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Preventing Supply Chains Attacks with Zero Trust

In early 2021, supply chain attacks, such as the SolarWinds and Accellion incidents, made headlines. Cyber attackers exploited weak security protocols at third-party vendors to penetrate an organization’s networks and systems.

Supply Chain Attacks happen when one of your trusted vendors is compromised, and access to your environment is gained either directly or from a service they provide. There are many types of supply chain attacks, and the measurements that need to be taken also differ depending on whether the attack is performed through hardware, software, or firmware.

Measuring security includes practices ranging from restricting access to sensitive data to assessing the risk associated with third-party software. In this article, you will find out how you can avoid supply chain failures and keep your company’s security intact without any financial loss using Zero Trust.

What is Zero Trust Architecture?

To protect cybersecurity, NIST developed its Zero Trust cybersecurity architecture. To prevent data breaches, Zero Trust initiatives eliminate trust from an organization’s network architecture. Viewing all network activity, internal or external, as a potential security threat, this framework states that you should never trust anything before verifying it. 

Zero Trust’s unyielding determination to implicate all users makes it extremely effective in preventing supply chain attacks.

Is it possible to prevent supply chain attacks with a Zero Trust architecture?

Supply chain attacks cannot be prevented with any security defense, so a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) is a top solution for limiting their impact. To maximize the potential of the ZTA, both the organization and its vendor network should implement the framework.

There aren’t all vendors who implement this framework, so it’s hard to determine which ones do. By monitoring for potential vulnerabilities regularly throughout the vendor network, organizations can support their ZTA rather than operate blindly.

Zero trust architecture: how does it work?

An enterprise ZTA deployment is composed of numerous logical components. Depending on the component, it is either an on-premises service or a cloud-based service. 

The Zero Trust Architecture comprises of:

Policy Engine (PE)

The policy engine works like the powerhouse of ZTA. To evaluate whether a network request is allowed, this component filters it through a Trust Algorithm (TA). Along with granting access based on role assignments, the Trust Algorithm also utilizes strict access controls.

Policy Administrator (PA)

If the Policy Engine decides to endorse a policy, the Policy Administrator instructs the Policy Endorsement Points (PEPs). When the PA receives a request from the PE, the PEP is instructed to grant access to Enterprise Resources. Policy Engines block access to networks if the engine does not trust the request.

Policy Enforcement Point (PEP)

In the end, only the PEP has final authority. Following the Policy Engine’s decision, traffic is either approved or denied by PEP. Updates relating to policies can be integrated into the PEP via the Policy Administrator (PA).

How do the enterprises conduct business flows using ZTA?

ZTAs for organizations might be developed differently depending on the organization’s selected use case and existing policies. The organization should opt for a ZTA structure that requires the least operational effort.

ZTA with Enhanced Identity Governance

To create a ZTA, enhanced identity governance focuses on the identity of the doer as a fundamental component. Organizations often employ enhanced identity governance approaches in the form of open networks or frequent non-enterprise devices connected to the network.

Initially, all assets have network access, but only identities with the appropriate access permissions can access enterprise resources. Even allowing basic network connectivity presents an inherent risk as malicious actors could use the network to gather intelligence or launch attacks on other networks. It is still necessary for companies to monitor and address such behavior before it interferes with their workflow.

With an identity-driven approach, secondary support data like device identity and status is provided to access decisions through the resource portal model. By using the identity of requestors, enterprise policy can be formed and enforced on these platforms.

ZTA Using Micro-Segmentation

A solution that defends against digital supply chain attacks using Enhanced Identity Governance will be difficult to deploy in large ecosystems quickly. It is much better to use the micro-segmentation method because it is designed to protect the vulnerable network rather than the entire network ecosystem.

Next-Generation Firewalls or gateways protect these segments from outside threats. This in turn creates many secure segments, which the PEP gateway can access or deny at will.

ZTA with Network Infrastructure and SDN  

ZTAs implement using network infrastructure. Overlay networks could also be used in ZTA’s implementation. In addition to terminology from Software Defined Networking (SDN) and intent-based networking (IBN), these approaches are sometimes called software-defined perimeters (SDP).

The PE decides how to configure the network, and the PA follows the instructions given by the PE. As always, access requests are handled by the PA component via PEPs. When an application network-layer approach is implemented, the most common deployment model is a gateway.

 For communication between the client and resource, the agent and gateway create a secure channel. Besides cloud virtual networks, there are also non-IP networks and other variations of this model.

Implementing a ZTA: what are the steps?

There are three phases involved in implementing the ZTA framework:

Phase 1: Verifying all user accounts

Phase 2: Verifying all user devices

Phase 3: Verifying of all access rights

For users to be labeled trustworthy, they need to pass all three authentication levels. In addition to making it nearly impossible for threat actors to access sensitive data, a ZTA also allows for the systematic tracking of cybercriminals who attempt attacks by forcing them to follow compliance standards at the point of entry.

Zero Trust Architecture can be implemented in 7 steps even for organizations without a security framework.

Step 1 – Identify all network users

ZTA continuously verifies a user’s identity throughout all phases of their access. A network administrator must be aware of all network users at all times. It is essential to record each event and match the details with those of the approved users.

In addition to the names of approved users and their permitted functions, the NPEs should be identified.

Step 2 – Identify all enterprise resources

Identification of the enterprise resources within your network is the first step in monitoring asset access. The records of all assets and their access logs should be kept up to date.

Network assets include all internal and external endpoints — Employee laptops, mobile devices, Third-party devices, and all software solutions — Internal software, Remote collaboration software, Third-party vendor software, Internal and external user accounts. 

Step 3- Identify all processes on the network

FTAs should not surprise anyone by establishing connections, they should be expected and, therefore, permitted.

It is crucial to log and categorize all connections according to their privileged access level. Each process should be evaluated for its potential risks. Enhanced monitoring of high-risk processes compared with lower-risk processes will result in more efficient resource allocation.

Step 4 – Formulate ZTA policies

Whitelist policies form the basis of ZT.  In light of the identification of all potential network activity, it is now necessary to create the Zero Trust policies that will govern those activities.

A user’s authorization and the resources they can access are defined by them. Zero-trust policy-compatible network traffic is blocked by a firewall.

Step 5 – Create Zero Trust solutions

As part of this step, all policies are turned into concrete plans. The best solution is to develop multiple options and then pick the most efficient one. You could also consider the Implementation Time, the number of components that must be installed, and the Geolocation effect on effectiveness among the selection criteria. 

Step 6 – Implement ZTA solutions

Once the ZTA solutions have been filtered, they can be implemented. Only after obtaining desired results with a small subset of architectures, solutions should be scaled.

 To identify issues and continuously optimize integrations, all deployed Zero Trust solutions should be monitored. Having this method in place will help organizations ensure that a Zero Trust Architecture runs smoothly even in the worst-case scenario.

Step 7 – Expand the zero trust framework implementation

After being proved effective on a test segment, ZTA solutions can be deployed across the entire organization. New guidelines are being developed for each part of the ecosystem. After each cycle, documenting new issues and resolving them will optimize efficiency.

Manage Supply Chain attacks with Instasafe

An organization must recognize all vulnerabilities in its ecosystem. Therefore, awareness is the most important attribute of a Zero Trust architecture. The tools and services offered by InstaSafe empower your organization to work efficiently during an outbreak. The products provide secure work environments for remote workers, preventing security breaches.

To know more, request a demo now with us!

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