Perimeter security was deployed in the past to prevent external attackers from accessing the network. Security measures like firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems would act like security checkpoints, similar to physical perimeters like walls and doors. This solution was a good fit for legacy architecture and traditional networks. But nowadays, with the evolution of cloud computing, networks and IT environments, this model is no longer sufficient. Let’s see why, and how zero trust can help.
Perimeter Security – Protecting Legacy Networks from External Actors
For years, the organizational security strategy was focused on securing internal data and systems from external attackers. Businesses established data centers with in-house IT infrastructure. This infrastructure included servers, client devices, internal networks, internet gateways and applications, and it held almost all the organizational business information required for business continuity. Firewalls, demilitarized zones, antivirus programs and intrusion systems protected these assets, creating a clear border between those who were allowed access and those who weren’t.
Any user who had access to the network, could access large parts of it, regardless of their job title or actual needs. This was made possible not only due to the network structure, but to the workforce structure as well. Most employees worked on-premises, and organizations scarcely ever supported remote work plans. Trying to access network assets remotely was a difficult process, with the perimeter security model treating them almost as if they were intruders trying to access the crown jewels.
The Modern Network Perimeter is Full of Holes
Perimeter-based security solutions were sufficient for their time, when businesses mostly required local network operations and employee connectivity to networks only took place in the office. However, digital transformation and societal changes revolutionized network architecture and dissolved the perimeter. These changes include:
1. Cloud Computing Adoption
Modern enterprises prioritize digital transformation that is based on cloud infrastructure and services. Information, data and systems are no longer stored on-premises, but rather in external cloud data centers, which sometimes reside in a completely different country, or through a hybrid cloud.
As a result, employees can access the organizational information and apps they need from any location or device, businesses can easily scale and information is shared more easily. However, this also means that the perimeter is completely dissolved, as the businesses have no control over the cloud.
2. COVID-19 and Remote Work
COVID-19 accelerated the shift of how and where people work, making it difficult for organizations to define and secure IT environments using perimeter security models. With a recent Gartner study revealing that 74 percent of organizations intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently, it is apparent that a perimeterized workforce will become obsolete.
However, even before COVID the workforce had shifted. People were already working from home, or actually, also working from home. They were connecting from various mobile devices, home offices, airports, restaurants, and additional edges. They were speaking with users across the globe. And they needed access to organizational networks at all times of day and night. As a result, security solutions needed to evolve as well to find a solution for this agile and ‘always on’ workforce.
3. The Demise of VPNs
As remote work and cross-branch connectivity requirements grew, enterprises relied on VPNs to provide remote workers with the ability to perform tasks securely while away from the office. Today, businesses still resort to VPNs to enable secure remote connections. However, following a number of VPN breaches, the realization that VPNs still operate according to the perimeter-based security model by tunneling in remote users, and a demand for high performance and low latency, enterprises are looking elsewhere for a more secure and easy to use security solution.
The Shift from Perimeter Security to Zero Trust Models
As a result, the modern perimeter is now full of holes, and network entry points are vulnerable. This requires rethinking the perimeter-based security strategy. With the legacy security perimeter dissolving, migrating to a zero-trust model can help organizations improve their security posture. The basic assumption of trust is replaced with the “never trust, always verify” idea, and users and devices are continuously authenticated every time they request to access an app or asset. Instead of immediately providing access to each identity, solutions like MFA and SSO will ensure that only users who require access for their work will gain it.
Zero trust architecture enhances security because it protects the network from external attackers, but also assumes there are attackers inside, so it protects from internal attackers as well. As a result, zero trust provides workers with more flexibility regarding when, how, and where they access organizational systems.
How to Implement Zero Trust Architecture
Organizations can quickly implement zero-trust security models by:
- Choosing a ZTNA provider.
- Adding a zero trust connector.
- Configuring an identity provider.
- Creating policies for accessing systems, applications, protocols, identities, privileged users, mission critical assets, 3rd parties, OT networks, and more.
When choosing a ZTNA provider, it’s essential to choose the right one. Here are 7 questions to ask your provider, to ensure that you don’t have to trust anyone, even your ZTNA provider.
- Is the users’ data exposed?
- Who has control of the access rules?
- Where are our secrets (passwords, tokens, private keys) kept?
- How is the risk of internal threats mitigated?
- What is the scope of secure access? Does it include users, networks, apps, etc.?
- What is the ZTNA provider’s infrastructure? Are the servers located in the cloud or in a data center? Who can access it?
- The last but very important question – What happens if the ZTNA provider is compromised? Is the organization still secure?
Cyolo is the leading zero trust security provider for modern networks and the first ZTNA 2.0 provider for organizations that want to protect their intellectual property. By securely connecting all users from anywhere without requiring a VPN, and authenticating devices, Cyolo enables employees to focus on their work and for your business to grow. Cyolo provides advanced user management features, real-time recording abilities, personal password vaults and an easy to use UI. Cyolo can also integrate with your VPNs, if needed.
Cyolo is an agentless first solution that takes minutes to implement and is compatible with any network topology and identity infrastructure. In addition, Cyolo does not have access to the organizational data, making it a true zero trust solution. Not only does this ensure true privacy and security, it also improves performance and a better user experience. Cyolo is compliant with SOC2 Type 2 and ISO 27001. Request a demo to learn more: cyolo.io/demo-request.