Zero-Trust Data Management Is the Future – How You Can Get Ready Today

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Read more about author Apu Pavithran.

In an age of escalating cyber threats, the security approaches of old are no longer adequate to safeguard sensitive data. Traditional strategies have always depended on perimeter-based defenses, believing that dangers originated outside and that – once inside – everything was trustworthy. This strategy, however, is now obsolete due to the inception of perimeter-less work environments and the complexity of new cyber attacks. Let’s examine the importance of zero-trust Data Management and consider how businesses can get ready for this new era.

Understanding the Need for Zero-Trust Data Management

Today’s digital landscape is an endless ocean of threats. Social engineering attacks, insider threats, intrusions, accidental exposure, and employee errors are just a few of the hundreds of ways your data can be compromised.

In such a paradigm, the concept of zero-trust architecture (ZTA) offers a holistic framework that encompasses all aspects of Data Governance. Originally introduced by Forrester researcher John Kindervag in 2010, the zero-trust model was aimed as a network security model. However, the tenet – never trust, always verify – can be applied to data security or any security architecture for that matter.

Trust no one and provide the least privilege, such that after a user’s identity has been validated, they only have access to the role they’re allocated and nothing more. This is how ZTA takes the “least privilege” idea to its ultimate resolution. No matter where the user, device, or network is located, a zero-trust model of Data Management focuses on validating and safeguarding each one before it can access or handle any data.

Arguably, ZTA is one of the finest strategies to mitigate risk should a breach happen. Likewise, it’s a sound decision if you’re working with sensitive data. However, businesses must also weigh the implementation time, budget, and skills of their IT crew against the added security before arriving at a decision.

Getting Started with Zero Trust

Before delving into implementation, it’s essential to define clear objectives and scope. Determine the precise objectives you want ZTA to help you with, such as securing sensitive information, reducing insider risks, or boosting network security. Expressly articulating the objectives and scope will help assist the implementation process.

To successfully apply zero trust for Data Management, organizations must have a firm understanding of their data assets. To determine the categories of data your organization has, their locations, and the risks related to them, do a thorough data inventory. This step involves documenting and categorizing data based on sensitivity and criticality. The cornerstone for implementing granular access restrictions and data-centric security measures is a comprehensive data inventory.

Another vital aspect to examine before implementing any security architecture is to assess your organization’s existing security practices. In the case of a ZTA, authentication, identity and access management, network segmentation, data loss prevention, and endpoint security play central roles. Evaluate whether technologies for these processes exist and, if so, identify any weaknesses or gaps in them.

An often ignored but crucial component is educating your workforce. Data security must be understood and prioritized within the organization for ZTA to be deployed efficiently. Conduct thorough training to inform employees of the value of data security, the concepts of zero trust, and their roles and responsibilities in upholding a safe environment. Cultivate an environment of security consciousness and diligence and urge personnel to immediately report any unusual conduct.

Using The Right Tools To Implement Zero Trust 

It’s important to stress that setting up ZTA is not a simple task. It requires safeguarding data, devices, apps, and software across your workspace. The procedure entails combining many unrelated solutions into a single system or selecting a provider offering a zero-trust solution. The former offers more intricate personalization options but the separate solutions might have overlapping features. Meanwhile, the latter is easier to implement but may not accommodate all the specific capabilities your organization needs.

An ideal stepping stone would be to focus on zero-trust network access (ZTNA) and identity and access management (IAM) solutions. ZTNA is the natural evolution of a virtual private network (VPN). Whereas a VPN provides network security in a perimeter-based environment, ZTNAs have a perimeter-less approach. IAMs help verify identity using authentication processes like single-sign-on (SSO) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). Both solutions work in tandem to provide organizations with a system that trusts no one, verifies the identity, and only then establishes a secure remote access connection. Further, being software-centric instead of network-centric means a user doesn’t get access to all applications even with access to the network.

Segmentation is another critical component of ZTA. Employing firewalls, virtual local area networks (LANs), and software-defined networking (SDN) to segment networks and apply security boundaries is a proactive approach that helps reduce lateral movement within the network in case of an intrusion. Additionally, consider adopting micro-segmentation, which applies granular access controls at the application level, ensuring a fine-grained security posture.

Zero-trust Data Management requires a strong focus on data protection. Implement strong encryption techniques to protect data while it is in use, transit, and at rest. Use industry-standard encryption techniques to encrypt sensitive data, and secure key management procedures to safeguard encryption keys. To further identify and stop the unauthorized transmission of sensitive information, make use of data loss prevention (DLP) solutions.

Coming to the endpoint level, utilizing endpoint management solutions like unified endpoint management (UEM) can manage and provide visibility into the endpoints, applications, configurations, location, and compliance status from a unified console. Adding an endpoint security solution like extended detection and response (XDR) also provides further protection by providing an automated system that identifies new threats and responds accordingly. This approach means that XDR will continuously monitor an endpoint even after it is granted access.

The Road to Zero-Trust Data Management Starts Now

As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, organizations must adapt their Data Management practices to protect sensitive information. Zero-trust Data Management provides a comprehensive architecture that incorporates identity-centric access, granular segmentations, continuous monitoring, and data-centric security measures. 

By embracing the principles of zero trust, organizations can enhance their security architecture, manage risks, and secure their valuable data assets. Getting ready for the future of data security starts today, and zero-trust Data Management is an essential step toward achieving robust and resilient data protection.