3 Barriers to Implementing Zero Trust (and How to Avoid Them)

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John TurnerManager of Custom Engineering at strongDM

Friday, January 28, 2022

Many organizations are discovering that a zero trust approach might be the answer to their network security woes. However, with so many barriers to entry, implementing zero trust architecture can seem daunting at first. Here are some tips on how to avoid the most common barriers in successful zero trust implementations by using access management tools.

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3 Barriers to Implementing Zero Trust (and How to Avoid Them)
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Companies of all sizes are discovering the looming threat of a cyberattack is closer than their IT departments expected. The question is no longer if an organization will experience a threat to their cybersecurity, but when and how often. Increased cloud usage and remote work have made it critical to go beyond protecting your security perimeter by having defenses ready for after an unauthorized user gains access.

A zero trust approach operates under the assumption that no user should be trusted before they’ve been verified. The barriers to adopting this approach can seem insurmountable at first glance, but they haven’t stopped 35% of organizations from already making the switch. Zero trust is such a critical shift for security practices that even the White House recently issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to implement zero trust by 2024.  

The solution: Access management

Access management tools make it easy to overcome the barriers to implementing a zero trust architecture. These technologies are used to validate, authorize and audit user and device access across your IT infrastructure for improved centralization, segmentation, access control and visibility.

Here are the most common barriers companies experience when adopting zero trust security, and how the right access management tools can help you overcome them.

1. Resistance to changing complex, hybrid IT environments

Your security methodology is already complex. With a variety of databases, servers, public and private clouds, applications and tools, the thought of making any major change to your system will seem daunting. This is especially true if your IT infrastructure contains legacy systems and third-party applications designed with implicit trust.

A good access management tool integrates systems across even the most complex multi-cloud environments, providing a single centralized control plane for peak visibility and monitoring throughout your zero trust integration and beyond. Centralized visibility into all resources, active users and user permissions across your entire IT infrastructure helps you track who’s doing what within your network at all times, while fine-grained logs provide even more insight into usage.

This centralized visibility is especially critical as your organization first begins to adopt zero trust, when custom configurations and development projects can inadvertently introduce security gaps. Adopting access management tools with enhanced visibility early in your zero trust implementation ensures your network is protected against unauthorized users who find gaps in your security perimeter.

2. Slows productivity with extra steps for employees

The “always verify” stance within a zero trust system seems like a headache before it becomes ‌normal business practice. When employees are accustomed to an implicit trust within the network, leveraging tools like VPNs and multi-factor authentication (MFA) may appear to slow their processes and present unnatural breaks in their productivity.

But zero trust doesn’t have to present a bottleneck in workflows—in fact, 44% of companies move to a zero trust model to strengthen the end user experience.

Integrating access management features like single sign-on (SSO), role-based access control (RBAC), or attribute-based access control (ABAC) make it easy to protect your organization’s data without presenting extra headaches for users or admins.

SSO allows users to verify their identity and devices without remembering hundreds of passwords or repeatedly signing in to different tools. RBAC and ABAC simplify user verification for admins by making new data access requests faster and easier to fulfill; they also enable admins to automatically deploy configuration changes across the network without worrying about customizing access for each user.

3. Upfront costs and lengthy implementation

From introducing new tools to retrofitting legacy software, adapting your IT infrastructure for zero trust will take time and money. Gaining buy-in and budget for custom configurations and lengthy development projects can be time-consuming and frustrating. There’s no single right way to start implementing zero trust, but most organizations take a piecemeal approach that first addresses the most pressing security gaps.

Adding access management from the start can keep your IT infrastructure more secure throughout the implementation process, reduce costly reconfiguration work and help users adjust as you develop your zero trust architecture. Streamlined access control will help you avoid the headaches that come from complex reconfigurations. Plus, by using a tool that helps you proxy client traffic through a centralized gateway, you can gain the benefits of segmentation without implementing separate microsegmentation products for each secure zone.

Avoiding zero trust barriers with access management

As organizations look for new ways to protect their data against increasingly common ransomware attacks, supply chain attacks and other security threats, IT experts are turning to zero trust architecture to prepare their organizations for the security demands of the future.  Verification is at the heart of zero trust architecture, and building user and device access control into your IT practices is a non-negotiable step to adopting a zero trust approach.

Access management tools provide a strong foundation to start building out your zero trust architecture. By beginning with access management, you can avoid many of the common barriers mentioned above and take a more seamless, secure approach to implementing zero trust.

John Turner

Manager of Custom Engineering at strongDM

https://strongdm.com/

John is a Manager of Customer Engineering and tech enthusiast. With over 15 years of experience working with IT and infrastructure, he has recently been focused on automation and security. He has recently obtained his Hashicorp Terraform and Vault certifications. In his spare time, he likes to make videos for his YouTube channel b1tsized tech.

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