Implement Zero Trust to secure your applications

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IT has evolved rapidly in response to the digital transformation. Cloud computing, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile internet have boosted productivity across all industries, but they have also added complexity to enterprise network infrastructures as a result. 

An increasingly blurred perimeter characterizes the enterprise network infrastructure, which is becoming more complex. 

The enterprise’s digital walls are being transgressed by the adoption of cloud computing, mobile internet, and other technologies, while at the same time, the open and collaborative demands of new technologies, such as big data and the IoT, are allowing outside platforms to enter the enterprise. 

There is no well-defined and well-recognized security perimeter in the modern enterprise network infrastructure. 

For the modern and complex enterprise network infrastructure, as well as to deal with the increasingly serious network threat situation, a new security architecture is needed.  

As a result, the Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) emerged as a natural evolution of security architectures and security thinking. 

What is Zero Trust Security 

Zero Trust security is an IT security tactic that encompasses stringent identity verification for anyone attempting to access resources on a private network perimeter.  

Although Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the most commonly identified technology in the Zero Trust architecture, Zero Trust is a holistic approach to network security that encompasses a variety of ideas and technologies. 

To put it another way, typical IT network security trusts everyone and everything on the network. No one and nothing is trusted in a Zero Trust architecture. 

Traditional network security, which followed the “trust but verify” strategy, has been replaced by Zero Trust.  

The conventional approach automatically trusted users and endpoints within the organization’s perimeter, exposing the organization to dangerous internal actors and rogue credentials, granting unauthorized and compromised accounts broad access once inside.  

With the cloud migration of corporate transformation activities, this approach has become antiquated and, in some cases, outdated. 

As a result, enterprises must constantly monitor and check that a user and their device have the appropriate access and attributes.  

It necessitates the organization’s knowledge of all service and privileged accounts, as well as the ability to impose restrictions on what and where they connect.  

Because threats and user properties are all subject to change, a one-time validation will not suffice. 

Therefore, organizations must ensure that all access requests are continually vetted before allowing connection with any of their enterprise or cloud assets.  

In order to enforce Zero Trust policies, you need to have real-time visibility into user credentials. 

Why Zero Trust matters 

There has been a growing need for zero trust security since mobile users began connecting via unmanaged devices to business applications over the internet.  

“Zero trust” sounds like a good idea when you can’t trust the connection, device, or network in question. 

Today’s networks are hostile environments. They are ripe for attack because they host business-critical applications and data. 

While no security system is perfect, and security breaches will never be completely eradicated, zero trust decreases the attack vector and thresholds, the wing span, the impact and severity of a cyberattack, reducing the time and cost of responding to and cleaning up after a data breach. 

One of the most effective ways for businesses to limit access to their networks, applications, and data is to use zero trust.  

To deter would-be attackers and limit their access in the event of a breach, it integrates a wide range of preventative approaches, such as identity verification and behavioral analysis, micro segmentation, endpoint security, and least privilege controls. 

A hacked account that passes authentication methods at a network perimeter device should nevertheless be examined for each subsequent session or endpoint it attempts to access.  

Instead of assuming that a connection via VPN or SWG is totally safe and trusted, having the capacity to distinguish typical from abnormal activity helps enterprises to tighten authentication rules and regulations. 

This additional layer of security is crucial as businesses expand their networks to incorporate cloud-based apps and servers, not to mention the growth of service accounts on microsites and other machines hosted locally, on virtual machines, or via SaaS.  

These tendencies make establishing, monitoring, and maintaining secure perimeters increasingly complex.  

Furthermore, for enterprises with a worldwide workforce and employees who work remotely, a borderless security policy is critical. 

Finally, Zero Trust security helps the company contain breaches and minimize possible damage by segmenting the network by identity, groups, and purpose, as well as controlling user access.  

Rogue credentials are used to organize some of the most complex assaults, so this is a critical security step. 

From online apps to network monitoring and security, all networks have automated upgrades built into their technology stack.  

Patching should be automated if you want to keep your network clean. Even for obligatory and automated upgrades, however, Zero Trust implies anticipating harmful behavior. 

For service accounts, Zero Trust and the idea of least privilege necessitate stringent restrictions and permissions.  

In general, service accounts should have well-defined behaviors and connection privileges.  

They should never attempt to access a domain controller or authentication system directly, and any abnormal behavior should be noticed and escalated as soon as possible. 

Zero Trust is a process, not a destination, and it is imperative to implement core zero-trust security principles to keep your company network safe from internal and external threats and secure your applications. 

Core Principles of Zero Trust Security 

For company IT departments, perimeter security is no longer the best solution. A considerably more adaptable design that prioritizes users, devices, and services is required.  

The notion of zero trust was created to combat present and future IT security threats by assuming that no one, device, or service, whether inside or outside the corporate network, can be trusted. 

Using a dynamic digital identity-based perimeter, the zero trust security architecture establishes core key capabilities, including an identity-based schema for resource secure access, continuous trust evaluation, and adaptive access control (AAC). 

To ensure that the notion of zero trust is successfully adopted into a long-term IT strategy, the core concepts of zero trust are detailed below. 

Understand what needs to be guarded: All users, devices, data, and services make up an organization’s IT protected surface. The protected surface must also include the method of transport for sensitive firm data, which is the network. The protected surface for most enterprises today goes far beyond the protection of a corporate LAN, which is one of the key reasons why zero-trust architectures have grown so popular. 

Because many data flows no longer cross into the corporate network, traditional perimeter or edge security measures no longer have the same reach. Because of the shift in data flows, cybersecurity technologies must be extended beyond the network edge to get as close as possible to apps, data, and devices. Automated asset and service inventory tools should be used to support manual inventory processes.  

Combining these technologies aids teams in determining which apps, data, and devices should be prioritized for security. These technologies are also used to determine the location of essential resources and who should have access to them. This procedure effectively creates a map for security architects to use in determining where security technologies should be used. 

Recognize the cybersecurity mechanisms that are already in place: The second concept of zero trust is to evaluate what cybersecurity controls are already in place after the protected surface has been mapped. When implementing a zero-trust strategy, many of the IT department’s existing security technologies will likely be useful.  

They may, however, be put in the incorrect area or employ an out-of-date perimeter architecture paradigm. These assessment activities, when combined with the protected surface map, allow IT security architects to see where existing solutions can be repurposed or redeployed to reach the new locations where cloud and other web resources are located. 

New tools and contemporary architecture must be implemented: When it comes to a complete zero-trust architecture, existing cybersecurity tools will not suffice in most cases. During the implementation of zero-trust, security gaps were identified. To give further layers of protection, extra tools must be implied. Unfortunately, traditional security measures aren’t as effective as they once were. 

In order to meet zero-trust framework requirements, enterprise IT shops often implement tools such as network micro-segmentation, single sign-on for all applications and data, and multifactor authentication. In addition, advanced threat protection tools can be used to identify emerging threats and push security policies to resources exactly where they are needed across the protected surface. 

Implement a comprehensive policy: When all the technologies needed to establish a zero-trust architecture are in place, security administrators are responsible for putting them to work. This is accomplished by establishing and enforcing a zero-trust policy, which may then be applied to various security technologies. 

Zero-trust policies are rules that allow access to various resources only when essential, based on a stringent set of norms. Users, devices, and apps should have access to all the data and services at any time, according to policies. Administrators can configure security devices to follow the whitelist of permit rules while refusing everything else once the high-level policies have been created. 

Keep an eye on things and send out alerts: Conducting essential monitoring and using warning technologies is the final principle of zero trust. These technologies provide security personnel with the necessary level of visibility into whether security policies are being followed and whether flaws in the framework have been exploited. 

Even with a zero-trust architecture in place, it’s crucial to realize that nothing is fully secure. When malicious behaviors occur, tools must still be employed to capture them so that they may be rapidly eradicated. Root cause analysis should also be performed to discover and correct any gaps in the current security posture. 

Security operations center administrators may find it difficult to adequately monitor a distributed security architecture like zero trust. Modern cybersecurity monitoring systems, which include automation and AI capabilities, can help alleviate this strain.  

Modern security monitoring solutions, such as network detection and response and security orchestration, automation, and response, assist in reducing the amount of human resources necessary to notice security issues while also identifying root causes and remedial methods. 

While it is imperative to adhere to the core principles of Zero Trust Security, it is also important to know how to enhance enterprise application security using the Zero Trust security model. 

How to boost the enterprise’s application security using the Zero Trust security model 

Many businesses are concerned about application security, and with good cause. However, you can take actions to mitigate at least some of the dangers. 

The security dangers of running business-critical apps in unprotected environments are on the rise, as are application breaches.  

Companies also wait until after a breach occurs to invest appropriately in application security, resulting in a loss of productivity, customer trust, and income. 

Here are a few steps to boosting your enterprise application security using the Zero Trust Security model. 

Frameworks: The first and most critical stage is to set frameworks in place, which involves identifying the best practices that an enterprise will use to manage its cybersecurity risk. The zero trust security approach aims to make businesses more robust to cyberthreats by recognizing and eliminating ambiguity in implementing security rules on a continuous basis. 

Enterprises cannot identify and stop every attack, but zero trust techniques can improve a company’s security posture by developing ways to give and regulate access throughout the network. 

Keep your APIs safe: For attackers, anything that exposes an application to the possibility of unauthorized access is perfectly acceptable. This includes APIs, despite the fact that their attack surfaces are often limited.  

When APIs are used to dynamically produce content on a website, security is often disregarded. Hackers use malware to takeover a mobile device or steal credentials, and they also target mobile APIs. They use the API to scrape data from their target once they have gained access to it. 

APIs must be assessed in terms of the level of access to sensitive data and resources they provide. For other elements of apps, this is just as crucial as security. 

Secure the internet network: Applications and workloads have shifted to the cloud, and users can now access them from anywhere in the world. As a result, the network is no longer considered a secure enterprise network. Instead, the internet is unprotected.  

Most firms’ network perimeter security and visibility solutions are no longer practicable or robust enough to keep intruders out. Zero trust relies on least-privilege and “always-verify” concepts to provide total network visibility, whether in data centers or the cloud. 

Have clear visibility of how applications perform in different scenarios: Breaking an application in the hope of exposing an attack surface is a typical approach used by threat actors. Buffer overflows are a common occurrence. Organizations should “fuzz” their apps to protect themselves from such attacks. This entails testing an app by providing it with a variety of unexpected inputs to see how it reacts. 

Attackers can be highly inventive when it comes to determining how applications will respond. That’s why having clear visibility into how applications perform in a variety of scenarios should be a top focus for businesses. 

Micro-segmentation: This allows businesses to simply divide physical networks into thousands of logical micro segments, which are then protected, reducing risk by allowing only those who have been granted access to view the data. The goal of micro-segmentation is to keep the attack surface as small as possible while preventing unauthorized lateral movement.  

Security experts might establish secure zones to segregate environments, data centers, applications, and workloads across on-premise, cloud, and hybrid network environments, depending on the approach utilized. 

In the past, organizations could rely on whatever was available on the network.  

While the tale of security breaches continues, we must ensure that cutting-edge innovation is implemented, such as the zero-trust model, which mandates the use of monitoring tools and automated abilities to respond to such situations swiftly. 

To properly comprehend Zero Trust at a granular level, we must first realize the challenges that businesses confront while establishing a Zero Trust architecture. 

Challenges of Zero Trust Security and how to overcome them 

The zero-trust security approach has been marketed as a fail-safe defense against unknown and developing threats.  

It does not assume that people inside an organization are immediately safe, unlike perimeter security. Instead, it requires every user, both inside and outside the company, to get approved before being granted access. 

Here are a few obstacles to zero-trust networking, as well as some suggestions for overcoming them. 

When it comes to zero-trust cybersecurity, a fragmented approach might lead to vulnerabilities – Zero-trust cybersecurity may lead to better security in the long run, but it might put businesses in danger along the way. 

Most businesses tailor their own strategies piecemeal, but loopholes or cracks might emerge, making zero trust less reliable than stated. At the same time, unwinding a legacy system can lead to security gaps that weren’t anticipated. 

Zero-trust cybersecurity necessitates a commitment to ongoing management – Another common stumbling block to implementing a zero-trust cybersecurity paradigm is the necessity for continual management. Zero-trust models rely on a wide network of well-defined permissions, yet businesses are always changing.  

People take up new responsibilities and relocate. To guarantee that the relevant people have access to specific information, access restrictions must be updated on a regular basis. Constant input is required to keep the permissions accurate and up to date. 

Impact on productivity: Introducing a zero-trust cybersecurity approach could have a negative impact on productivity. The most difficult aspect of zero trust is restricting access without halting workflows. To work, communicate, and collaborate, people need access to sensitive data.  

Individual’s productivity can suffer if they switch positions and are shut out of files or applications for a week. In the worst-case scenarios, losing productivity becomes a greater issue than cybersecurity. 

Overcoming these challenges:  

Avoiding thinking of zero trust in binary terms is the best approach to manage the inherent risks. Companies can implement a zero-trust architecture while keeping their existing systems.  

Begin by determining the most critical data and workflows. Stricter access controls, such as multifactor authentication, privileged access, and session management, can be applied to them.  

The rest of the data is subject to regular perimeter restrictions, while only the most sensitive data is held to a zero-trust standard. 

The benefits of gradually implementing zero-trust security are that it does not disturb the continuity of a cybersecurity plan.  

Companies are beginning to secure critical assets, yet they are exposed to fewer dangers since they are not completely abandoning one system for another. 

Data breaches continue despite the efforts of the broad cybersecurity community.  

Zero-trust cybersecurity, on the other hand, focuses on securing assets rather than merely entry points to combat this.  

Companies can advance their security posture as long as they grasp the problems of zero trust. 

Closing Thoughts 

Cigniti’s Managed Security Testing Services methodology is based on industry best practices and a decade of experience in delivering software testing services, guaranteeing that your applications are secure, scalable, and flexible. Our web application penetration testing and security testing reveals application vulnerabilities, ensures that your application risks are minimized, and assesses your software code for better quality assurance. Our security testing services for many industry verticals and businesses ensure that they are cyber-safe, resulting in a strong brand image and client retention. 

The key differentiators of our dynamic application Security Testing Services are: 

  • Standardized methodologies aligned to OWASP, Open SAMM & OSTTM. 
  • Testing performed from Hacker’s Eye View. 
  • Continuous Testing Platform with in-built Security Engineering & Testing. 
  • Next Generation IP – BlueSwan™ that comes with a Model-Based Testing Tool (Prudentia) & Reporting Dashboard Verita, for SLA/KPI monitoring; CxO dashboards; Predictive analytics that help in faster decision making, leading to faster time-to-market. 
  • Industry recognized Certifications of our security test experts include Certified Ethical Hacker, Licensed Penetration Tester Master, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Information Systems Auditor, and Certified Information Security Manager. 

Need help? Consult Cigniti’s team of experienced security testing experts to understand how to implement Zero Trust to secure your applications. 

Author

  • Cigniti is a Global Leader in Independent Quality Engineering & Software Testing Services with offices in US, UK, India, Australia, and Canada.

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