The dated “trust but verify” security models that relied on defended perimeters worked well enough in the past when employees, devices, and applications resided inside the network. However, those legacy approaches have become totally ineffective in today’s world of cloud, mobility, and distributed workforces.

With identities, data, and users everywhere, security teams can no longer make broad trust assumptions based on network location. The zero trust model was conceived in response to these new realities. By continuously authenticating and authorizing while also minimizing blast radius, zero trust architectures provide the flexible yet secure access critically needed in the modern enterprise.

In this article, we’ll examine 5 key reasons every organization needs to embrace zero trust principles going forward to substantially reduce security risk. We’ll also highlight example techniques to begin implementing zero trust controls across your people, devices, networks, data, applications, and infrastructure.

Reason 1: Align Security to Hybrid and Remote Work Realities

Perhaps the most compelling driver for zero trust is the shift towards hybrid work environments. Traditional network security models like VPNs were designed assuming most users and devices would reside on-premises behind the corporate firewall.

When remote employees connect via VPNs, they are granted the same full access as if they were in the office. Such all-or-nothing network access fails entirely to account for user behaviors, identity attributes, device security posture, and other contextual factors that should adapt privileges in a zero trust world.

Zero trust network access (ZTNA) solutions address these shortcomings. Leading options like Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD) External Identities and Cloudflare Access broker access to specific applications based on user identity, device compliance, multifactor authentication, and other signals.

Location on the office LAN no longer dictates entitlements. This allows secure work from anywhere on any device, while restricting excessive access that invites lateral movement after breaches. As hybrid remote and office work persists, adopting zero trust network principles is essential.

Reason 2: Contain Lateral Movement After Breaches

Despite best efforts, some cyber attacks inevitably succeed at gaining an initial foothold perhaps via phishing or exploiting a vulnerability. At that point, legacy flat network architectures provide little resistance to attackers crawling horizontally across systems and silos. This enables adversaries to carry out extensive reconnaissance and damage.

Zero trust architectures significantly limit the blast radius of breaches by using microsegmentation and least privilege. With microsegmentation, application servers, databases, and other systems are isolated and only allowed to communicate with explicitly authorized resources over approved ports and protocols.

This form of granular segmentation built on zero trust policies prevents the total compromise of entire networks. Additional zero trust principles like just-in-time access and multifactor authentication for privileged accounts further contain attackers. By minimizing dwell time and freedom of movement, zero trust models reduce the risk and impact of threats that penetrate perimeter defenses.

Reason 3: Embrace Cloud Scale and Agility

Migrating application workloads and data to the cloud unlocks tremendous potential for growth, flexibility, and innovation. But attempting to force legacy network security controls into cloud environments can negate many cloud benefits.

For instance, backhauling cloud-hosted traffic through on-premises data centers over VPNs in order to apply legacy firewall policies severely impacts performance and agility. Extending old network architectures to the cloud simply doesn’t scale.

Zero trust frameworks decouple security policies from physical networks through identity-based microperimeters. This identity-centric approach aligns to cloud architectures and supports security at cloud speed and scale.

With zero trust, workloads can be added across multiple cloud regions orplatforms without having to overhaul underlying security controls. Changes get pushed as updated identity and access policies rather than reconfiguring VPNs and ACLs which inhibits cloud agility.

Reason 4: Reduce Your Attack Surface from Excessive Privileges

By implementing the zero trust tenets of least privilege and just-in-time access universally across IT ecosystems, organizations can substantially reduce their attack surface. Two common scenarios that increase risk include:

  • Standing admin privileges on workstations and servers that never expire, allowing any compromise of that device to gain high privileges.
  • Shared, stale service accounts used by multiple applications and tools for connections rather than per-app identities.

In both cases, zero trust controls limit the attack surface by constantly enforcing minimum permissions and granting elevated privileges only when justified. Multifactor authentication protects against abuse of admin rights by verifying additional factors before approving access.

Just-in-time access removes persistent credentials from devices altogether by requiring manual approval to temporarily elevate privileges through PAM tools like Microsoft Privileged Identity Management. By implementing least privilege and just-in-time across identities, zero trust shrinks the attack surface significantly.

Reason 5: Demonstrate Security Maturity for Audits and Regulations

Most cybersecurity frameworks and industry regulations have evolved to stress zero trust principles. Examples include the US government’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC 2.0) and cloud security guidelines from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

By adopting zero trust controls, organizations can proactively demonstrate rigorous security practices rather than trying to explain shortcomings like stale VPN-based access models. Zero trust strengthens compliance stances and avoids embarrassing audit findings calling out dated architectures.

As zero trust becomes codified into more cyber standards, practitioners will benefit from getting ahead of the curve now before change is forced later. Evaluating zero trust capabilities also identifies forward-looking vendors to partner with versus dated holdouts.

Turning Zero Trust Aspirations into Reality

The strategic and tactical benefits of transitioning to a zero trust security model are compelling and multi-faceted. However, transforming established architecture paradigms organization-wide remains challenging. Here are some recommendations on where to begin executing your zero trust journey:

Start with identity foundation – Implement single sign-on (SSO) integrated with multifactor authentication for centralized access control across applications and resources. Cloud identity providers like Microsoft Azure AD provide building blocks.

Adopt zero trust network access – Phase out legacy VPNs by adopting ZTNA platforms from leaders like Zscaler, Akamai, and Perimeter81 that broker application access based on identity.

Segment critical systems – Map key business applications like ERP and CRM to develop microsegmentation policies that restrict lateral connectivity. Tools like Illumio and Guardicore simplify designing zero trust segmentation.

Apply least privilege controls – Audit directories, file shares, databases, and cloud permissions to remove unnecessary standing access and enforce just-in-time elevation.

Champion cultural shifts – Educate stakeholders that network location should not dictate trust like the old days. Promote continuous authentication.

While the path forward involves changes, zero trust delivers the confident security posture needed for the modern enterprise. Partner with identity and security experts like our team at DBGM Consulting to chart your zero trust transformation successfully. Don’t leave dated trust models exposed – the time to adopt zero trust is now.

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