Embracing Zero Trust: A New Approach to Cybersecurity

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  • Zero trust is shifting cybersecurity to an identity-based trust framework
  • Traditional security models are inadequate in the face of evolving cyber threats
  • Zero trust architecture focuses on continuous verification, least privilege and encryption
  • Implementing zero trust frameworks enhances security, simplifies network infrastructure and improves compliance
  • Embracing zero trust is essential for fortifying digital defenses and ensuring regulatory compliance
  • Organizations can utilize the capabilities of the Synack Platform to achieve the objectives of the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) Program within zero trust principles. 

What is Zero Trust?

Zero trust, a term coined in 2010 and later adopted by tech giant Google, has revolutionized the way security teams approach cybersecurity. It marks a significant departure from traditional network-based trust, advocating instead for an identity-based trust model. This means that every user and device must be continuously authenticated and authorized before accessing sensitive applications or data, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the organization’s network.

This shift towards identity-based trust is instrumental in managing dispersed infrastructure and simplifying security measures. It also addresses the challenges of securing remote workers, hybrid cloud environments and ransomware threats, making it a vital framework for modern cybersecurity posture.

Zero Trust for Government Agencies

Achieving zero trust doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a journey, not a destination.

The United States’ pubic sector has several mandates to follow to achieve zero trust objectives, including Operational Directive 20-01 (BOD 22-01) and memorandum M-22-09, Section D: Applications and Workloads.

Outside of federal mandates sent out by the Biden administration, why would the public sector care about achieving zero trust objectives? Zero trust is important for government agencies for several reasons:

  • Protection of sensitive data: Government agencies often handle highly sensitive data, such as classified information, personal information of citizens and critical infrastructure information. Zero trust helps protect this data by ensuring that only authorized users can access it.
  • Defense against cyberattacks: Government agencies are frequent targets of yberattacks, as they possess valuable data and resources. Zero trust can help defend against these attacks by making it more difficult for attackers to gain access to the agency’s network and data.
  • Compliance with regulations: Many government agencies are subject to regulations that require them to protect sensitive data, such compliance frameworks supplied by FISMA, NIST and CMMC. Zero trust can help agencies comply with these regulations by providing a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity.
  • Improved efficiency and productivity: Zero trust can improve efficiency and productivity by streamlining access to resources and reducing the need for manual security checks. This can allow government employees to focus on their core missions.
  • Increased agility and responsiveness: Zero trust can help government agencies become more agile and responsive by allowing them to quickly and securely adapt to changing security threats and business needs.

The private sector can also reap these benefit by adopting zero trust principles.

The Inadequacy of Traditional Security Models

Traditional security models, such as the castle-and-moat concept, are struggling to keep up with the ever-evolving cyber threats. These models, while effective at keeping attackers at bay from outside the network, offer unrestricted access to all resources once the perimeter is breached. The vulnerability of these models is further amplified by the distributed nature of data and the increasing trend of remote work.

The Shift to Zero Trust Architecture

Zero trust architecture offers a solution to these vulnerabilities by shifting from network-based trust to identity-based trust. This requires a significant change in cybersecurity practices. Instead of relying on perimeter-based security, zero trust strategies implement microsegmentation, moving from a trust-by-default perspective to a trust-by-exception one. This shift from a location-centric model to a more data-centric approach allows for fine-grained security controls.

The stakes are high in cybersecurity, with the average cost of a single data breach exceeding $3 million. Recognizing this, organizations are increasingly adopting a zero trust security policy. A zero trust strategy offers a proactive approach to security, minimizing the impact of breaches and automating context collection and response.

The Benefits of Embracing Zero Trust

Adopting a zero trust approach offers numerous benefits. It enhances security by continuously verifying user and device identities and enforcing strict access controls, thereby protecting sensitive data and reducing the risk of data breaches. It simplifies network infrastructure by eliminating implicit trust and implementing granular security controls, leading to improved network performance, simplified logging and monitoring processes, and quicker breach detection times. Moreover, zero trust helps organizations meet regulatory requirements and address compliance auditing more effectively.

Core Principles of Zero Trust

Zero Trust is guided by several core principles:

Continuous Verification

Zero trust mandates continuous verification of access for all resources. User and device privileges and attributes must be continuously monitored and validated. Access requests are thoroughly vetted before granting access to enterprise or cloud assets.

Least Privilege

Zero trust adheres to the principle of least privilege, granting users and devices only the minimum level of access necessary to perform their tasks. This approach reduces the attack surface and limits potential damage in case of a breach.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA is a crucial component of zero trust security. It requires users to provide multiple pieces of evidence to authenticate their identity, adding an extra layer of security and reducing the risk of unauthorized access.


Encryption of data is a key consideration in zero trust. By encrypting data, organizations can protect sensitive information from unauthorized access, even if it falls into the wrong hands.

Continuous Monitoring and Validation

Zero trust architecture necessitates continuous monitoring and validation of user and device privileges and attributes. This ensures that access remains authorized and that any changes or anomalies are detected and addressed promptly.

Advantages of Implementing Zero Trust

Adopting a zero trust security framework offers several benefits for organizations:

Enhanced Security

Zero trust provides a proactive approach to security, minimizing the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks. By continuously verifying access and following the principle of least privilege, organizations can significantly reduce their attack surface and protect critical assets.

Simplified Network Infrastructure

Zero trust simplifies network infrastructure by focusing on granular access control and authentication. This approach eliminates the need for complex and fragmented security solutions, making it easier to manage and maintain security policies.

Better User Experience

While zero trust imposes strict access controls, it also enables secure remote work and seamless access to resources. Users can securely access the applications and data they need, regardless of their location, without compromising security.

Steps to Implement Zero Trust

Implementing a solid zero trust strategy requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses users, applications and infrastructure. Organizations should focus on the following areas:

User Security

Implement strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, to verify user identities. Continuously monitor and validate user privileges and attributes to ensure authorized access.

Application Security

Apply zero trust principles to applications by removing implicit trust and continuously monitoring inter-application behavior. Implement access controls based on user identities, roles and contextual variables.

Infrastructure Security

Extend zero trust principles to all infrastructure-related components, including routers, switches, cloud services, IoT devices and the supply chain. Implement strong authentication, least access policies and continuous monitoring to secure these components.

Implementing a zero trust model can be done by layering technologies and processes on top of your strategy, starting with critical assets or a test case. This helps organizations assess their maturity stage and provides guidance, resources, and solutions for a comprehensive security posture.

Embrace the Future of Cybersecurity

In the face of evolving cyber threats, the shift towards zero trust architecture is not just a trend but a necessity. By adopting a zero trust security policy, organizations can fortify their defenses, simplify their network infrastructure, and enhance user experience, all while ensuring regulatory compliance. The principles of continuous verification, least privilege, multi-factor authentication, encryption and continuous monitoring form the bedrock of this proactive approach to cybersecurity.

By focusing on user, application, and infrastructure security, organizations can build a robust zero trust enterprise.


What is zero trust in simple terms?

Zero trust, in simple terms, means that no one nor any device is automatically trusted when trying to access resources on a network, whether they are inside or outside of the network. It requires verification from everyone to prevent data breaches and ensure security.

What is an example of zero trust?

One example of a Zero trust model is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). MFA goes beyond a simple password and involves a multi-step process of identification.

What are the five pillars of zero trust?

The five pillars of zero trust are identity, devices, networks, applications and workloads, and data. These pillars represent the key areas that need to be addressed to establish a robust zero trust model. By focusing on these aspects, organizations can enhance their security posture and better protect their assets.

What are the three principles of zero trust?

The three principles of a zero trust model are explicit verification, least-privilege access and assumed breach. These principles emphasize the importance of verifying every request for access, limiting access to only what is necessary, and assuming that a breach is always possible.

Utilize the Synack Platform for Zero Trust Needs

Synack’s PTaaS platform offers various capabilities that closely align with zero trust principles. Through dedicated application security testing and external attack surface discovery, federal agencies can meet compliance requirements and work their way towards their zero trust goals. Synack’s FedRAMP Moderate Authorized platform deliver continuous and on-demand security testing powered by the Synack Red Team, our community of highly talented and vetted security researchers. Our FedRAMP status signals that all 325 security controls were met, and further demonstrates our dedication to securing the public sector.

Synack has worked with over 30 different government agencies and will continue to secure the public sector and assist with zero trust initiatives. To learn more about our offerings, schedule a demo with us today.

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