What is a Zero Trust Model?

What is a Zero Trust Model

The zero trust model is a security concept based on the principle of not trusting any device, user or service inside or outside one’s network. It requires extensive measures to authenticate all users and services and to audit network traffic.

What is a Zero Trust Model?

The zero trust model is a security concept that fundamentally distrusts all services, users, and devices. No distinction is made between services, users, and devices inside or outside one’s network. All traffic must be inspected and all users or services must authenticate themselves.

The goal of the model is to minimize the risk to corporate networks and applications and to exclude internal potential threats in addition to external threats. Traditional security approaches only classified external traffic as dangerous and trusted all internal users and services.

Features and principles of the Zero Trust model

The most important principle of the zero-trust model is not to trust anyone inside or outside the network. This results in the requirement to authenticate all users and applications and to encrypt data traffic as a matter of principle. Encryption is required when storing and transmitting data at the network and application levels.

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All assets of the enterprise must be inventoried and required access rights to applications or devices must be precisely defined. Systems that analyze, permit, or prohibit traffic and record all actions in log files must be provided both at network boundaries and within the company’s own network.

Distinction between the zero-trust model and conventional security concepts

Conventional security concepts assume that all services, devices, and users within one’s own network are trustworthy. Only network traffic and access from outside are potentially dangerous and must be analyzed and restricted.

These concepts have the disadvantage that once someone has penetrated the company network, there are hardly any security measures left to prevent dangerous actions and accesses. In addition, these concepts do not take into account the fact that a significant threat potential emanates from the company’s own employees.

The zero-trust model represents a paradigm shift compared to traditional concepts in that it treats all devices, services, and users equally and fundamentally distrust them. This paradigm shift has a significant impact on the IT security architecture, as security systems must no longer be provided only at the network boundaries, but throughout the entire network.

Practical implementation of the zero trust model

The practical implementation of the zero-trust model requires a great deal of effort on the part of a company. All areas of IT are affected by the security concept and must be controlled.

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All services, users, and devices must be recorded and systems provided for authenticating users and checking internal or external data traffic. To realize this, networks are usually segmented (for example, into VLANs). This allows easier control of traffic by internal firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS).

In the initial state, no access or data traffic is allowed between the different systems. Only for authenticated users and services policies are defined that allow access and data traffic. The policies must be adapted in the event of changes and must always be kept up to date.