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Is Zero Trust Essential for Remote Work?

In a recent survey from JumpCloud of more than 400 IT professionals, 70% of C-level executives said managing remote workers was one of their biggest challenges since the start of the pandemic.

Is Zero Trust Essential for Remote Work?

For business owners, the two biggest challenges tied with one another, which were the increased work burden and the costs of remote solutions.

The pandemic ushered in a new era of mass remote work.

With that, there were benefits for employees and employers. Employers could have some sense of business continuity, and many found they saved money.

Employers also often report more productivity in a well-managed remote work or hybrid work situation. For employees, saved time on things like commuting and had more work-life balance.

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The IT teams of many companies with remote workers have been less impressed, however. They see the challenges of remote work first-hand because of the cybersecurity risks it creates.

IT teams no longer had centralized control and visibility. Employees were working from anywhere, often on personal devices and from public Wi-Fi networks.

All of this means that with the continuing prevalence of remote work unlikely to end any time soon, it’s essential to rethink cybersecurity strategy. The implementation of a zero-trust security model may be the best way to do that.

How Does Zero Trust Work?

If you have a remote workforce, which is nearly every business at this point, you have to secure your data and networks from cybercriminals and hackers.

Your options include managed security services, training, software, and hardware. More holistically, your best option is probably zero trusts.

Zero trusts eliminates trusted users and systems. Trust, under this framework, is a vulnerability with no value to the organization, according to John Kindervage.

Kindverag created the zero trust model in 2010 while working as a principal analyst at Forrester Research.

When people think systems and networks are trustworthy, they lower their vigilance, according to Kindervag.

Three principles of zero trust include assuming you’ve already been breached, explicitly verifying, and limiting user access with the least privilege.

Zero Trust in Action

Above is more a philosophical understanding of how zero trust works. So in practice, what might it look like?

Zero trusts is ongoing verification. If a device is trying to gain access to your network, there’s verification, no matter what.  It helps protect against some of the leading causes of security breaches.

These causes include user impersonation, stolen credentials, and password reuse.

Zero trusts can both secure and scale network connections when employees are working from home. It uses segmentation to control which assets someone can access as well, via their network connection.

There can be different specific approaches depending on the vendor or need. For example, micro-segmentation might be used to divide cloud environments into different zones. Software-designed perimeters can also be used.

There is the National Institute on Standards and Technology (NIST) that companies can look to if they’re exploring zero trusts. NIST was created in August of 2020, industry-wide, voluntary standards for a zero-trust framework.

According to NIST, zero trust principles prevent data breaches and limit lateral movement internally if there is a breach.

NIST says zero trusts is a set of paradigms transforming defense of the network from static and perimeter-based to focus more on assets, resources, and users.

With the pandemic and remote work, zero trusts becomes especially relevant because of its endpoint security.

The Role of Automation

When it comes to implementing zero trusts, automation is one of the core elements of success. Your employees are still probably adapting to remote work, and even if they aren’t, cybersecurity isn’t often their top priority. There’s less oversight as a result too.

What’s excellent about zero trusts is that reliance on automation can overcome these issues. Your employees will still get a good user experience with minimal interruption to their productivity or overall workday.

Enhanced security implemented through automation means you can spend less time training staff individually. You can enforce your security measures and make sure there’s awareness across all devices, no matter where your employees are accessing the network from.

Automation tools are also making it easier for small businesses to implement zero-trust as well—it’s not exclusively for enterprises.

Conclusion

The more businesses move toward zero trusts, the more they’re going to have not only reduced risks as far as cybersecurity threats but also the more they can see overall productivity increase even in a remote work environment.

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