Zero Trust Architecture: An Essential Investment for Government and Commercial Organizations

Published On: February 1st, 20236 min read

As our current network infrastructure becomes more and more complex, enterprise security practices also need to evolve.

In a world of increasingly sophisticated threats, it’s imperative that organizations reduce the attack surface, reduce risk, and ensure that if a device, network, or user/credential is compromised, the damage is quickly contained and remediated.

That’s why architecting a Zero Trust framework is an essential investment for government or commercial organizations. Within the Zero Trust framework, confidence levels are built from a dynamic set of attributes of the subject being authenticated (identity, location, time, device security posture). This framework gives a user access to permitted information – and nothing more.

What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust (ZT) is a cybersecurity strategy and framework that embeds security throughout the software architecture to prevent malicious personas from accessing our most critical assets. This framework, also referred to as zero trust architecture or perimeterless security, describes a favored approach to designing and implementing secure IT systems for both private and public sector organizations. 

The foundational tenet of the Zero Trust Model is never trust, always verify” – meaning no actor, system, network, or service operating outside or within the security perimeter is trusted.

Trusting devices within the “corporate perimeter”, or devices connected via a VPN, is no longer relevant in the complex environment of a corporate network. The zero trust approach advocates mutual authentication, including checking the identity and integrity of devices without respect to location and providing access to applications and services based on the confidence of device identity and device health in combination with user authentication.

The ZTS framework eliminates the idea of trusted or untrusted networks, devices, personas, or processes, and shifts to multi-attribute-based confidence levels that enable authentication and authorization policies based on the concept of “Never Trust, Always Verify.”

Seven Tenets of Zero Trust 

Here are seven major tenets that define a Zero Trust strategy:

  1. Always assume a hostile environment. Inside and outside the network, threats exist. Therefore, all users, devices and networks/environments are treated as untrusted.
  2. Presume that a breach will happen. Cyber threats are real. Your agency may face hundreds of attempted attacks every day. In addition, there may be an adversary presence within your environment right now. Enhanced scrutiny of access will enable quicker response outcomes.
  3. Never trust, always verify. Apply the least privilege by default. Every device, user, application/workload and data flow are authenticated, and dynamic cybersecurity policies are then applied.
  4. Scrutinize explicitly. Every access right can be changed dynamically as there is no longer any static access. All resources access can dynamically change based on action and confidence levels resulting from those actions.
  5. Apply unified analytics. Create a centralized logging capability and apply unified analytics for data, applications, assets and services to include behavioristics.
  6. Monitor continuously. ZTS requires that a continuous monitoring solution be in place for all ingress and egress to the corporate network and resources.
  7. Embrace micro-segmentation. Segmentation of the network works as a great strategy to defend against cyber-attacks by splitting the network into different subnetworks and monitoring traffic flow.


Zero Trust Maturity Model

There are five pillars that define the Zero Trust Maturity Model. The pillars represent segmentation within each area. Although the separation among pillars makes the whole infrastructure more robust, it is also critical that pillars coordinate and work with each other to provide an ultimate security model for Zero Trust. 

Identity: This uniquely describes an agency user or entity. This pillar ensures that the right users and entities have the right access to the right resources at the right time.

Device: This pillar refers to any hardware asset that can connect to a network, including IoT devices, mobile phones, laptops, servers, and many others. The device’s inventory must be secured to prevent unauthorized devices from accessing resources.

Network/Environment: This pillar identifies internal networks, wireless networks, and the Internet used to transport messages. Separating the networks, and controlling and managing internal and external data flows, are critical for Zero Trust.

Application Workload: Your environment includes systems, computer programs, and services that execute on-premise, as well as in a cloud environment. These resources should be secured, and the application layer must be managed to provide secure application delivery. 

Data: This pillar assures that data should be protected on devices, in applications, and within networks all the time without exception. 

DoD Pillars 1

Upon implementing a Zero Trust framework, your organization will benefit in the following ways:

Implementing Zero Trust addresses gaps in your security model. Having different priorities for each application, capabilities and internal customer demands can develop silos within your organization. This will inevitably result in disconnects and gaps in your current infrastructure. As a result, these gaps (logical, technological, as well as organizational) can be exploited by internal or external attackers. 

Zero Trust simplifies security architecture. A fragmented approach to information technology and cybersecurity has led to excessive technical complexity. Complexity in your security model will create vulnerabilities and slower response for remediation actions. Zero Trust can help organizations simplify their security architecture.

Zero Trust produces consistent security policies. Cybersecurity policies must be consistently applied across environments to provide unified and maximized effectiveness. Dynamically generated policies are more effective and responsive than statically applied ones.  

Zero Trust optimizes data management operations. Tagging your resources and data is a must for quick security remediations. Not knowing properly identified resources or data leads to restricting the benefits of cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Zero Trust provides dynamic credentialing and authorization. Multi factor authentication, credentials based on username/password, and card embedded credentials (PIV Card) have their own shortcomings and did not keep up with the advanced threats coming from internal and external resources. Zero Trust’s dynamic authorization process addresses these shortcomings. 

Zero Trust gives organizations a roadmap for developing standards and processes. As Zero Trust has many offerings, it can give your organization measurable processes, capabilities and quick remediation. It also leads to the development of consistent standards that apply to all devices and processes, as they are repeatable, supportable, and extensible.

Implementing Zero Trust for Your Organization

As described in the Zero Trust Maturity Model, it is important to have interoperability among the pillars to provide the full scale of ZTA. In order to implement ZTA, your organization may need to progress three stages toward fully scaled ZTA. They are Traditional, Advanced and Optimal. 

The purpose of these stages is to take your ZTA initiative from a manually configured de-centralized security model to an optimal, fully automated centralized security model where resource-based agents monitor and report security and compliance incidents live when they occur. To do so, as shown below, your organization can segregate tiers among the ZTA pillars  — from connection to all the way to monitoring and compliance. 

DoD Chart 1

End state Zero Trust Architecture requires the implementation of security policies tied back to specific authorization attributes and the confidence level of the user and entity. A prerequisite assessment of the environment will determine the compliance state, privilege account levels and validate implementation of existing security controls.

DoD Arch 1

Want to learn more about how a Zero Trust framework will bolster your organization’s IT security? Connect with our DMI Team today.