Explained: Zero-trust Cloud Security


As part of their modernisation process, companies are moving their applications and data to the cloud—the urgency to ensure a secure environment for operations and data is at an all-time high. This is where the zero-trust cloud security framework marks its presence.Datatechvibe-Logo-Explain

Cloud adoption is accelerating, with 90 per cent of the companies using cloud computing, an O’Reilly report confirms. With systems in the cloud, it is possible to retrieve files more quickly, understand complex data, and access workplace platforms remotely. In addition, hosting a company’s applications on the cloud is more cost-effective than in a data centre.

Here is the catch. Most of these cloud environments are run by cloud service providers and SaaS vendors who are not part of an organisation’s network. Therefore, the type of network controls a particular company has for its internal network can’t be replicated on the cloud.

Zero-trust cloud security comes in handy to overcome this fear. A zero trust architecture, created by John Kindervag in 2010 while a principal analyst at Forrester Research, is a broad framework that offers optimum protection to a company’s most crucial assets. It operates under the presumption that every connection and endpoint poses a threat.

The expanding need for companies

Leaders in IT and security are unsure about their firm’s ability to offer secure cloud access. With multiple cloud vendors serving the need of a firm, the data and applications remain spread across multiple locations. Moreover, traditional tools lack capacity to address concerns around complex and changing cybersecurity, further widening the insecurity aspect for a firm. As most of their assets are on third-party infrastructure, the company stands to lose insights into who is accessing the company’s data and applications or even what devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc., are being utilised to access them. The larger concern revolves around data usage and sharing.

To address their concerns, companies typically use a range of access solutions. Depending on the need, they opt for virtualised firewall, CASB proxy, inbound proxy, software-defined perimeter, and even remote access VPN. Unfortunately, due to this fragmented security architecture produced by this technological mix, it can be challenging to determine what all security measures are in place to safeguard any given piece of cloud data.

Businesses continue taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies like serverless, containers, and machine learning to gain from cloud computing’s higher efficiency, better scalability, and quicker deployments. However, almost 94 per cent of cybersecurity experts remain worried about the security of public clouds. Further complicating the matter, many businesses presently use a patchwork of poorly integrated security products and solutions. Security teams are consequently devoting more time to manual work. As a result, they lack the context and perceptions necessary to lower their organisation’s attack surface.

The need of the hour is to implement a single, unified security architecture so that customers can have secure access to a company’s data and apps across the public cloud, SaaS applications, and private cloud/data centres. Furthermore, it should assist them in limiting access to such resources and how they can be used. They can enforce security rules and inspect traffic continuously.

Working behind the zero-trust cloud

The framework assumes every connection and endpoint as a threat and protects the system against every possible internal and external threat. To be precise, the framework as per IBM follows three principles:

  • It logs and inspects all network traffic of the corporate
  • Put controls and limits on access to each network
  • Provides verification and security to all network resources

To further elaborate, zero trust security ensures a firm’s data and resources are inaccessible by default. One of its ways includes least-privilege access, which restricts user access in certain situations, and is permitted only under certain conditions. When a user connects to a software or an application that accesses a data set through an API, a zero trust security model verifies and approves each connection. It guarantees that the connection aligns with the organisation’s security policy. Additionally, a zero trust security strategy uses context from as many data sources as possible to authenticate and approve each device, network flow, and connection per dynamic regulations.

Zero trust must not be considered a product but a philosophy that must be carefully considered and put into practice throughout the entire enterprise, both at physical remote sites and users as well as in the cloud.

Towards implementation

After understanding the concept and the need, companies must define their goals and business outcomes before implementing the strategy in their core business functions. They can then achieve the desired benefits with a step-by-step guide.

  • First, the companies must identify the type of data – confidential, sensitive, or non-personal – and the critical applications; then provide the right to access based upon roles.
  • Second, understand the working of the applications, and enforce controls as per the nature of data and functions across different environments.
  • Third, from employees to every end-user, the company’s responsibility is to make them understand what is expected from them while accessing the data and applications in the cloud.
  • Finally, the company needs to monitor and log every traffic to spot anomalous activity and make security-related policy decisions.

According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the estimated value of the global zero trust security market is expected to increase from $27.4 billion in 2022 to $60.7 billion by 2027. The framework may sound like a limiting factor; however, the methodology is good enough to give better insights into the attack surface to the company’s security team. Cut short – the trend is expected to witness an uptick.

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