Understanding Zero Trust Security Benefits and Cost Savings

Your company unknowingly collects tons of data. From customer data to employee data, it’s up to your business to protect this information from hackers and data leakage. Zero trust security provides access management in ways that other cyber security cannot.

Zero trust network access requires some extra work but it is worth the benefits and cost savings. 

The zero trust model protects businesses from data breaches, insider threats, and company data modifications. Here’s why you should implement zero trust security, its benefits, and the cost savings.

Cost of a Data Breach

Data breaches come in all shapes and sizes. Data breaches, which can range from negligent insider attacks to malicious ransomware, can affect companies of all sizes and create serious cost concerns

In 2021, data breaches cost companies globally an average of $4.24 million, an increase of 10% from 2020. This increase is presumed to be due to the higher volume of remote work causing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in personal networks.

Insider threats seem to be one of the most common reasons for data breaches. Insider threats involve an insider to a company, such as a manager, third-party vulnerability, malicious employee, negligent employee, or former employee. These attacks can be devastating because malicious actors gain privileged access to sensitive information. According to the 2020 Global Report on the Cost of Insider Threats, the overall cost of an insider threat incident was $11.45 million. Negligence alone cost $4.58 million. 

Fortunately, the zero trust approach is the best defense against insider threats

What Does Zero Trust Look Like?

Zero trust security is a data-centric security type used in companies to protect sensitive data. It assumes that even those who have authorized user access can still present a risk to data security. This is the best form of security for insider threats because it repeatedly asks for individuals to log back into secure company networks and to verify who they are at multiple internal checkpoints. 

Zero trust is widely used and has actually been used in marketing terminology, but it refers to a type of security that regards all traffic as potentially hostile. This means that even if you’ve passed a security zone, zero trust architecture still doesn’t trust you. Zero trust can be extremely effective when applied directly to company policies. Zero trust software can understand identity verification and compare it to company policies, creating stronger security protocols.

For example, if a user puts a fingerprint or username into a system, zero trust will communicate with their server (via public cloud applications, hybrid environmental, on-premises network architecture) to verify that identity. If the identity is compromised, then application access is immediately denied. 

You are probably interacting with zero trust and don’t even realize it. You can think of this security model like airport security. While you are vetted very seriously when you enter the gate area, you still have to have your identification card and/or passport when you board the plane. Zero trust involves safe areas but also security checkpoints even after you’ve entered a secure area. 

In a company building, this would involve needing to scan your badge to move throughout the building, access file rooms, go in and out of sections to use the washroom, and use certain devices like copiers and printers. Strong authentication (i.e., multi- or two-factor authentication, identity verification with government-issued ID) is widely used in zero trust too because it requires the individual to have a secondary form of verification to prove they are the actual authorized user.

The same type of security can be used online, too. Authorization codes may be required multiple times a day even if you haven’t logged out or left a page. This is due to the fact that connection termination results in zero trust. Zero trust operates inline and inspects all traffic, including encrypted traffic so that it can terminate the connection when a suspicious file is detected. 

Why Use Zero Trust Security in Your Business?

Zero trust may require more work on the user’s part, but it has serious security benefits. The biggest benefit is that zero trust minimizes security attempts from insider threats and malicious actors. Primarily, if an insider risk was caused by employee negligence, then it has a greater chance of stopping a criminal from navigating through secure zones. This is because the criminal would again need to show identification or proof that they are authorized at every zone. 

Zero trust security is used for maximum security zones. It is usually coupled with multiple types of security access (i.e., a badge swipe, pin code, retinal scanner, two-factor authentication code). Therefore, zero trust stops those criminals who only have one form of authorization, even if they obtained it illegally. 

Zero trust primarily uses granular company security policy in order to understand privileged access vs. malicious access. It applies user identity and device posture to verify access rights and then compares this data to granular policies based on context to understand the threat level. If the user, device, and application request aren’t lining up, then it can very easily terminate a request and stop the threat right then and there. Admin users must monitor policies for zero threat to be effective; so if a context changes, then the policies need to change as well. 

The zero trust security model greatly reduces the attack surface within a company. Since we know insider threats to be so prevalent and financially detrimental, then zero trust can be implemented to only connect users to the applications they need and limit the connections that are unverified. This has the potential of saving companies thousands of dollars from data breaches. 

Key Security Benefits of Zero Trust

Put simply, the zero trust approach is one of the best security models a business could use. Here are four key benefits of zero trust:

  1. Reduced organization risk: Since this policy type assumes all applications, users, and services are malicious, it requires identity verification attributes at every turn. If anything on your network is not hitting multi-factor authentication and authorization requirements then it is immediately shut down, reducing risks before they even happen. Through network segmentation inherent in zero trust policy, organizations can better manage endpoint security and network traffic.
  2. Secure access control over cloud environments and container environments: Moving to the cloud can add a number of security risks, but zero trust provides a lot of stability and trust. Security policies can still be applied to verify identity when moving between cloud and on-premises networks. Protection, therefore, travels with the workload and remains unchanged even when the environment changes.  
  3. Reduced risk of a data breach: As mentioned, data breaches are better protected by the zero trust framework. If an attacker should gain a foothold in a network, then the attacker would immediately be deemed untrusted and unable to gain access to more secure areas within that network. Lateral movement is prohibited in zero trust, creating a secure segment of one that shoeboxes the hacker and limits their movement completely. 
  4. Supports compliance needs: Zero trust segmentation has perimeters around sensitive data, as defined by company policy, and can force stop movements that are against company policy and compliance requirements.
  5. Cost savings: As we will get into below, zero trust limits the chances of losing money from data breaches, noncompliance, and lost data. 

Cost Savings With Zero Trust Security

The biggest cost savings with zero trust is around data breaches. Since data breaches can be so affected and financially detrimental, then you want the best security there is to stop these malicious attacks. 

IBM suggests that organizations with fully deployed zero trust save 43% cost savings from data breaches. This is compared to companies without zero trust, who suffered $5.04 million per data breach: “For organizations with fully deployed zero trust the average cost of breach dropped to $3.28 million. Not only is that a savings of $1.76 million per breach, but it’s also below the overall average for the last five years.”

Security teams with a partially deployed zero trust working model (as opposed to fully deployed or none at all) will still save an average of $660,000 per data breach. By limiting data leakage, your company will be saving thousands of dollars.

Zero trust can also save companies from non-compliance fines, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars up to millions of dollars. The average cost for organizations that experience non-compliance problems is now around $14.82 million, a 45% increase from 2011.

Implementing Zero Trust in Your Organization

There is no one size fits all model for zero trust. If you have an on-site location, then you’ll need to implement a badge scanner or identity verification tool at multiple entry points. 

Zero trust for online security can be accessed through versatile security tools. Monitoring software is affordable, easy to monitor and download. Monitoring software like SoftActivity can support multiple authentication points by providing administrators with data and user visibility. They get alerts when users are in unauthorized zones or when data is being moved and is violating company-defined policy or compliance. 

Most software now comes with zero trust embedded in it, so you don’t need zero trust software overarching all systems. Enable multifactor authentication in all of your applications. With Microsoft and Outlook products, this feature comes standard. In addition to your firewall and malware software, be sure to add a monitoring solution so that you have eyes on sensitive data. Alerts can be sent to administrators when data is modified, moved, or deleted. You can also monitor messages sent by users to monitor for insider threats.

Employee monitoring software is the ultimate tool for zero trust. You don’t have to rely on software to do the work for you. 

Admin users can sit at a single console and monitor multiple computer screens at a time, monitoring for unauthorized users or suspicious activity anytime you want. Also gain access to analyzed historical logs, keystroke logging, and time spent on applications and websites to monitor for suspicious insider behavior. 

It’s an unfortunate reality, but you can’t leave your company unprotected. Whether your employees mean to or not, they can allow malicious attacks on your company and cost your business thousands of dollars and its reputation. 

Download SoftActivity employee monitoring software for the ultimate, zero trust security for your online or on-prem business.  

By SoftActivity Team.

November 29th, 2021