Zero Trust means what it says: No trust, for anyone, no matter what.
The increasingly popular approach to security requires all users—regardless of whether they’re inside or outside of an organization’s network—to be authorized, authenticated, and continuously validated for security configuration. It controls who can access which resources and implements a host of checkpoints before granting or keeping a user’s access to applications and data. Because Zero Trust is a naturally extensive and complicated system, it can be a very difficult one to implement.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of the greatest challenges organizations face in instituting this technology, as well as some tips on how to mitigate them.
1 – Ongoing Management
Some security frameworks and solutions can be configured, deployed, and then left without the need for much management or oversight afterwards. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when it comes to zero trust.
The whole point of zero trust is that it never “trusts,” so it is reliant upon ongoing authentication and gatekeeping. In this regard, many businesses struggle with not being able to “set it and forget it,” as we like to say.
Leaders know organizations are constantly evolving, from new hires to shifting infrastructure; and with changes come increased security needs. And unfortunately, with zero trust technology, these needs require constant attention.
A good practice in implementing the zero trust approach is to leverage tools and automation where possible. Such technologies can be helpful in regularly checking for firmware updates, issuing alerts, and simplifying the process of managing security altogether—even when your security framework demands time and attention.
2 – The Need for Secure Hardware
Many purpose-built systems come with some form of built-in security safeguard. However, part of implementing a zero trust framework is securing not just software, but hardware too. This is a challenge for many organizations, as it can be difficult to know where to start.
One way organizations go about this is by taking an inventory of all the devices that connect to their network. This includes not only laptops and desktops, but also printers, sound systems, and even security cameras. Once they have a list of everything that needs to be accounted for, they can start to research and deploy security measures for each one. In some cases, organizations may need to implement new hardware system altogether.
This can be a daunting task, but luckily there are a number of resources available to help make it easier. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published several guides on securing different types of devices, which can be a helpful starting point.
In addition, many manufacturers offer guidance on how to best secure their products.
3 – Zero Trust Necessitates Flexible Software
Another common challenge that many organizations face with zero trust technology is finding that their current software does not work well with the new framework. This lack of integration and coordination can lead to confusion, errors, and ultimately security breaches.
To properly secure data and devices across a network, businesses need a solution that is built for zero trust from the ground up, which can be challenging to find.
Fortunately, there is a growing number of vendors that offer solutions for organizations in this position. Whether your organization can simply make adjustments in order to align software and hardware security, or has to do a more complete overhaul, there are resources out there to guide and support you along the way to zero trust implementation.
4 – Impact on Staff Productivity and Performance
When transitioning to a zero trust security model, it’s important to keep in mind that this new way of doing things may have an impact on staff productivity.
The increased security measures required for zero trust often mean additional steps, friction points, and barriers to accessing the applications and data employees need to do their jobs. This can lead to a decrease in efficiency as workers spend more time trying to gain access and less time getting their work done.
While frustrating for employees and employers alike, this is an opportunity to leverage user training and education to improve efficiency and comfort working in a zero trust framework.
Providing users with clear and concise instructions on how to access the resources they need can go a long way in mitigating any decrease in productivity. In addition, taking the time to explain the importance of these new security measures and how they will benefit the company as a whole can help employees understand why these changes are being made and help encourage them to lean in, even when it’s more difficult.
5 – Taking Things One Step at a Time
The best method to reduce the inherent risks associated with its implementation is to avoid thinking of zero trust as a binary, all-or-nothing transition. You can begin to build a zero-trust architecture without scrapping existing systems altogether.
This starts by determining the most critical processes and data to be secured within the organization. Multi-factor authentication, special access, and session management can then be applied to these sensitive operations and data, upping security by leaps and bounds while still utilizing the systems currently in place. The remaining data is subject to standard perimeter controls, while only the most essential information is subjected to a zero-trust model.
It’s often best to gradually introduce zero-trust security in this way in order not to jeopardize the continuity of existing cybersecurity strategy. By doing so, companies can effectively secure important assets—and because they’re not entirely shifting from one system to another, expose themselves to less risk in the process.
Zero trust is quickly becoming the standard for data protection, but the shift doesn’t come without challenges to organizations and their employees.
It’s important to remember that zero trust security requires both hardware and software solutions tailored specifically to a zero trust framework, and this can pose challenges to staff and infrastructure. With the right planning and preparation, however, zero trust security can be an incredibly valuable tool in protecting an organization’s data.