3 ways to implement Zero Trust in a legacy environment

Trust is a very fickle partner to rely on in the IT sector primarily due to the incessant barrage of security threats from both external and internal actors. This is why government, enterprise, and other types of organizations hold cybersecurity as a top priority as hackers discover ever more ingenious ways to stay under the radar.

In March 2022, nearly a third of firms were suffering from a cyberattack incident every week, according to data published by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. One answer to protecting your organization against these ongoing threats is to build a Zero Trust approach to security.

Zero Trust is a security framework that requires all users — internal or external to the organization’s network — to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture prior to being granted or keeping access to applications and data.

This approach contrasts with previous security models which presumed bad actors are always lurking outside your security perimeter, not inside of it.

Identifying weak foundations is crucial

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2021 Data Breach Report, there were 1,862 data breaches last year, many involving high-profile targets. Last year’s cyberattacks surpassed both 2020’s total of 1,108 and the previous record of 1,506 set in 2017.

Software company SolarWinds played host to a Trojan Horse-style attack that occurred in 2020, having wide-scale ramifications for government organizations and private enterprise alike. Hackers targeted a third-party with access to SolarWinds’ systems and entered through a backdoor by impersonating users.

Once they gained access, hackers infected SolarWinds’ systems with malware and compromised the data of more than 18,000 devices. Cyberbreaches like this have provided the impetus for a profound shift in cybersecurity defensive posture — trust no one, or Zero Trust.

In addition to rigorous authentication of users accessing applications and data, more attention needs to be paid toward maintaining airtight firewalls. Relying on standard policies regarding firewalls means that once someone is cleared to enter your system, they do not have to be continuously challenged and are free to go about their business. This also presents a security problem because if hackers can find their way into your network undetected, they can cause lots of damage during the days, weeks, or months that they are not detected.

3 things you can do right now to achieve Zero Trust

There are, however, three approaches you can take toward implementing Zero Trust while dealing with legacy IT.

Prepare to be hacked. It’s not if, but when

Cyberattacks are happening at an alarming rate. They not only result in lost value of customer relations but can also increase the cost of doing business in the form of higher insurance premiums and increased costs to raise debt among other things.

Make it harder for hackers to access your systems. Challenge users at every stage once inside the system.

Deal with vulnerabilities at the source

Developers need to start writing code with a built-in Zero Trust approach in mind. Devising your security approach around penetration testing may cover some vulnerabilities, but not all and can be a costly mistake.

In the current security landscape, a simplistic approach to cybersecurity cannot and will not protect organizations from the resourcefulness of cybercriminals intent are gaining access to your systems.

Don’t let legacy technologies block operational resilience strategies

Legacy technologies can hold businesses back when it comes to increasing operational resilience and efficiencies. Even more troubling is that they can also make you more vulnerable to cyberattacks because your systems cannot cope with the adoption of more resilient security models.

Benefits and challenges of Zero Trust

The benefits to taking a Zero Trust approach to security become crystal clear if you assume that all applications are untrustworthy — and that users must be authorized to access said software every single time — then the risk of getting hacked diminishes substantially. Network managers may detect small decreases in performance, and minimal increase in load but the time taken to monitor these checks is worth the risks it mitigates.

However, legacy systems can create significant roadblocks to overcome before Zero Trust can be effectively adopted across the board. Digital transformation is taking place at light speed and leaving many IT teams straining under the weight of newer technologies that can be difficult to comfortably manage.

Ironically, despite being one of the largest pieces of the global economy, the financial services industry – much like most other technology-reliant sectors – is operating on legacy systems that prevent them from transitioning towards a Zero Trust approach. In effect, they are creating their own vulnerabilities for bad actors to take advantage of.

Furthermore, technologies like middleware and mainframes were never designed with Zero Trust in mind mainly because they struggle to keep up with the speed and the asynchronous way that requests need to be sent to an API, for example.

The takeaway

By the look of things, cyberthreats will continue to proliferate and you will need to urgently address outdated security approaches that are no longer reliable to meet today’s threats. You will need to adopt a Zero Trust model that can better protect your business and customers.

Uptrends’ Incident Management technology may be an excellent solution to start with. When integrated with Uptrends Log Analytics and Reporting, and with other monitoring solutions, you take visibility and security one step further toward a Zero Trust approach.

By Guy Warren
ITRS Group

This article originally appeared on the ITRS GROUP website.