On February 23, 2022, several Ukrainian government websites and banks were the target of a mass DDoS attack that resulted in outages lasting several hours. Ukrainians’ cellphones were simultaneously flooded with spam texts containing false warnings that the country’s ATMs were disabled. Both events, along with several others, have been attributed to Russia amidst their more visible military aggression and may, in fact, be the first events in a global cyberwar.
With the U.S. publicly condemning Russia’s actions, security experts fear it is only a matter of time before the barrage of cyberattacks reaches America. Saryu Nayyar, cybersecurity expert, fears state-sponsored attempts to “disrupt financial systems and crucial infrastructure such as the power grid or oil production to put pressure on the U.S. to relent on sanctions.”
The damage done to Ukraine’s system is proof of the urgency in reaching a better solution for data security. Since the Biden Administration’s Executive Order last May, the federal government has been moving toward a Zero Trust approach. Zero Trust is a more granular interpretation of the “trust but verify” model requiring users to reauthenticate with each request to access a new data source, network, or system. By knowing where data is kept and who needs access to it, Zero Trust provides a strong counter to cyberattacks that count on their targets being too overwhelmed by the volume of their data to notice anything is amiss.
A core tenet of Zero Trust is the assumption that an attack is inevitable—it’s a matter of “when,” not “if.” Zero Trust architecture and practices work to slow and contain attacks in a number of ways, such as isolation measures that create barriers between digital assets and malicious actors. Limiting any damage means reducing the time and resources needed to resume operations.
These containment and defense measures aren’t a one-and-done solution. Every time someone accesses a piece of data, a properly implemented Zero Trust ecosystem will require multiple forms of authentication of both that person’s identity and their reason for accessing that information. While the constant verification may sound tedious, a multi-layered approach is paramount to achieving security at all levels of your infrastructure.
This seems complex, but the reality is that a comprehensive Zero Trust network architecture is rooted in simplicity. One issue that agencies face, because many still have significant legacy infrastructure, is that their previous security upgrades have been piecemeal. “These legacy systems have too many moving parts,” said David Siles, Global Field CTO at Rubrik, “and require a lot of manual processes that drive up costs.” Different parts of the network are protected by different levels of security protocols, each of which take their own resources to maintain. “You end up devoting more labor than is even available within the IT shop.”
Additionally, having multiple systems makes it easy to become complacent and assume that your entire network is secured by at least one of the systems. This means that gaps can go undetected, leaving an easily exploitable opening into your network. For federal agencies consolidating their cybersecurity strategy into one comprehensive plan based on a Zero Trust architecture simplifies monitoring and upkeep without compromising efficacy.
Building a cybersecurity infrastructure that is fit for purpose for the challenges of the 21st century doesn’t need to be an overwhelming experience. Ensuring network security before an attack is the best way to protect your data and your customers’ and circumvent disturbances to daily operations, and Zero Trust is an essential element of that strategy.
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