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NSA Releases Guidance on Zero-Trust Architecture

A new document provides guidance for businesses planning to implement a zero-trust system management strategy.

The National Security Agency (NSA) today published a document to explain the zero-trust model and its benefits, challenges involved with implementation, and advice to navigate the process.

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As cloud, multicloud, and hybrid network environments become the norm for businesses, the resulting complexity, combined with evolving threats, puts many at risk. Traditional perimeter-based network defenses with layers of security tools are often insufficient. Companies need a better way to protect infrastructure and provide granular access to data, services, and apps.

"The Zero Trust security model eliminates implicit trust in any one element, node, or service and instead requires continuous verification of the operational picture via real-time information fed from multiple sources to determine access and other system responses," NSA officials wrote.

Zero trust requires strong authentication for both user and device identities. Use of multifactor authentication, which is recommended in this model, can make credential theft more difficult. 

The implementation of zero trust takes time and effort, but it doesn't have to be done all at once. Many businesses may be able to incorporate zero-trust concepts into existing network infrastructure; however, the transition to a mature architecture often requires additional capabilities. Officials advise planning out the integration as a "continually maturing roadmap," starting with initial preparation and continuing on to basic, intermediate, and advanced stages.

As with all major projects, there are challenges. Officials note potential roadblocks include lack of support from enterprise leadership or users. If leadership isn't willing to provide the needed resources to sustain a zero-trust architecture, or users are allowed to bypass policies, then zero trust won't prove beneficial, they say.

Read the full document here for more details.

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