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What is a zero trust architecture?

Let us ask you a question: how much do you trust your employees when it comes to keeping your data safe? You might trust them to some extent, but you may still be worried that they could be the cause of a future data breach.

And you would be right — insider attacks are actually one of the most dangerous cyberthreats to businesses today. In fact, the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) found that 34% of data breaches involved internal actors, or an organisation’s employees.

Many organisations implement cybersecurity solutions such as threat monitoring, antivirus and anti-malware software, and employee training, but if employees continue causing issues, then you might have to implement a stronger security measure: zero trust architecture.

How insider threats endanger your business

Insider threats include employees who fall for online scams, and phishing and malware attacks, as well as current or past employees who are looking to sabotage your organisation for personal, professional, and financial gain. Whether down to human error or malicious intent, however, insider threats are the exact reason why zero trust architecture is important.

Zero trust architecture is a security model in which a user’s identity always undergoes a strict verification process when accessing any part of your company infrastructure. It involves securing access to confidential information based on parameters like user identity, device, system, and location. It also includes traffic monitoring, real-time suspicious activity detection, and access privileges restrictions.

Many businesses provide employees access to far too many applications and data because it’s more convenient instead of configuring their systems individually. The fact is that giving employees uninhibited access to all systems puts sensitive data at risk, because anyone could access, modify, or delete them.

Imagine there are no privilege restrictions in your company. An employee could accidentally stumble into highly confidential files, and modify or delete them. In a worst-case scenario, a disgruntled employee could deliberately access confidential data and sell it to cybercriminals online. This could then result in a data breach and cost you your customers.

Mitigating the risk of threats with a zero-trust framework

The best way to reduce the chances of cyberattacks in the future is to properly manage access rights and monitor the flow of data to and from the network. This doesn’t mean that you’re distrusting your employees; you’re merely acknowledging the fact that everyone is a potential vulnerability.

The principle of least privilege, in which users are only granted the level of access they need to do their job, is what you need to successfully implement a zero trust architecture. Not only does this lessen the risk of threats, it also helps boost employee productivity by trimming down their access privileges to what’s necessary.

For example, marketing department staff can only access all the files relevant to their department. Not only would this protect potentially confidential information, but it would also boost your staff’s productivity, as they won’t meddle with files unrelated to their job.

Implementing multifactor authentication (MFA) is also an effective way to mitigate threats. MFA uses more than one security method to verify the identity of a user. So after a user enters their password, they will be prompted through another device to confirm the login attempt. Typical verification methods include a single-use security token or a biometric method like a fingerprint or facial scan.

It also helps to have a centralized dashboard for monitoring access rights. This makes it easier to see which employee has access to a certain area of your system, and grant or revoke access privileges as needed.

You can also partner with a proactive managed IT services provider (MSP) such as ERGOS to ensure that your systems will always be protected, even during the worst insider attacks. We can help you set up your zero trust architecture so you can enhance employee productivity and reduce downtime. Interested? Get a FREE network assessment today.

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