the initial encryption.

Thus, encryption makes it incredibly difficult for unauthorized users to access and read data itself, even if they somehow can download parts of the cybertext—without the correct algorithm, it’s unintelligible. And these algorithms are notoriously difficult to replicate or guess, thanks to consistent updates to network encryption software.

Access Controls For Data Security

Additionally, access controls are another form of essential protection for your information. This refers to who is allowed access to your information, either digitally, physically, or both.

For instance, if your company’s data is stored in a server room that employees have access to, it’s important to keep that area under wraps and well-guarded against anyone simply walking in. Most companies have user entry cards, security tokens, or other biometric forms of identification to limit data access to authorized people.

And speaking of biometric identification, another great way to prevent unauthorized data access is through the use of user-specific, physical attributes that are very difficult to overcome for a hacker or cybercriminal. Whether this is a fingerprint or facial ID, using your unique features is a great way to control who has access to data.

This is also useful for digital data access control—making sure all your devices, computers, and other forms of data storage are protected by biometric verification is key in ensuring its security.

Authentication that involves biometrics is hard to simulate by an unauthorized person, and cannot be guessed by an algorithm like some passwords can be.

And when you pair biometric security with other forms of user identification, such as PINs or one-time access codes, you can harness the protective power of multi-factor authentication.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

One last way you can ensure your data security is through the use of several authentication methods at once.

This is arguably the safest way to keep your information limited to authorized users alone—instead of relying on just one manner of controlling access, any unauthorized individuals will be met with multiple authentications that are increasingly difficult to hack through.

Multi-factor authentication can take many forms, but some of the most effective combinations include biometric verification, PINs, and personal security questions. You can also implement other means of MFA identification, including the following:

  • Automated Phone Authentication
  • Cryptographic Hardware Tokens
  • Email One-Time Token Authentication
  • Location-Based Action Confirmation
  • Risk-Based Authentication
  • Smartcard Hardware Tokens
  • SMS One-Time Token Authentication
  • Social Login
  • Soft Token Software Development Kits (SDKs)
  • Software One-Time Token Authentication
  • Standalone OTP Mobile Applications
  • Time-Based One-Time Password Authentication (TOTP)
  • Reusable Hardware Token Authentication (commonly used with digital ID forms and attached with USB or USB-C dongleto the main device)

But, one of the best ways to protect your data completely takes all these security aspects into consideration, including encryption, access controls, and multi-factor authentication. Now, let’s get to know one of the titans of data security methods—the Zero Trust Security model!

Zero Trust
Security

It is undeniable that more and more data security breaches are being reported in recent years, with numbers well into the millions for user information being left exposed and financial figures being stolen.

And with this in mind, organizations have been left with the need for better security and heightened access control when it comes to their information.

Luckily, after cybersecurity expert John Kindervag founded the concept of Zero Trust as a modern security architecture for network use, organizations can now depend on this model for all their data safety needs.

What Is Zero Trust Security?

This is likely the first question on your mind right now. What is this model of security that has become so popular all over the world—with businesses, governments, and all types of other organizations embracing the enhanced security it brings.

Simply put, the Zero Trust Security model is a multi-authenticated, access control process that has strict parameters for user access to data. This includes biometrics, user identification, restricted location and critical information pairing, and specific policy maps depending on the application or asset to be accessed.

If this sounds a bit complex, don’t worry—we are about to delve deep into this data protection system and discover exactly how and why Zero Trust Security is a great method for protecting your digital information.

The Evolution Of The Zero Trust
Security Model

But to understand the end security result of the Zero Trust model, we must first start at the beginning—how did Zero Trust evolve as a data protection method?

First developed in 2009 by

John Kindervag
a cybersecurity analyst and strategist

First developed in 2009 by John Kindervag, a cybersecurity analyst and strategist ahead of his time, this model for data protection eschews the idea of placing trust implicitly in the safety of the network and relying instead on proactive and impactful security solutions.

But before Zero Trust Security came onto the scene, the main data security methods involved segmenting networks into guarded perimeters, sort of like a protective wall around the data of users within those networks, residing in a main location.

However, this also meant that once the network perimeter was breached by cybercriminals, the personal and company information within could be accessed.

Not only could someone with unauthorized access get to user details within that network that was hacked into, but once someone got beyond that network perimeter security, they would be able to access other connected systems and lateral networks, compromising more and more individuals and organizations.

Zero Trust Security grew from this former method by eliminating one key aspect: the perimeter.

By moving data security away from an approach centered on the network itself, and implementing the idea that all systems, users, and devices should be treated as inherent threats to security, the Zero Trust method embraced authentication, authorization, and identification as its main pillars of data protection.

Though some organizations were reluctant to accept this new security method at the outset, due to the integration requirements and heightened protection measures that would require central management of overall security and authorization, it has become much more popular over the last decade.

How Is Zero Trust Security Different
From Other Types Of Data Security?

While the idea of Zero Trust security does include a variety of other types of data security methods of identification and authorizations, such as biometric verification and password use, it is still very much in a league of its own when it comes to data protection.

Instead of relying on a traditional method of having an outer security layer for your network use such as a firewall, and allowing all users who have access to freely roam within those perimeters, Zero Trust involves verification before trust.

Traditional Cybersecurity

For instance, the perimeter set up by a data center with a firewall might be quite secure, but that perimeter is not verifying users who can pass through it. Both authorized users and someone who has figured out a password or PIN for that specific layer of security can access the data held within.

Zero Trust Security

But with a firewall perimeter provided by the data center, and segmented security within that surrounding protection, Zero Trust Security uses physical and digital security devices to provide stronger breach control and management that restricts unauthorized access and prevents malware from entering the network.

What Is The Difference Between Trust-Based And Zero-Trust Security?

The perimeter-based data security method mentioned previously is also commonly referred to as a trust-based system: the network security architecture assumes that someone accessing data within the perimeter is authorized to be there.

However, should the user within the perimeter of data access be an unauthorized entrant with devious plans for such personal information, the system will still trust this user to have an allowance for their presence there.

With Zero Trust Security, the difference is very much present in the name.

Instead of a single security perimeter that trusts users’ access to the entire cluster of personal or business data contained within those network connections, the Zero Trust model does not give default access to users.

As a no-trust method, Zero Trust works on the assumption that unauthorized users are attempting to break into the system and cause destruction. Thus, stringent identity verification is needed by the Zero Trust Security system to authorize and allow access to stored data.

Why Does Zero Trust Security Work?

Because Zero Trust Security is designed to inhibit the access of users until their authorization to be there is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, this method can prevent unauthorized users from not only gaining entry to data storage but also moving along lateral networks to attack other connected systems and organizations.

A key consideration of Zero Trust’s success lies in its segmented approach to security. Instead of simply moving through a single layer of protection, users must re-establish their authentication periodically even within the same network, as well as every time they log in.

This segmented approach provides a continual need to verify user identities, without the ability to bypass this step. If you cannot provide the necessary authentication, you do not gain access to the system and the data held there—it’s as simple as that!

This segmented approach provides a continual need to verify user identities, without the ability to bypass this step. If you cannot provide the necessary authentication, you do not gain access to the system and the data held there—it’s as simple as that!

This prevents a cybercriminal from accessing other networks running parallel to the one they have hacked, and essentially strands them within the system with no way to wiggle out again, making Zero Trust Security one of the most effective methods of data protection available!

Who Can Benefit From
Zero Trust Security?

Given that virtually every person in the world is attached to technology and uses sensitive data for tasks on a regular basis, the broad answer is everyone.

However, Zero Trust Security is supremely important for organizations, companies, and governmental bodies that deal in large amounts of personal information, client details, and data that could pose significant personal health, internal security, or even international relations risks if it was compromised or leaked.

Additionally, social media platforms that store vast amounts of private and sensitive personal data for millions of users all over the world should be protected by the Zero Trust Security paradigm, especially given various social media data leaks over the years.

Furthermore, a group of 18 companies pledged to take part in implementing the Zero Trust Security model as a part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s 2021 enhanced security architecture project in the United States. This includes big names such as IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon.

The Tenets Of Zero Trust Security

We have discussed how the Zero Trust Security paradigm is different from others which work on a fundamental basis of trusting that the users within the network are authorized to be there.

Now, let’s explore the ramifications of this Zero Trust method a bit further by looking at the principles and assertions that comprise this security system and define its effectiveness.

What Are The 6 Core Principles Of The
Zero Trust Model?

In order to function as a successful security system, the Zero Trust model implements 6 core principles to maintain its strict authorization-only access mode and subsequent protections.

Access Control For Devices And Users

As mentioned previously, access control is an important factor in any data security system. And in the Zero Trust model, strict control is maintained over all users, devices, and IPs that access the network.

In addition to monitoring all devices and user profiles that have entered the system, Zero Trust must assess each entry point to ensure it is not a possible threat, which helps maintain the integrity of the network and its data.

Continuous Security Monitoring

One of the most important tenets of the Zero Trust Security method is consistent and continual monitoring of all network entry points.

Because the Zero Trust paradigm works on the basis that every user and device could be an attacker to the system, it continuously monitors and validates user privileges and device identities for security breaches.

This also includes login verifications and systematic re-authentication requests that essentially log the user out again and require identity verification before continuing any further.

Least Privilege For Users

This refers to the method of only allowing users the access they require in a network, and nothing more. This need-to-know access limits users’ allowances when it comes to data, thus protecting sensitive information from being seen by anyone without the proper authorization to do so.

Micro-segmentation of Security

As previously mentioned, Zero Trust’s segments of security within a firewall perimeter are much safer than relying only on one method of protection.

By using smaller sectors of security barriers throughout the network and data storage areas, these protective layers can be more easily monitored and can also be isolated from the rest of the network should a breach occur.

Multi-Factor Authentication Technology

By using a mixture of identity verification, the Zero Trust Security model ensures that only authorized users and devices can access networks and data. This multi-factor authentication process commonly includes biometric verification, two-factor authorization, and a variety of one-time passwords or other authentication tokens.

Preventing Lateral Movement

As a trait that is made possible by the micro-segmentation of the Zero Trust Security model, if any attackers should make it into the network, the node they have entered can quickly be shut down and quarantined, successfully stalling the threat.

Further, this prevents the breach from spreading past further security and accessing other networks. With each time a user transitions to a new part of the system’s network, further verification is required which makes it impossible for an attacker to slip through and vanish into the wider web.

What Does The Zero Trust Model Bring
To Your Data Security?

By embracing those 6 core principles, the Zero Trust Security model can heighten your data’s safety and prevent cybercriminals from accessing sensitive information. And to summarize the effectiveness of this system, the following are some key considerations that Zero Trust implements into your security paradigm:

Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment that threats exist from both internal and external sources at all times on the internet, no matter the level of security.

Security policies must be calculated

Security policies must be calculated from multiple sources of authentication and dynamic to account for changes in the locality and user IP.

Authorized and Authenticated

Each user, network link, and device must be authorized and authenticated before access is allowed.

The security system

The security system always assumes the network and users to be hostile or unauthorized.

The placement or locality

The placement or locality of the network or user access point is not enough to elicit trust from the security system.

How Do You Implement Zero Trust Security Architecture?

So, if you like the sounds of Zero Trust Security and how this model can provide comprehensive protection for your data, you might be wondering how to implement it in your own business.

The first step to take is by adopting a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) to your organization’s systems. This setup will work to protect and cover access to your primary infrastructure and network services via encrypted connections and monitoring software.

This network modulation also institutes least user privilege access, which, unlike a VPN that many companies might use to try and secure their private data, only allows users access to the information that their authorization level permits.

But beyond a ZTNA configuration, there are 5 main steps for how to best integrate this complex system into your network protection strategies, which we will now examine further.

1 Identify Sensitive Data

First, you must identify the data that provides a potential security risk should there be a breach.

This involves determining what you need the Zero Trust Security system to cover—instead of trying to predict what might be a lure for possible attackers, it is much easier to figure out the protective surface of your enhanced data security first.

Consider the following when identifying the data that could be tempting to cybercriminals:

Applications
Including custom and manufacturer software, and other tailored applications.

Assets
Including data center equipment, IoT devices, manufacturing assets, medical supplies, POS terminals, SCADA controls, shares, etc.

Data
Including bank account information, credit or debit card details, personal healthcare information, provable intellectual property, PII, transit codes, etc.

Services
Including Active Directory entries, customer databases, physical and email addresses, etc.

2 Map The Traffic Flow Of Sensitive Data

Next, it’s time to look at how exactly these types of data are accessed across your network. Log user traffic and timing, locations where data is stored, and any business applications that are associated with dispensing this information.

It’s important to know everything about the landscape of your data flow before implementing Zero Trust Security to make sure you have sufficient coverage!

3 Create The Network Architecture

This is where you can get a little bit creative with your own Zero Trust system, depending on the patterns of data sharing and access that you need to preserve and protect, and what kinds of information your organization is involved in.

But in general, the best network architecture will include some sort of public-cloud provider filter to prevent unauthorized visitors, monitored flow of data, and multi-factor authentication for all users.

4 Deploy Validation Policies

This refers to the control over the network by your Zero Trust Security segmentation process.

By ensuring each segment is monitored and user validation is not only required immediately upon request to access but also after a certain period of time to re-authenticate, this creates a multi-layer web of security that does not assume the intentions of any users or devices, to the benefit of your data’s safety.

5 Monitoring And Maintenance

And finally, because no network security system is entirely self-sufficient, it’s absolutely essential to keep an eye on your Zero Trust Security model and ensure that all the various aspects are working and that you are maintaining central and holistic control of your network.

Additionally, continual system updates and regular maintenance are required to protect against the latest forms of malware and other cyber threats as they evolve. While your monitoring, validation, and authentication systems with Zero Trust might be automated, the system might still need the occasional digital TLC to keep everything running smoothly!

Conclusion

In a world of technology that trades on data transfers and the sharing of digital information, personal and business security is more important than ever.

And for any organizations that deal with personal, sensitive, or financial data, having a reliable system to protect your network and information storage from malware threats and digital attacks is essential.

That’s where the efficient and effective protection of Zero Trust Security comes in—by eliminating any default trust in the intentions of a user or the safety of the network, this system provides comprehensive and segmented safeguarding measures to all your most private and sensitive data.