Recognizing the Security Implications of the New Normal

Recognizing the Security Implications of the New Normal

Recognizing the Security Implications of the New Normal

As the landscape of information security constantly evolves, organizations face a range of modern security challenges. These include increasingly sophisticated threats, a rapidly expanding cybersecurity ecosystem, and a critical shortage of cybersecurity talent. This chapter discusses these issues and introduces Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), a new model for managing remote access that aligns with modern work models and surpasses traditional access control solutions.

The Changing Landscape

Today's security landscape is marked by threats growing in both sophistication and frequency. In response, organizations have rolled out a multitude of security solutions and tools. However, operating these isolated tools often requires specialized skills and resources that most enterprise security teams lack.

Threats: Increasing in Sophistication and Frequency

Data breaches and ransomware attacks have become so common that they virtually warrant their own news segment. Despite their frequency, these threats remain dangerous. Organizations that become complacent risk extensive damage.
As per the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach rose by 10% to $4.24 million from 2020 to 2021. This represents the largest single-year cost increase in
the past seven years.

Enterprise security teams are constantly battling advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed by threat actors. A proper balance of effective tools and capable security analysts is essential to address these threats, but this balance is more often the exception than the rule.

Too Many Tools, Too Much Complexity

To address specific security challenges, enterprise security teams have been deploying point security solutions for years. This approach, often mistakenly rationalized as "defense in depth", has resulted in an ecosystem overloaded with tools. This complexity can lead to a costly and ineffective operating environment.
A 2020 IBM study found that the average enterprise uses 45 security tools, with 30% of organizations using more than 50. The shift to remote work and cloud computing has only increased the number of security tools organizations must manage.

Shortage of Cybersecurity Talent and Skills

Beyond the complexity of threats and the increasing number of security tools, the challenges of the modern security landscape are exacerbated by a global shortage of cybersecurity talent and skills. It is estimated by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) that nearly two-thirds of enterprise security teams are understaffed. This issue is further compounded by the fact that more than half have open positions.

Understanding the Need for Change

Work models have undergone drastic changes, and the manner in which applications and data are accessed has shifted. These changes demand a re-evaluation of traditional trust models and necessitate new strategies for granting users and devices access to applications and data.

Evolution of Work

Work has transformed from a place we go to an activity we perform. Applications are now available everywhere, and the overwhelming majority of enterprises utilize a combination of private cloud, public cloud, internet, and SaaS.
Moreover, many organizations have adopted a hybrid work model, supporting partial remote work or fully remote work. This shift was greatly accelerated by the global pandemic, and as companies have realized productivity and employee morale benefits, it has become the new normal for work.
However, this change has significant implications for IT and security. The concept of "users everywhere, apps everywhere, data everywhere" is a radical departure from traditional models and expands the enterprise attack surface exponentially.

The Limitations of VPNs

Virtual private networks (VPNs) were designed to grant access to a local area network (LAN) or a subnet within the LAN. VPNs offer a private, encrypted tunnel for remote employees to connect to the corporate network. However, they often lack the flexibility and granularity to control and see exactly what users can access, leading to potential security gaps and policy enforcement issues.
In contrast, Zero Trust Network Access(ZTNA) provides secure remote access to applications based on granular access control policies. Unlike the broad network access granted by VPNs, ZTNA controls access to specific authorized applications. Once verified, users can only access applications for which they have explicit permission, dramatically reducing the attack surface and improving overall security.

ZTNA's least-privilege approach is particularly valuable given the modern reality of distributed workforces and cloud-based applications. By providing context-based access controls, ZTNA ensures that the right individuals have access to the right resources under the right conditions. As a result, the security posture of organizations improves significantly.

Addressing the New Normal: The Role of ZTNA

In the new normal of work, ZTNA provides a practical, flexible, and secure access solution. It aligns with the current trends of remote work and distributed application environments and offers numerous benefits:
Reduced Attack Surface: By providing application-specific access instead of network-wide access, ZTNA minimizes the attack surface, making it harder for attackers to move laterally within the network.
Improved Visibility and Control: ZTNA solutions provide granular visibility into who is accessing what application, when, and from where. This allows for better control over application access and usage.
Context-aware Policies: ZTNA solutions can enforce context-aware access policies based on user identity, device posture, location, time, and the sensitivity of the application being accessed. This provides a dynamic, adaptive security posture.
Better User Experience: By eliminating the need to connect to a corporate network, ZTNA can provide a better user experience with faster, more direct access to applications.
Scalability: As organizations grow and evolve, ZTNA can scale to accommodate increased application usage and a growing remote workforce.
In the face of evolving threats, rising complexity, and the growing talent shortage in cybersecurity, ZTNA offers a modern, adaptive, and robust solution. As such, organizations today need to consider adopting ZTNA as part of their strategy for securing the new normal of work.
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