The Possible Ways Zero Trust Architecture is Most Likely to Fail

Iam Waqas

By Iam Waqas . 23 November 2021

Cybersecurity specialist

Miklos Zoltan

Fact-Checked this

The zero trust architecture is often seen as the ultimate, foolproof method of implementing information security.

It emerged as an all-in-one solution to several security issues, especially as organizations rapidly adopted cloud, DevOps, and IoT-based infrastructures.

The security model requires the creation of segmentation and network perimeters to ensure information security.

It redefines the architectural framework within a predefined network and creates a model of continuous evaluation of trust and authentication for access to sensitive information.

It implies that no user should be fully trusted even if they are a part of the network since everyone is vulnerable enough to be compromised.

Therefore, it is mandatory for the user to get through identification and verification throughout the whole network instead of merely at the perimeters.

Security experts believe the zero-trust architecture to be the ultimate security model preventing dangers of hacking and insider threats.

However, several challenges with the complete implementation of the zero-trust architecture can also be viewed as loopholes for threat actors to exploit.

Related guide: Zero Trust Network Access
Related guide: How to encrypt your internet connection

Zero Trust Architechture

Implementing the Zero Trust Model - What Does it Require?

Implementing the zero trust model into an organization goes beyond the mere change in mindset and implementing data controls. IT security teams have to map and analyze the organization’s complete workflow architecture while looking into things like:

  • The functions of each department
  • Currently used software
  • Information store and transferring methodologies
  • Various access levels
  • Common devices

An analysis of these components allows the security teams to define the network perimeters and access controls they need to integrate.

To ensure the smooth functioning of business events during these matters, most teams consider building a security model from scratch instead of adjusting the pre-existing one.

Security teams have to develop a step-by-step strategy for building an ideal final security infrastructure with room for consistent modifications. While implementing the zero trust architecture, the key elements security teams often focus upon are:

Create micro-segmentation

The zero trust architecture relies on micro-segmentation. It implies breaking the security network structure into small zones with separate access to each part.

For example, a micro-segmentation of an information storage network might contain several zones with dedicated access points. Each access point has an independent authentication method so that only requested people or programs would have access to it.

Implement multi-factor authentication

Multifactor authentication is another crucial element on which a significant portion of the zero trust architecture relies upon.

MFA is a multifactor model of security requiring the use of more than one authentication method, such as pin codes and biometric authentications.

Proper implementation of MFA accurately represents the laying foundation of the zero trust architecture: “never trust, always verify.”

Secure all network endpoints

When it comes to zero trust, the devices are no exceptions to the rules, which is why it is best to implement identity-centric security methods even at endpoints.

It means that a device that becomes a part of the corporate network should first be integrated within the zero trust architecture so that it can go through the recognition and verification process.

Practice the Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege or the PoLP is the practice of limiting access to applications, data, systems, processes, and devices to authorized users only.

Users under the PoLP principles are granted access to a particular resource or information if their job requires it. This limits the chances of data theft and breaches.

Main Problems with the Zero Trust Architecture

Albeit, the zero-trust security model, helps build a robust security framework within organizations. More so, with the recent rise in hybrid leading to the use of cloud storage and file transfers, the zero-trust security model helps ensure data security.

However, there are several barriers in implementing and proper execution of the zero-trust security architecture, which might ultimately cause the model to fail. Some of these issues are as follows:

Facing technical debt and legacy systems

Most organizations are not structured to be micro-segmented. While implementing the zero trust model, organizations have to consider the operations of least privilege, which involves identifying and dividing sensitive data into respective zones.

For that, they have to analyze the data available, understand its flows and then try to build a security model through micro-segmentation, which can be stressful and costly.

Whether designing from scratch or a pre-existing network security model, there remains a possibility of cracks within the architectural framework leaving room for other cyber attacks.

Moreover, the zero trust model requires several levels of authentication and authorization. The “never trust always authenticate” seems very professional in theory; however, it requires all actors to go through verification for access within the implementation.

While this may be effective, set organizations systems are not well-equipped to handle this access control due to the absence of the least privileged mindset.

The Peer-to-Peer Challenge

Peer-to-peer or P2P methods of information exchange and communication have long since remained in use due to the effectiveness and ease it ensures.

However, the P2P method communicates through a decentralized method without micro-segmentation, which the zero-trust security model goes on par. They share information with little or no verification.

This P2P communication is present in most operating systems and wireless mesh networks such as windows which are commonly part of the organization. Therefore, implementing zero trust with them is a challenge.

Becoming data-centric

Most organizations have a traditional framework of containing silos of data, a blend of sensitive and less sensitive data.

Since the organizations didn’t follow the least privileged mindset, the combination of such data seemed practical with all the information shared with everyone regardless of their need.

Implementing a zero-trust architecture within a frenzied state of information would be a challenge nonetheless.

Analyzing and implementing verification and access control might prove costly and require a more significant architecture that would be too complex to build.

Final Words: Is Zero Trust Model Effective or Ineffective?

Despite the challenges it poses, the zero trust model is indeed the ideal model to resist data theft and insider threat challenges.

It allows robust security and helps ensure protection from some significant cyber security challenges organizations face today.

Therefore, a complete rejection of the zero trust architecture would be fruitless nonetheless.

The best approach is to ensure security by adequately implementing the model and integrating it with other cyber security practices.

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