How To Build A Zero-Trust Cloud Environment
Cloud computing is an enabler for IT transformation and for enhancing business outcomes in the “new normal” world. And due to the rise of cybercrime, 90% of business leaders feel a zero-trust cloud environment is the best way forward.
A zero-trust cloud environment provides your business network with comprehensive and consistent security, enhanced agility, better visibility into data, assets and risks, and lower operational costs. And as more businesses move towards the modern workplace, IT security becomes increasingly complex and threatening to your business continuity.
With its increased levels of security, visibility and control, IT leaders expect zero trust architecture provides the solution for securing enterprise-grade networks and creating hybrid, and IoT workloads that are accessible from anywhere.
In addition, zero-trust can help to remove some of the complexities associated with existing network infrastructure – and at the same time unlock more potential for your business and maintain a competitive edge.
But the key to building a zero-trust cloud environment is to secure your network’s parameters without impairing the user experience. Cloud environments should be approached with a holistic perspective.
Yet according to The State of Zero Trust Transformation 2023 report 68% of senior IT executives do not think a secure cloud transformation is possible with legacy network security infrastructures.
Migrating to the cloud means entering into the unknown. Naturally, there are concerns among decision-makers. The chief concern amongst IT leaders is that a cloud-based infrastructure raises issues with security, accessibility and complexity.
A zero-trust cloud environment eliminates each of these concerns.
Cloud computing has been shown to improve security, but it is equally true that accessibility issues are frustrating for end-users and hybrid IT infrastructures are complex.
A combination of different technologies – the standard for most businesses – creates a fragmented IT environment. Ultimately, the infrastructure is weakened due to failures caused by conflicting software and vulnerabilities in apps that can be exploited by bad actors.
The general consensus among IT leaders also casts doubt over the suitability of VPNs and perimeter-based firewalls to protect legacy network security infrastructures. More than two-thirds of respondents feel these solutions are ineffective.
A zero-trust cloud environment seeks to eliminate the frailty of existing cloud-based solutions. The IT security model is founded on the belief that not a single device accessing your business network should be trusted. Its purpose is to provide comprehensive protection for your networks, applications and data.
The ideology is the reverse of traditional security models which are built on a presumption that cybercriminals only exist on the untrusted side of the fence. Yet the reality is that bad actors are finding their way onto the trusted side by cyber-surfing their way in on trusted devices.
A zero-trust approach only permits authorised devices onto your network and enforces access control. However, Zscalar reports that globally, only 19% of firms have a zero-trust cloud environment in place that is capable of supporting a hybrid working model.
Ironically, data privacy laws are the fundamental barrier that deters enterprises from fully embracing the cloud. However, if you ignore the sensationalism presented in the mainstream media, cybersecurity strategies don’t have to be complex or expensive.
As a matter of fact, embracing a digital transformation helps to reduce the risk of a data breach and reduce costs. The cloud can also facilitate emerging technologies like 5G, AI and Edge computing to support business growth and seize on opportunities.
Zero Trust as a Business Enabler
Proponents of zero-trust cloud environments believe organisations can be more ambitious. A cloud-based infrastructure provides a platform to create a high-value business with less financial risk than existing opportunities.
The agility offered by cloud-computing strategies supports innovation by giving enterprises the flexibility to deploy software applications of their choice. And with the exciting range of emerging technologies, such as IoT virtual reality, blockchain, big data and the metaverse competing for attention, the outstanding potential could be available in the near future.
The ubiquitous nature of cloud computing lowers IT costs by eliminating the necessity to invest in on-site servers and traditional off-site solutions. Digitisation future-proofs your IT infrastructure because that’s the only way forward.
And with fewer responsibilities required by IT professionals, your in-house team can dedicate more focus towards finding solutions that enable you to leverage digital technologies that support your business growth – particularly if you have a team of cloud specialists to lean on.
Business networks will need redesigning in the coming years as IoT becomes more prevalent across industries. Zero-trust platforms will be the driver behind innovation at the same time while removing much of the complexity involved with multiple technologies converging in a central database.
There’s also a clear path that enables businesses to deploy a distributed workforce without disrupting access points or infringing on efficiency. The cloud can already deliver uptime around 99.99% of the time.
Identity and Access Threat Prevention (IATP)
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) calls for firms to prepare for a variety of external threats in order to meet compliance. Typical incidents surrounding data protection includes compromised credentials, phishing campaigns, malware, ransomware or Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, zero-day threats, and unauthorised updates to sensitive records.
The majority of today’s businesses focus on web applications and are unsure how to move forward. Adopting a zero trust-based strategy facilitates an IATP-first approach which ultimately becomes a key component that requires very little surgery to an existing cloud environment.
IATP gives you unified visibility across your entire business network. Proactive control, therefore, preempts malicious threats that could compromise your data privacy obligations.
In addition, consolidating your security architecture gives users a secure environment to seamlessly access SaaS applications and data centres. Access permissions add an extra layer of security to those assets and enforce security policies on a continuous basis.
Integrating IATP with your zero-trust policy must be based on best practices that take into account identity, behaviour and risk. But policies should remain adaptive to navigate ad-hoc situations or to react to new threats. Note that cybercriminals are always looking to find a way around barriers.
Planning a Zero-Trust Cloud Environment
A zero-trust cloud environment is centred around user identity, access levels and authorised devices. Defining how these parameters are determined on your network should form the basis of your zero-trust policy.
For example, an authorised device conducting the suspicious activity and trying to access areas the user wouldn’t ordinarily access. This might imply the device is infected with malware – or you have a rogue employee.
Planning a zero-trust environment is achieved with a four-step strategy:
Identify the types of applications you host on your network together with the data stored within each of the applications. Categorise data into datasets such as confidential, high-level, sensitive, general etc.)
Identify business-critical assets (data and services) and the applications they are accessed through and determine the level of protection required by your company to meet compliance. It’s worth noting that data compliance is dependent on the nature of your business and the depth of sensitive information you store that belongs to a third party.
Map how your applications work, who owns them and who will be responsible for ensuring applications do not pose a threat to your network. Software is always subject to developing vulnerabilities that can be exploited by bad actors so security updates should be performed as soon as the software company releases a security patch.
Create the architecture for zero-trust cloud infrastructure and create access permissions across your network by identifying which applications, folders and files can be accessed by each of your employees.
Implementing a Zero-Trust Cloud Environment
Once you’re satisfied with the plan to implement a zero-trust cloud environment, the heavy lifting starts for your IT team. The first task is to input access permissions for all your employees into your cloud applications.
The change in accessibility will no doubt cause some minor disruptions in your workforce. Before rolling out the new environment, your staff should be informed and training given. At the very least provide them with instructions that take them through the process step-by-step.
User devices also have to be secured – which gives you the opportunity to provide training for each individual. End-users should be made aware there is an element of responsibility on their part to take charge of cybersecurity protocols – which may include how they use their personal devices.
Resistance can be minimised if your workforce has been exposed to cybersecurity training prior to the introduction of a zero-trust environment. When people are aware of cyber threats and the consequences of data, they understand what is expected of them and are more invested in following protocol.
Zero-trust environments should be monitored and maintained in order to identify unusual or suspicious activity. This is easily achieved with 24/7 monitoring tools which are capable of overseeing your entire network from a remote location.
Troubleshooting Zero-Trust Strategies
Whilst there is a temptation to lock your network when implementing a zero-trust strategy, the best approach is to allow some flexibility. Zero trust should allow IT teams to manage situations on a case-by-case basis.
For example, an end-user that has some technical know-how might attempt to fix an IT problem by themselves without having to rely on an IT provider. A rigid system will identify unusual activity stemming from their device and lock them out.
A better approach would be to conduct a follow-up call to ensure the activity is coming from them and not a bot – which could be malware.
Business networks also have to be agile enough to expand. One of the benefits of cloud computing is scalability but if you build too quickly, you risk compromising the zero-trust policies you already have in place.
For example, you might not want to be too hasty in ditching VPNs even if you don’t think they are entirely effective. Don’t forget you have to build new rules when you expand your IT architecture.
This is particularly important if you are integrating IoT into the fabric of your business network. The more data points you integrate into your ecosystem, the more vulnerable your security measures become. It’s worth noting that IoT devices are not manufactured with security in mind.
IT Support Providers in London
As technology continues to expand and present companies with more possibilities, business leaders have to continuously consider how to build out their network perimeters.
IT security should take centre stage in order to protect business continuity, and a zero-trust strategy is the best approach at this moment in time. And because a zero-trust cloud environment doesn’t demand a complete overhaul of your IT infrastructure (in most cases), it can be a cost-effective solution to an ongoing problem in which companies will always be playing catch-up to innovative hackers.
Micro Pro has more than 20 years of experience working in the IT industry and lived through the evolution of cloud computing and cybercrime. Our IT support providers in London are specialists in IT strategy and can either help you to plan and implement a zero-trust cloud environment or provide relevant services that enable your policy to function with optimal efficiency.
For more information, or to troubleshoot any problems you are experiencing, contact our IT security specialists today.