Zero trust can reshape how businesses approach digital security. The idea is to distrust by default, regardless of whether the information is located inside or outside the corporate network. From there, security teams can verify devices, apps and connections on a case-by-case basis. They should also re-verify the trust of those network assets on an ongoing basis. That’s fine in theory, but it sure sounds like a lot of time and effort in practice. How can we make it easier?

The Challenge of Building a Zero Trust Network

Cisco expects the number of devices connected to IP networks to grow from 18.4 billion in 2018 to 29.3 billion by 2023. That’s nearly four times the current number of people on Earth. During that same time period, the number of devices per capita will increase to 3.6. Think of how many devices will end up connecting to the corporate network, as a result.

Therein lies the headache. More devices means more connection attempts means more time needed to verify trust. But the work doesn’t end there. Think pre-DevSecOps (or pre-DevOps, for that matter) where all organizations operated across several silos that didn’t share the same workflows. This makes it difficult to enforce trust once it’s been verified. In an architecture without zero trust, a connection could end up on a part of the network where it’s not supposed to be. Or, it could end up with access rights that it shouldn’t have.

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Aren’t You Glad I Said ‘Automation?’

The answer is to build automation into zero trust efforts. There’s a cultural and a technical element behind this decision. Culturally, we need a way to get rid of the silos discussed above. Automation can do that by uniting different domains of an organization under a single open framework. From there, IT, security and other related teams can have a shared language. This helps them share information and learn more about each other’s jobs. All of this is crucial for granting access and streamlining workflows that go into maintaining zero trust.

Which leads into the technical component. Zero trust isn’t a monolith. It’s a general approach to digital security that relies on other concepts such as network segmentation, virtual private networks and firewalls. The corporate network will evolve and welcomes new connections. As it does, organizations will need to take a second look at how all of these components get along on a dynamic basis. Human analysts aren’t suited to this. It’s better off in the hands of an automated system. The system will be less prone to making mistakes and more capable of seeing a complete picture of how the network is changing.

Think Automation and Zero Trust in 2021

Clearly, organizations are still trying to figure out how they can leverage zero trust and other paradigms to defend against tomorrow’s digital threats. IBM knows this, which is why it’s invited experts to discuss zero trust, automation and the future of digital security at Think 2021. Join the conversation by registering for this digital event here.

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