Matt Graves | October 25, 2021 I 5 min read
Zero Trust isn’t Just for the Cloud. It Works for On-Premises, Too.
Zero Trust for On-Premises
Zero trust methodology offers better security in an age of remote work, cloud-based applications and mobile devices where people enter a network from a variety of endpoints, but it works for on-premises resources too. Even if your enterprise hasn’t started using the cloud, setting up a zero trust architecture now can still offer improved security and better efficiency, while preparing your enterprise for long-term success with future digital transformation initiatives.
The same fundamental principle of zero trust applies: just because someone is inside the network, they cannot be implicitly trusted. Solutions now exist that can apply the same identity-based access to on-premises applications and resources used for the cloud. That means single-sign on (SSO) for your users and multi-factor authentication (MFA) when your policies trigger a request for additional identity verification.
Creating Defenses within Defenses with Micro-Segmentation
What zero trust methodology for on-premises also means is the same micro-segmentation that reduces your attack surface area and limits lateral movement within a network. This ensures that in the case of a malicious actor gaining access to something they shouldn’t, that person is limited in terms of what else they can access on the network. Unlike the perimeter-based defenses of yesterday, with one big wall around everything on your network, each application and sensitive resource within the network have their own security walls.
Segmentation becomes easier for IT departments, too, by switching from the typical firewall rules that manage access based on IP addresses into user-to-hostname policies. Anytime a device has internet access, the IP address is exposed, which hackers can use to locate users and resources, leading to a potential breach. By using one-to-one application connections between a user and an application or resource, enterprises eliminate the exposure of IP addresses and further reduce their attack surface area.
In addition to better security and streamlined policy management, microsegmentation can improve regulatory compliance. It becomes easier to isolate resources and data that are subject to regulations like HIPAA and PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), and enterprises can avoid costly penalties for non-compliance.
Better than VPN
Something we’ve mentioned before is how zero trust architecture eliminates the need for VPNs, which rely on the outdated perimeter defense methodology. By creating this micro-segmentation of network resources and data, users can directly connect to the network applications and resources they need, instead of using a VPN connection that grants complete access to a network.
A leaked password to an old corporate account that had access to the Colonial Pipeline’s VPN resulted in the ransomware attack earlier this year that forced the fuel distribution company to eventually shut down its entire network, catapulting U.S. gas prices above $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014. Zero trust methodology eliminates the potential for this kind of attack by negating the need for VPNs to remotely access network resources.
For IT departments, they no longer have to deal with large, hard-to-manage access lists filled with code that traditional VPN models require. Breaches can be detected faster and connections shut down more quickly, improving your team’s response time to any security concerns.
Driving Digital Transformation
Even if your enterprise hasn’t migrated to the cloud yet or is only beginning its cloud journey, adopting zero trust methodology today not only provides these immediate benefits, but sets your enterprise up for long-term success.
As the nature of work continues to evolve and technology advances, having zero trust architecture in place means that your enterprise can be more agile in adapting to changes in your industry. It makes it easier to incorporate new technologies that can achieve your business goals. And it can simplify access for your users and management for your IT team, delivering the promise of more efficient work today and into the future.
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