What Is a Zero Trust Network? 

Normally when you implement IT security for your office network, you create what’s called a “castle-and-moat” setup in which a perimeter (the moat) surrounds your network data (the castle). But these traditional cybersecurity systems can be bypassed by security holes in devices, routers, configurations, missing patches/updates/antivirus, or phishing scams – and cloud apps are often outside your perimeter.

All of these vulnerabilities can potentially grant a cybercriminal access to your business data – but, luckily, there’s now a better way to protect your data. It’s called Zero Trust.

What Is Zero Trust?

“Castle-and-moat” is a traditional cybersecurity method, which you probably currently use. It works on the assumption that anyone in your network is trusted to access any of the data within your network. In Zero Trust networks, there is no trusted access, which means anytime anyone wants to access secure data, they must prove that they’re allowed to do so.

In practical terms, this means that Zero Trust requires regular authentication on the device level, the network level, or the user level. Authentication takes a little bit of extra effort from the person wanting to access the data but it’s not much extra work. Like using a key to open your front door, a Zero Trust network requires you to have the key (e.g. password, keycard, thumbprint, code) available to unlock that door.

For the user (your employee), it’s a tiny extra step that keeps your data secure. For you, it comes with a ton of benefits: oversight into who is accessing your data and when, as well as control over what people are allowed to do with your data.

How Does Zero Trust Work?

Here’s a quick overview of how Zero Trust networks operate. If you’re interested in more of the nitty gritty details behind the Zero Trust setup, check out Part 2 of this series so you can dive into Zero Trust architecture.

It works like this:

  1. First, you set up your “protect surface,” which holds all your data and assets, like accounting and line-of-business apps, CRM data, and all your proprietary business stuff like your files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. Your moat-and-castle firewall you’ve been using is meant to protect the computers and equipment plugged in to your office, but Zero Trust is meant to protect all your data, everywhere.
  2. Make sure that every device and user who wants to access your protect surface gets authenticated using multi-factor authentication, if possible.
  3. Pay attention to who is accessing what kind of data, how they’re accessing it, when it’s being accessed, and where it’s being accessed from – and adjust your protect surface accordingly to keep your Zero Trust network up to date.

As we said, we’ll talk more about this in the next blog in this series, for those of you who want to get really in depth with Zero Trust but, in essence, you can think of Zero Trust as a process of protecting the data, versus the older security methods of simply protecting the perimeter.

The Benefits of Zero Trust Networks

In addition to the benefits we listed earlier, Zero Trust methodologies for protecting your data and networks also:

  • Limit the attack surface – every network-connected device you have is a vulnerability, in addition to weak passwords, unsecured ports, out-of-date IT practices, etc. All of these increase what’s known as your “attack surface” the easy entry points cybercriminals can leverage to get to your “crown jewels.”
  • Protect sensitive data on all access points – by locking your data behind your Zero Trust “protect surface,” you can ensure that hard-to-manage consumer Internet of Things (IoT) devices aren’t able to secretly access the data.

Your WFH employees may have dozens of IoT devices in their homes (including Alexas, smart watches, WiFi-powered vacuums, and smart light bulbs), but consumer IoT devices often have terrible built-in security.

  • Reduce the likelihood of a breach – leveraging validation tools, Zero Trust networks make it clear exactly who has gained access to your data, along with info on where, when, and how they accessed it, helping you block all unauthorized access.

It’s Time for Better Cybersecurity – Are You Ready?

Castle-and-moat security methods made sense in the past, when networks were solely accessed from work computers in a workplace on a local area network (i.e. behind the moat).

In our modern world of anywhere/anytime remote and cloud-based access, that kind of thinking just doesn’t work anymore.

Breaches happen.

Cyberattacks happen.

Phishing happens.

And when those events happen, the unauthorized people or cybercriminals accessing your business networks may not have been legitimately allowed past your “moat.” They’re like spies in your castle.

The best way to stop cybercriminals from seeing your data is to block them out.

And the best way to do that is to set up a Zero Trust network that fits your exact needs.


Start by learning how to develop your Zero Trust architecture.