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Zero Trust Networks

Building A Zero Trust Network For Small Business with Microsoft 365

In the era of total connectivity, companies who follow the old ways of doing network security are running great risks. It’s important to understand the Zero Trust Network for small business, why this is the new networking standard for IT security, and how to get started with Microsoft 365.

A networked world offers cyber attackers exciting new territory – a virtual smorgasbord, rich with millions of new entry points to try and exploit. Today’s vulnerabilities lie within the trusted boundary, not just outside a network’s perimeter. With so much to defend, networks need to evolve their security models beyond the traditional perimeter-based approach. Small business without IT staff need to consider IT outsourcing to implement and maintain data security and zero trust networking.

Perimeter Security Controls are Obsolete

Vulnerabilities lurk not just in connections to the internet or software, but also within the hardware. Consider Meltdown and Spectre, hardware vulnerabilities that rocked the security world in 2018, impacting processors in everything from smartphones and laptops to desktops and cloud computing. These threats managed to exploit factors that existed inside the trusted boundary, like architecture vulnerabilities and interaction with the victims.

These and other modern threats attesting to the new truth: perimeter-based security models are now obsolete. Perimeter security controls simply won’t protect against new threats. There is no more assuming that every user, every endpoint, every device “on the inside” is secure. Trust boundaries have been erased and security leaders need to assume a new mantra: trust no one, assume breach.

A New Model for Cybersecurity: Zero Trust

Due to the growing mobile workforce, rapid cloud adoption, and a vastly more complex world of connected customers, partners, and vendors, the security landscape has shifted dramatically – and rapidly. Zero-Trust networks dispense with the outdated, inadequate concepts of trusting internal network traffic.

While the cloud-first philosophy has allowed organizations to make impressive gains in productivity, those gains often come with tremendous security risks. A recent McAfee report shows that over half of respondents had malware infections that stemmed from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). And with 93 percent of organizations now using some form of cloud services, that’s serious risk. Now consider that 40 percent of cloud services were adopted at the department or employee level – without the involvement of the IT department1.

Four Components of the Zero Trust Security Framework

Organizational data clearly needs to be protected from within and across networks. A single, unsecured endpoint is all it takes for an attacker to gain access through internal channels and move laterally across the entire system.

Zero-trust architectures leverage access control for devices, people, and networks to protect assets. Take a closer look at what that looks like in practice and what it entails:

  1. A Zero Trust Identity Tracker. Users need to be accounted for, and their information tracked.
  2. A Device Directory. Devices that access corporate resources also need to be catalogued and tracked.
  3. A Policy Framework. Network and application access need to be controlled by conditional access policies that are set up, customized, and configured by security admins.
  4. An Access Control Proxy. Network requests need to be funneled through checkpoints that take all of the above into account and evaluate all trust claims.

Setting Up Dynamic Trust Decisions in the Dynamic World of Microsoft 365

Today, cyber risk affects everyone in an organization, not just IT. When employees access company resources using devices and through apps they’ve purchased and downloaded themselves, they put the company at risk, whether they mean to or not. Access control policies, at their most basic level, will control who’s accessing the network.

But with the blistering pace of SaaS, cloud services, and BYOD adoption, gate keeping has become so much more complex than knowing who’s who. It also matters how people are accessing the network, too. And even the people themselves are an ever-changing and expanding population of vendors, partners, customers, and more.

Microsoft 365 enables a super-charged environment for communication, collaboration, and resource-sharing activity across all of these populations and all of their devices. Paired with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD), customers now have the foundation – and the reassurance – of Zero Trust networking.

Azure Active Directory Conditional Access – How it Works

Azure AD Identity Protection takes a 360 degree view in order to grand conditional access to company resources. Using a rich variety of data – from not just the user but also the device, the location, and the session risk – to make decisions on the spot. This happens without the need for human intervention, with every request that comes in, without compromising speed and efficiency. IT is happy because they’re seeing the strongest security posture enabled while employees are happy because security solutions won’t slow them down.

Components of the Zero-Trust Security Model for Microsoft 365

Azure AD is only one building block for the 365 Zero-Trust environment. Full security capabilities also include:

  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). Using the power of machine learning, ATP provides protection against known threats, threat detection, and automatic responses based on how your team deals with attacks.
  • Windows Defender System Guard. In light of hardware-based attacks like Meltdown and Spectre, device security is essential, too. Windows Defender System Guard protects against threats that occur during boot-time and runtime by collecting device data and sending it to Windows Defender ATP for security analysis and decision-making.
  • Microsoft Intune. Everything in a user-centered network needs to be checked for compliance, especially BYOD devices and apps. Microsoft Intune catalogs the digital estate of an organization, providing visibility and control. Customize Microsoft Intune to allow only those apps that are managed to have access to corporate resources, no matter what device is being used. Or, if it suits your business model, configure Intune to allow access only to devices that managed and compliant. It’s fully customizable.

Together with Azure AD, these components form the security fabric companies need to ensure a Zero Trust network that protects their secure data without making compromises in user productivity.

Toronto Cloud Management Services for a Zero Trust World

When we’re setting up a client for cloud services management, we use a Zero Trust model to build, monitor, and manage your IT or cloud network for you. Your valuable business resources are protected at every endpoint with a fully customizable solution that brings together a powerful suite of capabilities created just for your network. To find out more, check out our resources page or, if you’re ready to talk shop, call or email now to book a free consult now.

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