WebRTC Expert Feature

July 27, 2023

Protecting against data loss with zero trust principles/framework

Information plays a key role in today's data-driven landscape, analogous to an invaluable treasure. As such, it becomes essential for institutions, regardless of their magnitude, to build a strong fortress around their data treasure, guarding against theft or compromise. With the escalating frequency of data infractions, adopting an iron-clad protection blueprint becomes non-negotiable. One such blueprint is the Zero Trust architecture, meticulously designed to avert information leakage and bolster overall safeguards.

Understanding Zero Trust

The Zero Trust paradigm is a protective model grounded in the doctrine of 'distrust as a default, verify at all times.' This suggests that every access petition is meticulously scrutinized, whether it emerges from within or beyond the institution's network parameters.

Unlike conventional paradigms primarily anchored in boundary defenses, Zero Trust recognizes that hazards can originate from any quarter, and each petition could potentially carry risk. This ideology applies across the board to all resources, encompassing networks, users, gadgets, data, applications, and services.

Under the Zero Trust paradigm, each access plea undergoes scrutiny regardless of its root. To illustrate, in an enterprise titled "TechCorp", typical models would allow an employee with network access to freely navigate resources. If malicious software infiltrates or credentials get hijacked, severe security hazards surface.

In contrast, Zero Trust implements continuous authentication and authorization, guided by factors like user identity, device, and location. Consequently, even if an intruder acquires credentials, their potential for harm is curtailed due to stringent inspections for each accessed resource. The 'distrust as a default, verify at all times' principle facilitates a more fortified, encompassing security framework.

Zero Trust and Data Protection

Enhanced Access Control

With the Zero Trust framework, an institution can govern data access rights efficiently - who gets to access what data and when. It exercises the least privilege doctrine, meaning users are accorded the bare minimum access level needed to accomplish their tasks. By narrowly controlling data access, Zero Trust mitigates the risk of information leakage resulting from unauthorized access or internal threats.

For example, within a healthcare setup, a nurse should only be privy to patient records pertinent to their daily responsibilities, not the entire patient database of the hospital. Augmented Access Management under Zero Trust ensures the nurse can only access necessary data, thereby reducing potential data breaches.


A distinctive feature of Zero Trust is network segmentation or microsegmentation, where the network is divided into smaller units to impede an attacker's ability to navigate through the network after gaining access. This strategy diminishes the risk of extensive data leakage, as a breach in one segment doesn't automatically imply a breach in other parts of the network.

Imagine a museum segmented into various sections, each displaying distinct artefacts. In terms of network segmentation, each section constitutes a separate network unit. If an intruder breaches the Roman artefact section's security, they cannot access the Renaissance paintings without surmounting separate security protocols. In a similar vein, in Zero Trust, if an invader breaches one network segment, they can't traverse to another without further authentications.

Multi-factor Authentication

Zero Trust incorporates multi-factor authentication, enhancing security by mandating multiple forms of identity proof. This significantly curtails the risk of unsanctioned access, thereby safeguarding data from compromise.

Consider a banking employee needing to log in to their workstation. Instead of merely entering a password, Multi-factor authentication might also require them to enter a code sent to their phone and scan their fingerprint. Therefore, unsanctioned access is thwarted as it demands bypassing multiple verification protocols, not just one.

Real-time Monitoring and Automation

Zero Trust capitalizes on real-time surveillance and automation. Continuous vigilance of all network activities enables swift detection and mitigation of potential threats before they can result in extensive data leakage. Automation enables immediate threat response and rectification, further augmenting data protection capabilities.

Picture a power plant scenario where security systems constantly monitor all activities. If unusual activity is detected, like an attempt to interfere with the power controls, an alert is automatically triggered, and corrective actions are instantly undertaken. A similar real-time surveillance and automated response mechanism operates within a Zero Trust environment, swiftly detecting and neutralizing potential cyber threats.

Data Loss Prevention Tools in Zero Trust and Data Protection

DLP  (Data Loss Preventionools) play a vital role within the Zero Trust framework by adding an extra layer of security. They are engineered specifically to identify and thwart unauthorized attempts to copy, disseminate, or shift sensitive data, thus forming an integral part of a comprehensive Zero Trust strategy.

Consider a banking institution that retains sensitive client data like credit card details and personal identifiers. Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) tools are configured to supervise data movement within the network.

For example, if a customer service representative tries to download an extensive number of customer profiles onto a portable drive or tries to email such data to a personal email address, the DLP tool identifies this irregular activity. It could then initiate several actions, from alerting the security team to halting the data transfer in real-time.

Therefore, DLP tools under the Zero Trust paradigm help to deter potential internal threats and inhibit unauthorized data sharing, thus playing a pivotal role in securing sensitive data and maintaining client trust.

Employing a Zero Trust Model for Information Protection

Evaluation and Planning

The initial step in employing a Zero Trust framework involves clearly understanding your institution's existing network architecture and data flow. This includes identifying all the assets, data, users, applications, and services and understanding their interactions. A detailed and accurate inventory is critical to devise an effective Zero Trust strategy.

Design and Deployment

Following the evaluation, the institution can commence designing a Zero Trust architecture, defining policies, controls, and procedures to safeguard data. This phase involves configuring access controls, network segmentation, multilevel verification, and other Zero Trust features.

Ongoing Surveillance and Improvement.

After deployment, it's critical to constantly monitor network activities, evaluate security policies, and promptly address threats. Zero Trust is not a one-off implementation but an enduring process of appraisal and refinement. This ensures the institution stays ahead of evolving threats and safeguards its data efficaciously.

Final Thoughts

Adopting a fortified security model like Zero Trust in the contemporary digital ecosystem, where data leakage can have catastrophic implications, becomes essential. With its stringent verification protocols, augmented access management, and real-time surveillance capabilities, Zero Trust significantly diminishes the risk of data leakage, providing institutions with a formidable defense against potential threats. By adopting a Zero Trust framework, institutions can ensure they're not merely reacting to threats but proactively protecting their most precious asset: their information.

Prasanna Peshkar is a cybersecurity researcher, educator, and cybersecurity technical content writer. He is interested in performing audits by assessing web application threats, and vulnerabilities. He is interested in new attack methodologies, tools and frameworks. He also spends time looking for new vulnerabilities, and understanding emerging cybersecurity threats in the blockchain technology. He is also a regular writer at Bora

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