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Zero Trust

The concept of Zero Trust contradicts what most experts believe about security.  The basic principle is that no individual or entity should be trusted.  Further, no individual or entity should be trusted continually.  Instead, validation and revalidation never end.  Zero trust also adds a new twist to the security equation – context.  Not only is the entity tested to confirm identity, but the identity’s context, AKA the situation for why the entity needs access, is also evaluated.

Stats Driving Zero Trust

%

of respondents are concerned about confidential data loss from employees, ex-employees and third-party vendors. (Cyberark.com)

increase in password attacks this year according to Microsoft Digital Defense Report of 2023. (Microsoft.com)

%

of data breaches involve individuals external to the organization according to the Verizon 2023 Data Breach investigations Report. (Verizon.com)

%

of organizations that have been breached acknowledge i involved access to a privileged account. (Tripwire.com)

CISA Zero Trust Architecture

Zero Trust enables the federal government to approach its security challenges more proactively and adaptively, which suits the unique security challenges and requirements government agencies face. It helps protect sensitive data, detect and mitigate threats, and maintain compliance in an ever-changing digital landscape.  Further, it is designed to be location-independent, allowing security teams to monitor and address developing events regardless of whether cloud or on-premise.

Identity: A Changing Landscape

While each of the five pillars of the CISA Zero Trust Architecture represents critical areas of risk for federal agencies, Identity requires the ongoing effort to ensure individuals, machines, and services have the right access at the right time for the right purpose and nothing more.

We’re focusing on the three following topics within the Identity pillar:

Identity Access Management

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is critical in navigating the data-driven world as it helps agencies protect sensitive information, prevent security breaches, and ensure compliance with the many regulations that Federal Agencies must comply with.  By efficiently managing user/machine identities, granting appropriate access privileges, and monitoring activities, IAM enhances security, streamlines operations, and improves user experiences.

IT Fed Sales has deep business and technical implementation skills across the four major areas of the Identity and Access Management spectrum as described below:

Authentication

Encompasses both physical (biometric technologies) access using passwords and multi-factor authentication.

Authorization

Determines which person gets access to which service.  A critical risk area for most companies because of outdated security policies

Administration

Management becomes a critical component of a successful IAM strategy.  Continued vigilance is required to reduce the threat.

Auditing

Identity changes occur so rapidly that security audits are needed on almost a daily basis to effectively manage current and future risks.

Privileged Access Management

Privileged Access Management (PAM) focuses on managing and securing access for privileged users, such as systems administrators.  Unlike traditional IAM, which primarily deals with user access, PAM specifically addresses the unique security needs associated with privileged accounts.  PAM is essential within a Zero tTrust strategy as it acknowledges that even trusted users can potentially pose risks.  By implementing strict controls, monitoring, and automation for privileged access, PAM reduces the attack surface, minimizes the risk of insider threats, and ensures that only authorized individuals can access and make changes to sensitive resources.

In a Gartner article from January 2021, PAM consists of 4 Pillars of Privileged Access Management and are listed below:

 

1) Track & Secure

Covers all aspects of authenticating a user, which encompasses both physical via biometric technologies electronic access using passwords and multifactor authentication.

2) Govern & Control Access

Authorization determines which person gets access to which service.  This is a critical risk area for most companies because the assumption is, once the person has been authenticated he/she is authorized everywhere.

3) Record & Audit

Managing this entire process becomes a critical component of a successful IAM strategy.  Without continued vigilance from both an authentication and authorization perspective, IAM will fail.

4) Operationalize Tasks

IAM is an ongoing process that is ever-changing as people come and go from the agency, as well as new threats continue to emerge.  Therefore, auditing the entire process in detail is required to ensure the agency is safe.

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management

 

Cloud Identity Entitlement Management (CIEM) is a pivotal component within contemporary cybersecurity and access control strategies, creating significant relevance for the federal government in promoting its security posture within cloud-based operations. In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, where governmental agencies increasingly rely on cloud resources and applications, CIEM is an indispensable tool. This framework’s primary objective is to facilitate the efficient management and governance of user and entity access to cloud-based resources, ensuring that individuals, processes, and APIs possess the requisite permissions and privileges for their tasks while mitigating the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches. This capability is especially paramount within the federal government’s multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments, where intricate access requirements, varying levels of sensitivity, and potential security gaps constitute pervasive challenges.  Below are the major components of CIEM:

Permissions & Entitlements

One of the primary challenges is ensuring that users do not have more permissions or entitlements than they need. CIEM helps organizations identify and remediate overprivileged users, reducing the risk of data breaches and insider threats.

Access Control Complexity

Managing access control can become challenging in complex cloud environments with numerous resources and users. CIEM provides tools and automation to simplify access management, ensuring that users and entities have the right level of access for the right reason.

Visibility & Monitoring

Maintaining visibility into user activities and identifying unusual or suspicious behavior can be difficult in cloud environments. CIEM solutions offer real-time monitoring and analytics capabilities to detect anomalies and potential security threats.

Hybrid & Multi-Cloud Issues

As federal agencies adopt hybrid & multi-cloud strategies, managing identity and access across different cloud platforms becomes very complex. CIEM provides a centralized approach to identity governance, making it easier to manage and secure access in diverse cloud environments.