In our distributed work landscape, securing collaboration without hindering productivity is a priority. Learn about the Zero Trust framework and how to strengthen Microsoft 365 security.
Since the pandemic, discussing the “new normal” became commonplace. In most organizations, this means decentralized workforces operating either in hybrid environments or just going fully remote.
This reality presents a challenge for IT security, which is more dependent than ever on cloud-based structures and dealing with the risk of data breaches and attacks coming from everywhere. To address this, many organizations are adopting Zero Trust security architectures, based on strict, frequent identity verifications for every user and device.
But is Zero Trust security a model you can… well, trust? How hard is it to adopt it? What differentiates Zero Trust from standard security practices? We’ll roll out the main facts about the Zero Trust security model and help clarify the difference it can make for your organization.
Table of contents
What is Zero Trust security?
Zero Trust security is an IT strategy that requires every user and device to be rigorously authenticated and frequently validated before accessing data or other resources on a private network. It doesn’t matter if they’re inside or outside the organization’s network: that’s why “never trust, always verify” became the motto of the Zero Trust security model.
Zero Trust networks are critical for organizations with staff and collaborators in hybrid environments. When the pandemic accelerated digital transformation, an unprecedented number of employees went remote, putting Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to the test.
Granting full network access to verified users, VPNs became either too vulnerable or too strained to handle massive amounts of simultaneous connections.
But no system can offer a 100% protection guarantee from every threat. Take Microsoft 365, for example: although it has what it takes to ensure your cloud environment is secure to the utmost possible extent, it’s also a popular target for cyber-attacks (such as ransomware, phishing, etc). With a Zero Trust architecture, however, organizations can ensure seamless, effective communication and collaboration with data governance, security, and compliance capabilities.
Principles of Zero Trust security
- Continuous Verification. By this principle, your organization’s network will have no trusted users, devices, zones, or credentials anywhere, at any time. Verification will be applied to all those assets continuously to ensure maximum security. Nothing personal, really.
- Micro-Segmentation. This security technique divides data centers into separate segments, each one with independent access and unique services. This means that if you have access to one zone, you won’t be able to access any other zone without separate authorization.
- Least Privilege. In a nutshell, this principle provides you with just the minimum level of access to perform tasks that are essential to your job. This is crucial for any organization looking to block unnecessary or unauthorized access to sensitive data.
- Automate Context Collection & Response. The more data, the better. That’s why the Zero Trust model validates access based on context, considering parameters such as user identity, device, location, and type of content. And to make this process more efficient and accurate, automation is key.
What Is Zero Trust architecture?
A Zero Trust architecture will be the foundation of your hybrid space’s new cybersecurity functionalities and processes.
It’s the sum of the elements that comprise your environment (such as user identities, endpoints, networks, applications, data, and infrastructure) and the practices that will make it more resilient (such as setting up and enforcing security policies and your risk mitigation plans).
Once those pillars are identified, you’ll be able to design your Zero Trust architecture, gaining more visibility and control over the environment’s users and traffic, and better supporting your overall cybersecurity strategy.
What Is Zero Trust Network Access?
If Zero Trust architecture is the skeleton of your cloud-based hybrid environment security, then Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is its heart.
ZTNA—also known as software-defined perimeter (SDP)—is nothing more than the set of solutions and technologies that will enable your continuously verified, least-privilege-based secure access and enforce your new Zero Trust security policies.
The main characteristic of ZTNA is that it grants users and devices access to applications on a network instead of unlimited network access, as happens with the standard VPN models. By authenticating users to use each individual application, you’ll dramatically reduce the risk of infections from unhealthy devices or “lateral movements” by cybercriminals through a network in the case of data breaches.
Getting started with a Zero Trust security model
Step #1: Understand
First of all, you should get a sense of every point of entry, external sharing processes, and technologies used by your staff and collaborators. Fully understanding how your organization operates remotely is the starting point of your Zero Trust model.
Step #2: Mitigate
Zero Trust is not 100% failproof. Once you grant access to a user, there’s little you can do to reduce threats. So, plan well on how to mitigate the impact of potential data breaches. Doing risk assessments, creating an Incident Response Plan, and training your team are some of the measures that can build a safer environment.
Step #3: Optimize
A Zero Trust strategy shouldn’t disrupt your day-to-day activities or hamper productivity. Make sure to automate context collection and optimize all needed verifications, so you provide end-users with an experience as seamless as possible.
How to use ShareGate to adopt Zero Trust security
1. Using SharePoint and Teams monitoring and security
As we said before, there’s no reason for your Zero Trust model to hamper productivity. ShareGate automates guest access management and allows you to customize Teams’ security settings. This leaves your users with the freedom to collaborate while keeping your sensitive data secure.
2. Monitoring and advanced reporting
ShareGate allows you to monitor and report on your Teams and SharePoint environments and then feed all usage and access information into dashboards or scheduled reports. This way, you can act on security risks with granular, real-time information. Stay in the loop, hands-free, at any time.
3. Right-sizing permissions settings
ShareGate is the only tool you need to implement SharePoint permissions and support your governance policies. With it, you can copy permissions from user to user, streamline regular permissions audits, or apply sensitivity tags to limit users’ ability to revoke policy settings.
4. Automating governance for context collection
With the end-to-end automation of policies and everyday IT tasks enabled by ShareGate, you put your governance plan on track and collect all context information for your Zero Trust security model. ShareGate also detects any potential issues, so IT admins are able to mitigate or solve them by getting the information directly from owners before escalating.
5. AI-powered security solutions at scale
A third-party Microsoft 365 management solution like ShareGate can help IT teams stay on top of security by getting full visibility into who’s shared what with whom. Automate external sharing reviews so they’re performed continuously without hindering productivity.
All that said, there’s no reason for the dream of digital transformation to become a nightmare for your organization. Once you identify your hybrid environment’s main elements, design your Zero Trust architecture, and choose the right technology, you’ll be able to put your new cybersecurity model into action and be ready for whatever “new normal” might come your way.