14 Best Practices for Zero Trust Security

No one argues that implementing Zero Trust security won’t be a challenge. But for many organizations, it's become an essential part of security. You can start moving toward a Zero Trust framework today, even if you can't make a complete transition tomorrow—incremental improvements are still improvements.

An important place to begin is by exploring some of the best practices. Here are 14 best practices for Zero Trust security from the experts.

1. Define what data and systems are sensitive.

You can't protect what you don't know you have. To implement Zero Trust security, you must understand your sensitive data and systems and their location. This means cataloging everything—from customer data to intellectual property—and classifying it by sensitivity. While everything has to be secured, the reality is that there's a reason why there are hybrid on-premises and cloud solutions. Some data is just more sensitive than other data. From here, you can start building your Zero Trust security model.

2. Create a map of all the places this sensitive data resides.

This means creating a map of all the systems and applications that contain our sensitive data—including on-premises, cloud, mobile, and IoT devices. Once you have this visibility, you develop a greater understanding of the interactions between these systems and where the gaps are in your security.

3. Determine which users need access to which data and systems.

This requires an identity and access management (IAM) solution that can give you visibility into all the users—employees, contractors, partners, etc.—who have access to your systems. You also need to be able to monitor and control their access. This is where role-based access control (RBAC) comes in. RBAC allows you to granularly control access to systems and data based on an individual's job function.

4. Implement strong authentication and authorization controls.

The goal is to ensure that only the right people can access the data and systems they need. This requires two-factor authentication (2FA) or multifactor authentication (MFA), as well as a robust authorization solution, like RBAC. There are also advanced passwordless systems, but regardless; Zero Trust best practices require strong authentication and authorization.

5. Use encryption to protect data in transit and at rest.

Data encryption is a must for Zero Trust security. All data should be encrypted when it's in transit, as well as when it's at rest. In other words, data doesn't trust you! Understand that philosophically, under Zero Trust, access to any system can be potentially damaging in the wrong hands, even systems that don't appear to be sensitive or privileged.

6. Leverage micro-segmentation to isolate sensitive systems.

Micro-segmentation is a security technique that divides a network into small segments or micro-segments. This limits the spread of an attack and makes it easier to contain. Otherwise, someone getting into your network will have access to all of your network rather than just a small portion of it.Double exposure of businessman hand points human resources, CRM and social media as concept

7. Minimize the attack surface with least privilege principles.

The principle of least privilege states that a user should have the fewest privileges necessary to do their job. This limits the potential damage that can be done if an attacker were to gain access to their account. It also makes it easier to manage permissions and control access.

8. Deploy honeypots and deception techniques.

This isn't as complex as it sounds. A honeypot is a decoy system that's designed to lure in attackers. By implementing honeypots, you can detect and deflect attacks. Deception techniques can also throw off attackers and waste their time. Most systems already run automated honeypots through virtual instances.

9. Use application whitelisting to control execution of code.

Application whitelisting is a security technique that allows only authorized applications to run on a system. This prevents attackers from running malicious code or malware on your systems. It's an effective way to control code execution and limit the attack surface.

10. Continuously monitor activity with a SIEM.

A SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) solution collects and aggregates data from all your systems in one place. This gives you a centralized view of activity across your entire environment. It's an essential tool for detecting malicious activity and identifying security incidents.

11. Use file integrity monitoring to detect changes to critical files.

File integrity monitoring is a security technique that allows you to detect changes to critical files. This is important because it can help you detect malicious activity and unauthorized changes. In fact, it could even detect major mistakes, such as someone deleting essential files accidentally.

12. Implement endpoint detection and response (EDR).

EDR is a security solution that's designed to detect and respond to security incidents at the endpoint level. This is important because it allows you to identify and contain attacks quickly. EDR solutions typically include file integrity monitoring, application whitelisting, and behavioral analytics.

13. Conduct regular security audits and penetration tests.

Security audits are important for identifying weaknesses in your environment. They can also help you assess the effectiveness of your security controls. Penetration tests (or "pen tests") go one step further by trying to exploit vulnerabilities to see if they're actually a risk. Both security audits and penetration tests should be conducted regularly.

14. Educate employees about security best practices.

Employees are often the weakest link in the security chain. They can be easily tricked into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments. That's why it's important to educate them about security best practices, such as how to spot phishing emails and what to do if they receive one.

Get Some Help with a Managed Services Consultant

That's a lot. But we can help you develop a Zero Trust framework, so you don't have to. At R2 Unified Technologies, we help organizations with their change management and digital transformations—so they can focus on what they do best: business. Talk to us today to find out more about Zero Trust and how it can help you keep your organization more secure. We're here to help.