“Zero trust is a way of thinking, not a specific technology or architecture,” says Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst Neil MacDonald. “It’s really about zero implicit trust, as that’s what we want to get rid of.”
Zero Trust is a security model that implicits trust in any user, device, network, or service and instead requires continuous verification of the authentication and authorization used to access corporate data. The Zero Trust model assumes that a breach is inevitable and has possibly already taken place, therefore it embraces access limitations and alerts on anomalous activity. Zero Trust is a framework for securing corporate data for today’s modern digital transformation. It is designed for the technological challenges of today’s business, including insider threats, secure remote access, ransomware threats, and more.
Zero Trust security consists of three main principles:
Under the Zero Trust model, we assume that there are attackers both inside and outside our organizational perimeter, therefore no users should be automatically trusted. Zero Trust verifies every single user’s access.
While users are routinely accessing company data as part of their job function, the principle of least-privilege ensures that users are given only as much access as they need to perform their role effectively. On “a need to know” basis. This minimizes each users’ exposure to sensitive data. If a breach happens, Zero Trust limits the scope of the incident and gives time for security teams to respond and mitigate the attack.
Continuous monitoring and least privilege access cannot be achieved without complete automation around these processes. Zero Trust embraces the full adoption of automated security processes to achieve least privilege access, and continuously monitor and verify every single data access by every single user - both inside and outside the organization.
The most widely adopted use case of the Zero Trust security model is securing remote access, or Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). This product category eliminates the need for a legacy VPN and embraces the Zero Trust principles to verify any remote access to corporate networks through network and device micro-segmentation and access control.
ZTNA solutions enable impressive and comprehensive micro-segmentation and access control based on identity, network, and device metadata, such as an IP address, OS versions, and user roles. ZTNA solves multiple significant threat models, such as account takeover attacks (examples of allowed access from unknown networks/devices). However, when ZTNA solutions approve access, the end-user will be able to connect to the allowed applications without any micro-segmentation on what “kind” of data from those applications can or cannot be accessed, manipulated, and shared. Specifically for SaaS applications, the end-user will be able to fully access and manipulate SaaS data without any further granularity around data access control by the ZTNA solution.
For example, an employee who resigns from a company can scrape and steal a significant amount of sensitive company data before leaving the company; simply because their identity, device, and network metadata are still approved by the ZTNA solution. There is no context around data exfiltration nor what kind of data it is that is being taken. As such, organizations adopting ZTNA solutions are still exposed to various day to day threat models:
Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA) takes the principle of least privilege and the concept of micro segmentation and extends it throughout Software as a Service (SaaS) application environments, which are one of the most critical data sources for an enterprise trying to align to the Zero Trust model.
ZTDA is a new guiding principle that provides the granularity required to assume that implicit trust is not granted to any user inside or outside the organization, beyond the identity layer and/or deeply ingrained into the SaaS application level. This concept allows for more targeted security policies to be applied to end users and entities - both internal and external - across all SaaS applications.
ZTDA moves security closer to critical resources that drive the modern business forward.
While ZTNA micro segments on identities, networks, and devices, ZTDA micro segments on users, 3rd party collaborators, identity provider group membership, HR employment status, file type, file location, PII detection, malware detection, and more.
ZTDA applies the three Zero Trust principles as follows:
ZTDA platforms are subscribed to all internal and external user activity events, SaaS assets metadata, and data enrichments originated in a broad array of interconnected integrations, such IDP, EDR, and HR platforms. All of these data points are combined to enable deep micro-segmentations on multiple levels, such as users, assets, groups, employment status, domains, and more. ZTDA platforms keep a real-time inventory of your SaaS ecosystems metadata without the need to actually replicate and store SaaS hosted data.
Based on the unified inventory and data enrichments, ZTDA platforms continuously revoke data access to both internal and external users to achieve the least privilege model at scale. Users in return can always share or request access to the very same data over and over so that business enablement continues as is. Over time, organizations adopting ZTDA platforms significantly reduce their attack surface, number of people having access to sensitive data, and scope of any potential breach.
ZTDA platforms offer automated workflows powered by comprehensive micro segmentation around users, collaborators, assets, groups, and more. These automated workflows are not opinionated or hard coded but rather highly flexible and customizable to be triggered based on any end-user activity event and/or identified anomalous activity. ZTDA platforms offer a rich catalog of workflows based remediation paths, either on-demand or fully automated.
No two security teams/programs are equal. As such, DoControl offers general stages to implement a Zero Trust Data Access model:
Contact us and we will show you how to implement a Zero Trust Data Access model.
This stat comes from the industry report we published earlier this year: The Immense Risk of Unmanaged SaaS Data Access. It’s a great read. We recommend you check it out.
Just as is with the cloud, securing SaaS is a shared responsibility. Providers are responsible for ensuring the security of their platforms, but there is an onus on the organization consuming the service to protect themselves from data overexposure and exfiltration, as well as cyber breaches and attacks.
In this blog we are going to focus on three of the most widely adopted SaaS applications, based on revenue and growth, as well as just general popularity. We will highlight the pitfalls and security gaps (note: these apps are not inherently insecure!), and how DoControl can help deliver a single, unified strategy to SaaS application security and reduce the risk of both data exfiltration and cyberattacks.