Zero Trust Identity

In today’s hyper-connected digital world, where cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated and pervasive, Identity forms a crucial pillar of Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA), providing rigorous verification mechanisms to ensure secure access to valuable resources.”

At NetFoundry, we’re revolutionizing secure networking and connectivity using a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA), fundamentally changing how we address security challenges. One key aspect of ZTA is the Identity Pillar, which is crucial for maintaining a secure environment. This article is your comprehensive guide to understanding the role of Identity within ZTA, its benefits, and how leveraging NetFoundry can accelerate the journey toward Zero Trust maturity.

Never Trust, Always Verify

At the core of ZTA is the principle, “Never trust, always verify.” Unlike traditional security models that rely on physical perimeters to block threats, Zero Trust assumes that threats can emerge from anywhere—even from within. ZTA requires rigorous cryptographic identity verification for every access request, regardless of origin. Solutions like NetFoundry’s Zero Trust Platform are pivotal in implementing this strategy.

Identity in Zero Trust ensures that every user, device, or system is thoroughly authenticated and authorized before accessing valuable resources. It goes beyond the traditional username and password, incorporating features like multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), and privileged access management (PAM). This pillar forms the foundation of Zero Trust, ensuring that access decisions are based on who’s asking, why they’re asking, and the risks involved—principles that we at NetFoundry adhere to.

The Role of Identity in A Zero Trust Architecture

  1. Authentication and Authorization: Identities are crucial in ensuring that every access request is authenticated and authorized against rigorous security mechanisms – i.e., strong cryptographic identity, not weak network identifiers – before being granted. NetFoundry’s advanced solutions help implement these stringent checks.
  2. Least Privilege Access: Access rights are carefully managed, providing users only with the permissions necessary for their roles and tasks. This minimizes potential security risks by limiting access to sensitive resources.
  3. Dynamic Access Control: Access rights are dynamically adjusted based on various factors, such as business rules, user location, device security status, or access time. This allows for real-time management of permissions, enhancing overall security.

The Strategic Importance of the Identity Pillar In A Zero Trust Architecture

Emphasizing robust identity verification significantly enhances security and offers several key business benefits:

  1. Enhanced Security Posture: Rigorous verification of every access request before connectivity can be established drastically reduces the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches, fortifying your organization’s defenses.
  2. Regulatory Compliance: Many regulations require strict access controls and identity verifications. By prioritizing identity, organizations can more effectively meet these requirements, avoid potential fines, and enhance trust with partners and customers.
  3. Improved User Experience: Implementing features such as Single Sign-On (SSO) simplifies access for legitimate users, balancing ease of use with robust security. NetFoundry’s advanced solutions further streamline this process, enhancing user satisfaction and productivity.

Advantages of NetFoundry for Accelerating Identity Pillar Implementation

NetFoundry is a comprehensive solution for organizations aiming to strengthen their Zero Trust Identity. Here’s how it helps:

  1. Authenticate Before Connect: NetFoundry ensures authentication occurs before any connection can be established to the network Policy Enforcement Point (PEP), fully embodying the Zero Trust principle of “never trust, always verify” while making external network attacks redundant.
  2. mTLS & E2E Encryption: NetFoundry uses mutual Transport Layer Security (mTLS) for all connections, ensuring all components verify each other’s credentials. Combined with end-to-end encryption, this secures both identity validation and data confidentiality, with no snooping anyone in between. NetFoundry uses two of the fundamental building blocks of modern authentication systems: x509 certificates and JWTs.
  3. External Identity Providers (IdP): NetFoundry can integrate with external Identity Providers (IdP) and JWT systems, allowing organizations to leverage existing identity systems, streamline user management, and deliver ‘zero touch’ deployments.
  4. Least Privilege Access: NetFoundry’s micro-segmentation enforces strict access control, ensuring users and devices can only access what is necessary for their roles.
  5. Posture Checks: NetFoundry includes posture checks, adding an extra layer of validation and policy enforcement to ensure devices meet the network’s security standards before gaining access.
  6. MFA: NetFoundry embedded identity provides inherent multi-factor authentication, with the ability to add additional TOTP MFA, making identity verification thorough and robust.

Don’t miss the chance to explore more about NetFoundry, Zero Trust concepts, and its offerings in an insightful video.

Identity and the Zero Trust Maturity Model

The Zero Trust Maturity Model from CISA suggests that implementing Zero Trust, specifically the Identity pillar, can be daunting. Organizations can significantly benefit from integrating NetFoundry’s platform to ensure strict access control and minimize unnecessary privileges while more rapidly achieving advanced and optimal maturity levels. NetFoundry enhances network security by utilizing zero-trust principles to strengthen authentication and provide precise, context-sensitive authorization. This is crucial for effectively managing identity risks for personnel and entities.

Table 1 below describes the benefits of NetFoundry for each of the functions described in CISA’s zero trust maturity model on identities, including considerations on Authentication, Identity Stores, Risk and Access Assessments, Visibility and Analytics, Automation and Orchestration, and Governance.

Aspect & Functions Traditional Initial Advanced Optimal NetFoundry
Authentication Uses passwords or MFA with static access. Uses MFA with attribute validation. Uses phishing-resistant MFA, and includes password-less options. Continuously validates identity with phishing-resistant MFA. NetFoundry continuously validates phishing-resistant MFA to prevent phishing attacks – i.e., Optimal.
Identity Stores Only on-premises identity stores. Combination of self-managed and hosted stores. Consolidates and integrates some identity stores. Integrates identity stores across all environments. NetFoundry’s extensibility allows for integrated identity stores across platforms and locations.
Risk Assessments Limited determinations of identity risk. Uses manual methods and static rules. Employs automated analysis and dynamic rules. Assesses identity risk in real-time with continuous analysis. NetFoundry’s ephemeral overlay allows real-time changes from external risk assessments to respond to threats
Access Management Permanent access with periodic review. Access that expires with automated review. Need-based and session-based access control. Just-In-Time (JIT) and Just-Enough-Access (JEA) tailored to needs. NetFoundry uses a ‘least privilege’ policy to limit access and align to JIT/JEA.
Visibility and Analytics Collects and manually analyzes activity logs. Adds some automated analysis. Broadens automated analysis across activity logs. Comprehensive visibility with automated, behavior-based analysis. NetFoundry simplifies log analysis by showing which identity accesses what services, at which time, for how long, and how much data is transmitted
Automation and Orchestration Manually orchestrates identities with reviews. Mix of manual and automated orchestration for identities. Automates orchestration for all identities, except privileged. Fully automates orchestration integrated across environments. NetFoundry automates identity management with the ability to use external identity systems for smooth operations and compliance.
Governance Capability Implements policies with static mechanisms and reviews Begins automating policy implementation. Automates identity policies with periodic updates. Fully automates dynamic updates of enterprise-wide identity policies. NetFoundry integrates with external policy systems (e.g. Azure AD) to automate and update policies for enterprise-wide enforcement.

Implementing Zero Trust Identity Management

NetFoundry’s Platform and Zero Trust Architecture is an ideal solution for implementing a zero trust solution, identity verification and identity management.  Managing identities and integration with identity management systems is crucial for organizations aiming to enhance cybersecurity. NetFoundry integrates and enhances existing identity systems, providing robust, real-time access control. This approach sets a new standard in secure networking and connectivity, ensuring meticulous user and device verification management.

Organizations should also unify identity, credential, and access management technologies to improve authentication and deliver precise, context-sensitive authorization. By leveraging NetFoundry’s Platform, entities can fortify their digital defenses and confidently face future security challenges.To understand a Zero Trust Architecture comprehensively, explore our resources and join us as we redefine secure networking with NetFoundry.

This article explains the Identity pillar of zero trust. If you’re still thirsty, learn more about the five pillars of zero trust.

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