As a result of partaking in a society, we humans are indirectly confronted with the phenomenon of trust every day: We trust teachers with educating our children, cooks with making our food, and banks with handling our money. Furthermore, trust is also a fundamental practice in our work lives. When our colleague, Joe, is sitting next to us in the office, we can safely assume that he is indeed himself and a member of our team. Can we, however, still be this confident in his identity when all we see is his displayed name?
Given the ever-growing prevalence of remote jobs, bring your own device (BYOD), as well as SaaS and cloud-based assets, the importance of secure and trustworthy authorization and authentication processes has significantly increased. As a new alternative to traditional perimeter security, Zero Trust was developed with this modern digital environment in mind: Instead of defending network segments, it focuses on safeguarding resources (assets, services, processes, network accounts, etc.), as the location of the network is no longer considered to be the primary factor in its security posture. Thus, by utilizing a reliable, verifiable source of identification, Zero Trust aims to assure that a person is who they say they are.
This article explains the functionality of Zero Trust and its benefits over older security perimeters.
What is Zero Trust?
Zero Trust describes a strategic security framework developed to reorient defenses away from network-based, static perimeters and toward users, assets, and resources. Its core functionality is to eliminate fraudulent access to network systems by removing implicit trust granted to accounts based on superficial user traits such as location or asset ownership. Simply put, Zero Trust is determined to take security measures as though hackers have already gained unsolicited access to a network: Accordingly, there is no such thing as a trusted insider within a specified perimeter anymore, and everyone is potentially guilty until proven innocent. Although this approach might sound harsh in theory, it only means that an AI is discretely authenticating, authorizing and continuously validating users or machine accounts before granting access to digital resources in order to eliminate the chance of an impostor on the network.
In addition to its core principle and functionality, Zero Trust's highly advanced security architecture is also attributed to its numerous supporting technologies. These include:
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Ensures with the help of a second login factor (f.e. One-time-password, Biometrics, etc.) that the device is in possession of the intended user.
- Privilege Access Management (PAM): Allows an access restriction to implement "least-access privilege" for every user.
- Principle of least privilege (PLP): Requires secure authentication at every transaction instead of just at the "perimeter," thereby improving login security and preventing lateral movements.
A passing trend or worth the hype?
As remote and hybrid work is becoming increasingly common, it is unsurprising that products supporting zero trust are rising in popularity. While this new security framework was initially considered a luxury feature, it has gradually evolved into a necessity for businesses of all sizes. According to Statista, 72% of organizations participating in their 2021 survey plan to adopt Zero Trust in the future or have already implemented it. Naturally, this newfound supply originates from a growing demand for higher security and trust earned through entity verification: Given the drastic rise in cyberattacks in the 2020s, SME IT professionals ranked "adding layered security so work-from-anywhere is truly secure" as their top priority for 2021 and 2022.
Fortunately, implementing Zero Trust has proven to be a valuable decision for countless enterprises: IBM finds that the average data breach cost for organizations without zero trust deployment was USD 1 million higher. Not only is Zero Trust helpful for damage control, but it also significantly decreases the possibility of an attack: With the help of its security automation, breaches could be detected and contained 27% faster.
Enabling Zero Trust with Identity Aware Proxies
Now that the concept and benefits of Zero Trust have been established, it is essential to mention its core component that makes all the running: The key element of enabling zero-trust access is the help of an Identity-Aware Reverse-Proxy (IARP). Not to be confused with IARP are forward Identity-Aware-Proxies (IAP); While the latter sits in front of a client and ensures that no origin server ever connects directly with that specific client, a reverse proxy sits in front of an origin server and makes sure that no client ever communicates directly with that server.
Identity-Aware Reverse Proxy is a modern, context-aware, and identity-aware authentication and authorization mechanism that replaces the traditional VPN-based access control mechanism: While VPNs use session-based access, IARP permits only per-request application access. Furthermore, in contrast to a VPN, which often grants users access to a large portion of an internal network, a zero trust architecture frequently calls for creating much smaller network segments and protecting these with IAPs.Through the mapping of identities registered with each resource, IARP centralized the definition of access policies and access control for servers as well as applications. Therefore, it facilitates the implementation of Zero Trust security and makes gaining widespread access to several resources considerably more difficult.
Zero Trust and ZITADEL
As in Identity and Access Management Platform, ZITADEL's highest priority and most significant promise is to keep its user's data secure. To ensure this promised level of protection, the application has enabled the deployment of Zero Trust access through its support for Identity Aware Reverse-Proxy. This new architecture was implemented according to the NIST standard: An official guide by the Computer Security Resource Center, describing processes for safely migrating to a Zero Trust framework. Accordingly, ZITADEL regulates access to all applications and delivers per-request application access, regardless of where the users are located, how they are authorized, and what device they use.
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