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4 tips for hybrid workforces to get started with Zero Trust 

Written by Prashant Ketkar, Chief Technology & Product Officer, Parallels (part of Alludo) 

Despite advancements in cybersecurity capabilities and increased awareness, the number of cyberattacks continues to rise. According to the report “The State of Data Security in 2023 and Beyond” 41% of organisations across different sectors have experienced a security breach in the past year, demonstrating the severity and prevalence of the threat. Perpetrators are constantly using new tactics to gain access to systems. Fortunately, the market for cybersecurity solutions isn’t standing still either.

As vendors continue to develop new methods and technologies to prevent criminal activities, the Zero Trust security strategy is seen as particularly effective in protecting corporate data. In fact, a recent survey shows that 61% of organisations worldwide have adopted a Zero Trust approach, which speaks to just how recognised and preferred the approach is.

 

The secure way: Zero Trust

The Zero Trust approach is based on the principle of “trust is good, control is better”. Regardless of where the request comes from or to whom it is directed, every access request is treated as potentially dangerous and is comprehensively checked before access is granted. This makes Zero Trust a powerful, flexible and granular way to control access to data across an organisation’s IT, network and security landscape.

 

One of the main reasons for the popularity of Zero Trust is also based on the rise of hybrid working environments. Despite the recent spike in “return to office” mandates, remote work is, to some extent, already a part of many companies employing knowledge workers. Whether employees are in the office or working remotely, they must be able to access all apps and data securely. Hence, there is a need to integrate tools that are highly secure for distributed workforces.

Previously, companies relied on virtual private networks (VPNs) for data protection, but this method has become outdated, posing significant security risks for the modern workforce and cloud environment. This is mainly because a VPN gateway serves as the secure entry point for users, with the “inbound listener” being vulnerable to hacker targeting. Once a hacker infiltrates a VPN gateway, it becomes a foothold for internal attacks. The VPN’s “inherently open” nature means users often have broad access, requiring security teams to actively restrict access to prevent unauthorized entry into sensitive areas.

 

A more secure alternative to VPNs is the implementation of a Zero Trust Network Access architecture (ZTNA), enhancing security and user-friendliness by considering every user as a potential risk.

Four tips for getting started with Zero Trust

Implementing Zero Trust can be challenging for many companies. Here are four steps any organization can consider:

  1. Forming a core IT security team: As a first step, a company should establish a dedicated team to drive the Zero Trust methodology, educating and mobilizing relevant stakeholders. The team should have a clear understanding of Zero Trust, dispelling misconceptions arising from inconsistent vendor definitions.
  2. Creating a comprehensive plan: In a further step, the IT security team should conduct a thorough assessment of the corporate data infrastructure and associated risks. They should align with stakeholders to address gaps between cybersecurity awareness, employee engagement, funding, policies, and technology measures. Based on the comprehensive and easy-to-use gap analysis they can then create an action plan.
  3. Selecting the right solution: Another important factor is choosing the right Zero Trust solution that aligns with the principle “never trust, always verify”. The team should consider Remote Browser Isolation or Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions that create secure workspaces for a distributed workforce. Both solutions can provide a consistent and secure user experience, regardless of the device or location of the user.
  4. Defining predefined identities and roles: Finally, a good Zero Trust application provides the ability to define predefined identities, roles and permissions. Compliance with predefined security policies is continuously checked, blocking all actions not allowed. In addition to identity, good ZTNA products take into account contextual criteria such as date, time, geographic location, network connection, and device status before granting access.

 

No fixed roadmap for Zero Trust

Even though the tips above can help companies take the first steps – there is no clearly defined roadmap for Zero Trust, as a security strategy should be tailored to the individual company. However, a fundamental prerequisite remains constant: All elements to be secured must be named – the motto is: “Never trust, always verify”.