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The Ideal Is Real: How Zero Trust Is Supposed to Look


Over the last few years, it has become more and more apparent that the status quo for networking and security is no longer viable. Endlessly extending hub-and-spoke networks to more remote users, branch offices, and cloud apps increases risk, harms the user experience, and is prohibitively complex and expensive. The same is true when relying on castle-and-moat security models to secure the expanding network through ever-growing stacks of security appliances. 

Zero trust has quickly cemented itself as the go-to solution to the problems of these perimeter-based architectures. Unfortunately, all the zero trust buzz has created confusion about what exactly the term means. Sometimes it is described as a specific capability or yet another appliance (either hardware or virtual). In other cases, zero trust is presented as an imaginary holy grail, something that does not actually exist but is believed to solve all of an organization’s problems. However, the reality is quite different from these two views. 

Zero trust is an architecture; it is neither an extra lever for the status quo nor a mere figment of a hopeful or naive imagination. Zero trust constitutes a departure from hub-and-spoke networks and castle-and-moat security models, and that is why it is so effective at avoiding their problems. In terms of the way that it works, you can click here to see more detailed information (you can also get a quick sense of the “how” by taking a quick look at the diagram below). 

In terms of the “what,” this architecture should secure anything and everything within an organization. Fortunately, this comprehensive form of zero trust is not just hypothetical. The ideal is real and organizations can benefit from it today. Read on to see the four key areas protected by a complete zero trust architecture.

Zero trust for users

Your users need fast, secure, and reliable access to applications and the internet from anywhere and everywhere. This is often the first reason that organizations embrace a zero trust architecture—so that users can do their jobs securely and productively without the aforementioned shortcomings of perimeter-based architectures. In large part because of this need, Gartner coined the phrase security service edge (SSE) to describe edge-delivered security platforms that provide secure web gateway (SWG), zero trust network access (ZTNA), cloud access security broker (CASB), digital experience monitoring (DEM), and other functionalities. However, there is more to zero trust (and SSE, for that matter) than just securing users.

Zero trust for workloads

Workloads must also be secured with a zero trust architecture if organizations are to prevent data loss and cyberthreat infections. A workload is any specific service (e.g., virtual machine, container, microservice, application, storage, or cloud resource) used either as needed or in an always-on fashion to complete a specific task; for example, AWS S3. Much like users, they need to be granted secure access to both applications and the internet. At the same time, their configurations and entitlements must be set properly in order to avoid any issues that may lead to data exposure. Zero trust architecture can address both of these challenges by securing workload communications and providing capabilities like cloud security posture management (CSPM) and cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM).

Zero trust for IoT and OT

“Internet of things” and “operational technology” are not just buzzwords. IoT and OT devices are transforming the way that organizations operate and have quickly become indispensable assets. However, despite their importance and the volume and sensitivity of data they can collect, they are not designed with security in mind. As a result, organizations need to discover these devices across the entire environment, extend privileged remote access to them in a secure fashion, and ensure that the IoT and OT devices themselves are granted secure access to the internet, to applications, and to other devices. Naturally, zero trust architecture is perfectly designed for addressing this trifecta of needs

Zero trust for B2B partners

Internal employees are not the only humans that need secure, performant access to IT systems. B2B suppliers, customers, and other partners also have legitimate access requirements. Preventing this access disrupts productivity, but granting excessive entitlements or network access enables compromise and lateral threat movement. Zero trust architecture circumvents both of these challenges by adhering to the principle of least privilege (PoLP) and granting B2B partners access only to the specific resources they need. With agentless browser-based access and browser isolation, it overcomes the challenge of securing partner devices where installing software is infeasible.

The Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange is the One True Zero Trust Platform. It provides the modern architecture that delivers comprehensive security for all users, workloads, IoT/OT devices, and B2B partners. With Zscaler, your organization can experience firsthand that the zero trust ideal is, in fact, real. 

To learn more, register for our webinar that serves as an introduction to zero trust.

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