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What is Zero-Trust Security & Why is It Important?

Cybersecurity threats and safeguards are in a continual race to keep up with each other. As soon as a new type of malware is released, IT security software developers create a way to identify and stop it.

Then, hackers dissect that new software and look for ways around it, and the race goes on.

For a Tennessee business, this means that their IT security strategy also has to keep evolving. You can’t assume that antivirus software or a firewall that you put in three years ago is still going to keep you protected against new and emerging threats.

2021 is a particularly important year to reassess the strategy you’re using and think of moving to a stronger zero-trust approach. According to the FBI, during the middle of the pandemic last year, cybercrime increased 400%. Ransomware attacks were also up, along with mobile malware attacks.

What is zero-trust, exactly? We’ll go through the details below and why it’s an important cybersecurity upgradeto make this year.

Why the Zero-Trust Security Approach is the Future

The traditional approach to cybersecurity has been to put a ring of detection and protection around your network. This includes things like firewalls and using passwords to gain access to cloud applications.

Then, once an entity is on the other side of that ring of protection, it’s assumed they are either a legitimate user or a legitimate application. This is sometimes called the “castle and moat” approach. The moat is your network protections, and the castle represents being inside your network.

The problem with this approach and why it’s becoming outdated is that cybercriminals are figuring out ways to get past that ring of protection all the time.

For example, one of the emerging types of malware is called fileless malware, Instead of infecting a device with dangerous code in a file that can be detected by network defenses, it sends commands to a process that’s already “inside the castle.” In most cases this is Windows PowerShell, a system process seen as trusted. The commands are difficult to detect because they don’t technically contain detectable malware.

During the second quarter of 2020 PowerShell attacks increased 117%.

In order for the castle and moat approach to continue working, your defense systems need to continually add to their list of “bad guys” that need detecting. Hackers are creating more of them at a dizzying pace, making it difficult to keep up.

How zero-trust security differs is that it doesn’t automatically trust all the entities inside the castle. Just because a someone has used a password to log in, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a legitimate user. And a command sent to a trusted Windows program, isn’t given a pass because there’s no malware detected.

A zero-trust security approach identifies the “good guys” instead of the “bad guys,” which is a much shorter list and not one that keeps changing as new malware is created. The measures then are able to keep even those bad guys they don’t know about from causing harm to a system.

What are some upgrades you can do to adopt a zero-trust security posture?

Use Advanced Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Requiring an additional code be entered upon login to company accounts is an important way to keep out hackers who may have stolen a password. Advanced MFA takes this a step farther.

For example, you can set a parameter that asks an additional challenge question for users that have more system privileges or restrict what a user can do if they’re logging in from a location outside the country.

Set Up Application Whitelisting

When you set up application whitelisting inside your network, you’re telling your devices which applications are allowed to execute commands freely. All others are blocked from automatically running.

This is a great tool for blocking unknown zero-day malware that hasn’t yet been cataloged because any programs not on the whitelist are stopped from executing automatically.

Set Up Application Ringfencing

Application ringfencing is closely related to whitelisting, only it goes a step farther. You designate the types of interactions that programs can have, and the types of commands a trusted, whitelisted application can execute.

This help stop fileless malware against PowerShell because it restricts the types of activities PowerShell can undertake, even when given a command to do so.

Use Real-Time System Monitoring

It’s important to have health and threat monitoring through managed IT services or a security application so any suspicious activity inside a network can be immediately identified and blocked.

Keeping a system monitored can help catch insider attacks, where a legitimate user login is being used by a hacker for malicious activities. Any potential threats, no matter when they occur, can be caught and quarantined when you have 24/7 monitoring, even in the middle of the night.

Upgrade to a Zero-Trust Approach with Help from Unbound Digital

Unbound Digital can help your Johnson City, Tennessee business adopt the protocols needed for a more secure zero-trust security approach.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Call 423-335-2461 or reach us online.

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