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What is Zero Trust?

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A security model based on the premise that no one is blindly trusted and allowed to access company assets until they have been validated as legitimate and authorized.
8 min read

Zero Trust Security Model

A zero trust security (ZT) solution is defined by the idea that no one is blindly trusted and allowed to access company assets until they have been validated as legitimate and authorized. It operates on the principle of ‘least privilege access’, which selectively grants permissions to only the resources that users or groups of users require, nothing more. Additionally, those who are granted access to the network, data, and other assets are continuously required to authenticate their identity.


Blog: Getting Started with Zero Trust
White Paper: Zero Trust Leading Practice


A Brief History: From Perimeters to Layers

The term was coined by Forrester analyst John Kindervag who explained in his research the importance of inherent “non-trust” when dealing with network traffic, no matter where it comes from. The concept originated as a network security term and rightfully so, since most businesses operated on their own in-house networks and data storage capacities at the time the concept originated.

However, ZT security principles can trace their origins to a much earlier concept, put forth in 2004 by the Jericho Forum, called de-perimeterization. Perimeter security is conducted by means of firewalls and perimeter guarding for the purposes of keeping out intruders. The flaw in this strategy is the lack of safeguards once intruders are able to breach the perimeter. De-perimeterization is a security strategy of removing the standard “boundary” security separating a network from the internet and instead creating segmentation and a multi-layered security system built on encryption and authentication. Zero trust architecture (ZTA) provides layered security by means of constant reauthentication and inherent distrust of all devices, users, and actions whether they exist within the perimeter or not.


What are the Zero Trust Principles?

These are the three core principles that guide the zero trust model:


1. Grant the Least Amount of Privileges

By granting the least amount of privilege and access as possible without impacting an individual’s ability to complete their tasks, you only grant access to resources on a case-by-case basis to exactly what is needed and nothing else.


2. Never Trust, Always Verify

No action or user is inherently trusted within a ZT security model. Every new entry into a system or request for access to new data must come with some form of authentication to verify the identity of the user.


3. Always Monitor

Zero trust requires consistent monitoring and evaluation of user behavior, data movements, network changes, and data alterations. While authentication and privilege restrictions are the backbone of ZT, it’s always best to verify all actions taken within your organization’s infrastructure.


Who Benefits from a Zero Trust Approach?

An approach that removes implicit trust from corporate network access and requires verification of devices and user identities has become increasingly more relevant in response to the rapid rise of mobile and remote workers. This model benefits enterprise infrastructures using:

  • Bring your own devices (BYOD)
  • Shadow IT departments
  • Cloud services
  • Mobile devices

While these hybrid work trends have benefited users and brought new levels of flexibility to IT, they have also reduced the ability of security teams to control and secure access to data and network resources and prevent malicious attacks against company security. This security model brings this control back, tightening up security in the face of a dissolving network perimeter.

Under a ZT model, think of your network and data infrastructure as a building full of rooms with locked doors. Each lock has its own individual key and you only grant users access only to the room with assets that they need and nothing else.

What are the Types of Zero Trust?

Implementing layered security controls protects private applications, sensitive data, and network assets, while drastically reducing risks from malicious insiders and compromised accounts.

There are two current and distinct applications for the zero trust model:


ZTNA, Also Known as SDP

A solution designed to grant remote access to an environment is commonly referred to as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) but is also known as a Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP). A ZTNA or SDP is a modern way to secure access to the network, which uses a cloud-first, software-based approach to replace the hardware of legacy VPNs. It creates an overlay network that securely connects users and devices over the Internet to the servers and applications they need in the data center or public cloud.

Most enterprise organizations are adopting a model to provide both full visibility and control over users and devices that have access to a growing number of cloud applications and data services. This includes both managed applications within an enterprise’s ecosystem as well as unmanaged applications used by lines of business and individuals within the enterprise.

What’s the difference between Zero Trust and ZTNA?


ZTDP: A Netskope Zero Trust Framework

ZTDP is a new security framework created by Netskope. We define Zero Trust Data Protection as an application of the core principles of zero trust in order to guard your data from unauthorized viewing, movement, alteration, and exfiltration.

The addition of other tools like analytics platforms and inline visibility to cloud, web, and network usage allows these administrators to tailor their zero trust rules and prevent unauthorized lateral movement to other sets of data. All in all, ZTDP is a first line of defense against unauthorized data access and exfiltration.

While both of these concepts utilize zero trust, ZTNA deals with applying the model strictly for the purposes of guarding network access, while ZTDP applies zero trust to the protection of access to data. In a perfect world, companies would utilize both concepts as a safeguard against network intrusions and data exfiltrations/alterations.

Zero trust predictions and insights from Gartner

80% of new digital business applications will be accessed through ZTNA
of new digital business applications will be accessed through ZTNA
60% of enterprises will phase out most of their remote access VPNs in favor of ZTNA
of enterprises will phase out most of their remote access VPNs in favor of ZTNA



How Does Zero Trust Fit Within the Netskope Security Infrastructure?

To be effective in today’s cloud-first, increasingly mobile and distributed environments, zero trust solutions must blend a wide array of capabilities and technologies, from Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), to Identity and Access Management (IAM), to encryption, to scoring, to file system permissions and more.

SASE and Zero Trust, The Convergence

Netskope’s Private Access ZT solution is specifically designed to support diverse environments as a cloud-native ZTNA platform. It combines comprehensive access policy management, compliance assessment, integration with existing IAM and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions; and it supports any application, and any protocol – to simplify network and security operations.

The solution also provides extended protection through integration with the Netskope Next Generation Secure Web Gateway (NG SWG), which comprises several integrated cloud-native technologies, including an inline CASB, data loss prevention (DLP), SWG, and advanced threat protection (ATP). This allows the offering to be uniquely capable of providing unified visibility and protection of hybrid-cloud environments and enhancing latency-sensitive security functions such as DLP and ATP.

SASE and Zero Trust, The Convergence

Simply put, Netskope’s Private Access provides a next-generation approach to ZT accessibility, for any application, in any environment.

Data Sheet: Netskope Private Access


How Does Zero Trust fit within Security Service Edge (SSE)?

Security Service Edge (SSE) is the convergence of multiple cloud-based security services as part of a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture. SSE solutions incorporate zero trust principles into their architecture as a foundational security operation. Everything from the data movement to network access is governed by zero trust so that every user is authenticated and only given access to exactly what it is they need and nothing more within an SSE security structure.

The Future of Zero Trust Architecture

Today, ZT has evolved to encapsulate more of a general concept than just a network specific architecture. The concept is gaining foothold among all industry players and while the two most common applications exist in network (ZTNA) and data (ZTDP) spaces, this security model is expanding into other realms, such as:

  • Workloads
  • User bases
  • Automation
  • Devices

The zero trust model is here to stay, but it requires a new, cloud-first security mindset and approach to implementation. The new dynamic nature and requirements of remote work and cloud environments challenge legacy security architectures from every angle. Network-centric strategies are simply not as effective as they once were at mitigating cybersecurity threats.

Luckily, zero trust technologies have been maturing to address these new requirements. ZT essentially adopts a “default-deny” approach to security that requires all users and devices attempting access to be verified first. New ZT cloud security solutions are highly scalable and give users safe access to applications, as opposed to the network, to effectively protect private applications and data from breaches or misuse. These ZT capabilities combine with the far-reaching capabilities of security service edge in order to protect their business from an ever-evolving security landscape.

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Blueprint for Zero Trust in a SASE architecture

Continuous Adaptive Trust—The Key to Adopting Zero Trust and SASE and How to Get There

Chances are you’ve heard the term “SASE” shouted on every LinkedIn post and security tech blog in the industry. Ours is different – we’re leaving theory behind. Our blueprint has everything you need to fully understand the implications of Zero Trust within your SASE architecture.

Blueprint for Zero Trust in a SASE Architecture

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