Zero Trust Defined for Small Business Owners

Zero trust is a security concept that is based around the idea of “never trust, always verify” when it comes to accessing business data and infrastructure. Verifying the identity and context of every request before granting access to network resources or business data can significantly improve your small business’ security posture.

A traditional small business approach to network security starts at the perimeter, where a firewall is used to protect the network from external threats. With the perimeter model, once a device or user has access to the network, it is generally assumed to be trusted. But as organizations adopt cloud-based services and remote work becomes more prevalent, fewer employees sit safely behind the company firewall.

The zero trust model assumes that all devices and users, regardless of location, are potentially malicious. Access to resources is granted on an as-needed basis, and all requests are authenticated before that access is granted. By implementing a zero trust model, small businesses can improve security, increase productivity, and reduce complexity.

Conceptual Elements

Data Identification: Define the sensitive resources that need to be protected. Small businesses must know which resources are most valuable, such as financial data or customer information, and know where these resources are stored.

Least privilege: The principle of least privilege states that users should only have access to the resources they need to perform their job duties. This helps to reduce the attack surface and minimize the potential for data breaches.

Context-aware access: Zero trust models should consider the context of a request, such as the location and device being used, before granting access to resources. This helps to ensure that access is granted only to trusted users and devices.

Actionable Elements

Identity and access management (IAM): Organizations should have a robust IAM system in place to verify the identity of users and devices. This can include using strong passwords, hardware tokens, and systems such as Microsoft Azure Active Directory.

Continuous monitoring: To maintain a zero trust posture, organizations should monitor for suspicious activity. In the small business world, monitoring account changes is vital. Being alerted to the creation of a new Outlook rule or an account being provided administrative permissions can aid in quickly mitigating a cyberattack.

Multifactor authentication: In addition to strong passwords, organizations must implement multifactor authentication to secure access to resources. This is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways for a small business to improve their cybersecurity posture.

Will This Impact Workflow?

Implementing a zero trust model may require some additional steps for employees when accessing sensitive resources, but it does not necessarily make work more difficult overall. In fact, a zero trust model can actually improve productivity by reducing the number of unnecessary access requests and allowing employees to focus on their work rather than constantly being prompted for authentication.

There are a few ways that small businesses can make the transition to zero trust smoother for employees:

Provide training: It is important to educate employees on the importance of strong passwords and the proper use of multifactor authentication.

Use user-friendly authentication tools: Small businesses should consider using authentication tools that are easy for employees to use, such as one-time codes sent to their phone or biometric authentication.

Test the system: Small businesses should test the zero trust model to ensure it is working properly and address any issues that arise. Regular testing will limit user troubleshooting and downtime.

The zero trust security approach is a measure that small businesses should begin to consider in today’s digital landscape. By assuming that all devices and users are potentially malicious and verifying their identity and context before granting access to resources, businesses can better protect their sensitive data and infrastructure. If you are interested in learning more about how you can protect your organization and improve your cybersecurity, give us a call at 816-222-1100 or reach out to our team today!

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