Identity Governance

The Problem with Zero Trust: Creating More Confusion than Clarity

How a catchy buzzword became a catchall for enterprise cybersecurity–and what you can do about it.  

Two little words reign supreme in modern cybersecurity: “Zero Trust.” It’s the buzzword du jour that’s got board members and C-suite executives salivating.  

Zero Trust is that magical unicorn of a concept that everyone loves to toss around, but few truly comprehend. It’s become the golden ticket for security teams, a “get out of jail free card” with decision-makers nodding in agreement at every mention. They may not know what it means, but by Jove, they’ve heard of it before, and that’s good enough for them! 

But for weary security professionals, this blind devotion to Zero Trust can be oppressive. Any attempt at having an informed, nuanced discussion about cybersecurity is inevitably met with the same infuriating question: “But is it Zero Trust?”  

Zero Trust is everyone’s responsibility 

In many organizations, security is the proverbial hot potato. Give folks one shiny initiative and 20 buzzwords; suddenly, it’s not their problem anymore–it’s all on the valiant security team. But wouldn’t it be nice if security were front and center, or at least somewhat central in everyone’s mind?  

But fear not, for we have an all-encompassing term to shield ourselves behind: “Zero Trust!”  

Now, let’s be clear–there’s nothing inherently wrong with implementing Zero Trust environments. The trouble lies in the oversimplification of its components and the lack of education on the term itself. Most people are smitten with the concept but blissfully unaware of how to put it into practice.  

Admit it, who doesn’t get glossy-eyed when faced with mouthfuls like just-in-time provisioning, access certification campaigns, multi-factor authentication (MFA), or role-based access controls (RBACs)? Zero Trust security is the easy way out. But what is Zero Trust, really? 

So, what is Zero Trust? 

Before we go further, let’s unravel the concept of a Zero Trust architecture.  

Trust is a scarce commodity in a world plagued by cyberattacks and data breaches, and Zero Trust is like a knight in shining armor. Its motto, “Never trust, always verify,” assumes that danger lurks inside and outside the network. No user, device, or system shall escape suspicion.  

The Zero Trust model emphasizes robust authentication, micro-segmentation, and continuous monitoring, casting a beady eye on everyone and everything within the network. It’s the cyber equivalent of hosting a masquerade ball and insisting everyone unmask at the door.  

So, let’s unmask the critical players in this Zero Trust masquerade:  

  • Identity and access management: A bouncer at the door, demanding multi-factor authentication (MFA) as proof of identity for anyone vying for access to the digital kingdom’s resources.  
  • Micro-segmentation: A cunning maneuver that splits network security into bite-sized, isolated morsels, impeding threats and hackers from gallivanting across the digital landscape.  
  • Least privilege access: A miserly on-premises gatekeeper, granting users and systems only the bare minimum access to perform their tasks, safeguarding those oh-so-sensitive data morsels.  
  • Continuous monitoring: The ever-vigilant watchman, eyes peeled for malicious activity and policy infractions across the attack surface, poised to pounce on potential threats at a moment’s notice.  

Solving the problem of Zero Trust 

Alas, solving the problem of Zero Trust is no walk in the park. Decision-makers prefer the familiar, often shying away from newfangled notions. But there is hope. 

To tame the elusive beast of Zero Trust, we propose the following strategy: 

  1. Weave Zero Trust into education initiatives
    • Start within the cozy confines of the Zero Trust comfort zone, and use what your board already knows to spark conversations around executive-level education. But resist the seductive simplicity of “Zero Trust.” Instead, weave it into security concepts and principles you wish to deploy. However cliché, communication holds the key to transformation. 
    • Next, craft a plan to enlighten the entire organization about security practices. For instance, take email security–easily grasped by the masses, for who hasn’t received the dreaded phishing email? Use relatable experiences to help illuminate the path forward as you consider how to make murkier realms–like identity–more tangible. 
    • Find creative ways to integrate complex security concepts into security awareness training initiatives. You could, for example, show the consequences of neglecting the principle of least privilege by painting a vivid picture of the mayhem unleashed by an employee with unfettered access to the general ledger. The specter of unbridled power and the inability to detect mischief should send shivers down their spines. 
    • But beware of the pitfalls of scare tactics. Such methods rarely enlighten and may breed distrust among your employees. Instead, educate your internal stakeholders on insider threats without sowing the seeds of suspicion, lest you transform your workplace into a den of paranoia.  
  2. Come up with standardized ways to communicate
    • Standardized communication is an elusive tune in the cacophonous realm of security. For many, a shared lexicon of terms remains a distant dream, particularly in the murky waters of identity management. 
    • The task often lies in conveying these cryptic concepts to board members, who often grasp rudimentary notions of logging into apps without understanding the intricate reality. Consider the term “entitlement,” a shape-shifting beast masquerading as a role, a policy, or a dozen other guises, depending on the organization. Such ambiguity makes conversing with the board an arduous undertaking. 
    • To triumph in this linguistic labyrinth, agree on a shared lexicon of terms–including a definition of Zero Trust–and put it in writing so employees can access it in times of doubt or confusion. For in the chaos of cybersecurity, clarity is a beacon of hope.  
  3. Admit that Zero Trust is a money pit
    • On the surface, Zero Trust is an alluring siren of the cybersecurity seas, seducing decision-makers with its musical promise of impenetrable defenses. Yet, beneath its captivating façade lies a ravenous money pit. 
    • Cunning security solution providers have masterfully marketed Zero Trust, profiting from its irresistible appeal. Now, this once-noble concept fetches top dollar, with certification tiers to boot. What begins with network perimeter monitoring and firewalls soon morphs into a ravenous beast, demanding VPNs, endpoint clients, and vulnerability management with no end in sight. But if everything is a Zero Trust strategy, then nothing is. 
    • Thus, pursuing this enigmatic Zero Trust ideal becomes a Sisyphean ordeal, with ever-receding goalposts. In the face of such endless expenses, consider a more cost-effective tool that strengthens your security posture without emptying your proverbial pockets.  

How Clarity Security can help 

Like a shiny object, the Zero Trust security model has boardrooms captivated. The main problem? It often creates more confusion than clarity–drawing people in and casting its spell of simplicity without ever being fully understood.  

Solving the problem of Zero Trust requires powerful, intuitive security solutions that empower cybersecurity teams to manage permissions, enforce policies and meet compliance requirements—regardless of the size or experience of your security team.  

Clarity Security is an easy-to-use identity governance platform that helps organizations reduce risk in real time while saving time, money, and effort.  

Streamline app access requests by managing licenses, entitlements, and more all in one place.  

Keep your organization safe by automatically removing access for high-risk or recently terminated employees.  

Make sure users have the right level of access with an intelligent system that manages role-based access controls for you.  

Easily create and share user access reports, fix access issues based on manager feedback, and much more.  

Find out how Clarity Security helps teams eliminate confusion around Zero Trust by taking simple steps toward eliminating threats and non-compliance.  

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