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How Zero Trust Data Protection Works

Mar 31, 2023 | Cybersecurity

The alarming recent increase in data breaches and ransomware attacks demonstrates that current cybersecurity methodologies are failing to keep businesses secure. According to a 2022 Gartner Report, at least 75% of IT organizations will face a cyberattack before 2025. Even worse, the average cost of a data breach is $9.44 million, according to IBM’s latest report, prompting the question of whether your organization can afford to ignore the rising threat of ransomware and other cyberattacks. 

What Is Zero Trust Data Protection?

Traditional “trust but verify” security models assume that certain users and endpoints are secure and will grant these users and endpoints automatic network access. Unfortunately, the success of social engineering tactics, such as phishing for login credentials and malicious insider threats, shows that the core idea of this model is tenuous at best. 

Even worse, the rise of work-from-home policies means that end users are more vulnerable than ever. Many employees don’t understand the risks of using unsecured WiFi hotspots and other common cyberattack strategies, leaving the entire organization vulnerable to a data breach. And while VPNs may mitigate some of these risks, a more robust approach will yield better results. 

Zero Trust data protection assumes that all devices, endpoints, and users are vulnerable to attack. As such, the model relies on continuous verification and requires users to authenticate their identity through multi-factor authentication protocols for every access request. Even then, users may only access the information necessary to perform their role and are unable to modify stored data. 

Instead of relying on outdated perimeter-focused strategies, Zero Trust focuses on users, assets, and resources. 

Zero Trust Standards

As with many cybersecurity models, various organizations have developed proprietary standards to implement and maintain a Zero Trust protocol. These include Forrester’s ZTX and Gartner’s CARTA standards, as well as the vendor-neutral NIST 800-207 standard. 

NIST 800-207 standard, which provides a comprehensive set of guidelines suitable for most organizations. The standard also focuses on protecting entities uniquely vulnerable to modern attacks, especially those with cloud-first, work-from-home policies. NIST 800-207 has undergone heavy scrutiny and extensive validation and has become the de-facto standard for Zero Trust data protection for governmental organizations and private enterprises. 

The Core Principles Of Zero Trust Data Protection

The NIST 800-207 Zero Trust model has three core principles that apply to all organizations. These include:

  • Continuous verification: The Zero Trust protocol requires verification from all resources at all times and does not have any trusted zones or credentials. However, to maintain a smooth user experience, the model may use risk-based conditional access that only interrupts a user’s workflow when risk factors change. This element ensures continual verification without adversely affecting employee performance.
  • Limited blast radius: The Zero Trust model doesn’t assume that it is always effective; it includes procedures for minimizing the impact of a breach. By reducing the access paths available to attackers, security teams have sufficient time to respond and mitigate the attack. 
  • Automated context collection and response: Zero Trust relies on gathering as much data from as many sources as possible and processing this information in real-time. Sources of data include everything from threat intelligence APIs to user credentials, virtual machines, and endpoint devices.  

The Benefits Of Zero Trust Data Protection

Moving to a Zero Trust standard requires extensive time and resources, and the benefits must justify the investment. 

Reduced intrusion risk

The goal of any security posture is to prevent breaches in the first place through several intrusion risk reduction processes. A Zero Trust approach assumes that all users are vulnerable within the system, and enhanced access protocols, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based access control, mitigate the risk these vulnerabilities present. 

Enhanced backup data security

Protecting your backups is essential for recovering from a breach. The Zero Trust model ensures that you are prepared to recover your data even in the worst-case scenario of a ransomware attack. 

Common methods of protecting backup data include:

  • Encryption: Encryption protects sensitive data, such as customer information and intellectual property, by rendering it illegible to a hacker. Ideally, your organization should encrypt data during transfer and storage. 
  • Immutability: Ransomware attacks encrypt your existing data and require a fee to decrypt it. An immutable backup is in a fixed state and is not vulnerable to modification or deletion, allowing for rapid recovery from a cyberattack.

Faster anomalous and abnormal activity detection

Early detection helps mitigate the severity of attacks, and automation has been critical in speeding up detection and response times. In addition to traditional solutions such as anti-malware and antivirus programs, a Zero Trust standard must be able to gather data automatically and apply behavioral-based detection to potential cyber threats. 

Regional and industry-specific compliance 

Complying with regional and industry-specific regulations is essential to prevent legal consequences after a cyberattack. The NIST standard provides a framework for compliance with many laws and regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA, while keeping your organization on a better security footing than your competitors. 

How To Implement The Zero Trust Model

Implementing a new security model takes time, effort, and planning. While each organization is different, our team recommends following these suggested phases for a successful implementation:

  • Visualize: It’s vital to thoroughly assess your current IT infrastructure and security strategies. Understanding the resources in your network, their access points, and risks provides the framework for subsequent steps. 
  • Mitigate: While Zero Trust focuses on preventing breaches through continuous validation, the model also includes implementing strategies to detect potential threats and handle breaches to mitigate their effect. 
  • Optimize: After implementing the initial verification and mitigation strategies, it’s time to evaluate the model and optimize the user experience. Doing so will maintain productivity while developing a sophisticated security posture. Organizations should consult with all stakeholders, including end-users, security teams, and IT departments during this phase. 

We’re Here For You

Network attacks can be devastating for large and small businesses alike. If you’re unsure if you’re doing enough to protect your data, contact us online or at (510) 552-6896 to schedule a free consultation today!

Our History


With over 20 years of industry experience under his belt, the company's CEO possesses a degree in Computer Science and a number of certifications, including MCSE, MCSA, A+ and Network+. From an early age, computers were always a part of his life; dating back to the days of the Apple II. Since that time, he served as everything from system administrator to IT business director within well-established companies, before deciding that consulting was his passion. Leveraging years of technical recruiting, he personally handpicked a select group of specialists proficient in Linux, customized web applications and databases, telephony and cross-platform devices, to ultimately bring your organization to the next level.