Unifying identity, privilege, and asset in zero trust

Enforcing cybersecurity policies can be a difficult and arduous process, especially as organisations integrate multiple tools to defend against a range of threats. This siloed approach makes responding to security incidents slower and less efficient as there are many different moving parts to monitor. It also creates unintended gaps, which are prime targets for cybercriminals to exploit and gain access to critical systems and data.

In Singapore, our survey titled “Zero Trust Priorities for Singapore Companies” found that 89% of IT leaders have included zero-trust solutions in their budgetary and procurement plans, including authentication, compliance, and privilege management solutions. While those are crucial, their effectiveness can deteriorate due to too many insights and alerts creating a “needle-in-a-haystack” feeling and alert fatigue among security teams. The findings also suggest that businesses are segmenting their security solutions into any combination of identity, privilege, or asset-based tools.

A hardened zero-trust security posture requires organisations to apply three cybersecurity pillars: identity, privilege, and asset. On their own, they focus on specialised aspects of cybersecurity; but when combined, they create a hardened barrier capable of keeping cybercriminals out.

The three pillars of zero trust: identity, privilege and asset

Identity management (IM) solutions are designed to manage the identity lifecycle — creating, updating, and deleting user details and accounts — along with protecting them from compromise. Privilege access management (PAM) solutions, meanwhile, manage access for specific users or devices in a just-in-time (JIT) fashion. Last but not least, asset-based solutions oversee the security of files and resources, either directly or through “as-a-service” models.

All three pillars are crucial in verifying users’ identities and ensuring that they are not compromised before giving them the necessary access to the requested resource. This aligns to the principle of least privilege (PoLP), a core tenet of zero trust, a crucial principle in modern security environments.

The role of a SIEM platform

Some solutions are designed to converge all three pillars through unified analytics. One such solution is a security incident and event management (SIEM) platform, which is designed to correlate data from a variety of security tools across an organisation’s infrastructure, enabling advanced threat detection and flexible response.

With SIEM, users can gain visibility into how well each security pillar is performing. It also helps security teams identify potential security threats and how best to respond to them so that future incidents can be avoided.

For example, SIEM tools can report on which users have accessed certain assets within a specific period of time as well as alert security teams to suspicious behaviours. Experts can then add extra authentication layers or block access altogether. When used to refine policies, this solution is particularly useful for assessing the success of security measures and making adjustments to reduce future incidents.

Evaluating new tools and platforms

SIEM solutions can also be combined with PAM tools to gain awareness of each employee’s access levels. From there, security teams can create policies that allow or block certain files based on users’ roles and responsibilities. This empowers them with the ability to conduct their duties while preventing cyberattackers from escalating privileges.

Furthermore, organisations need to understand the security risks that siloed tools bring, making enforcing security a difficult endeavour. For example, experts have no way of monitoring the activities of IoT devices and antivirus software if they operate independently from the rest of the security infrastructure. This means that if a breakdown occurs, security teams will not be aware of any breaches, or how far the attackers have spread, until it is too late.

Future-proofing your security 

Organisations looking to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals need to be meticulous when choosing the right vendor. Not only should they meet the three security pillars, but they must also be capable of defending against current and new attack tactics. This is particularly the case as Singapore continues to grapple with constant attacks targeting both public and private sector organisations.

The impacts of cyberattacks have also spilled over into the real world, where systems are taken offline or are broken, leading to fuel shortages, patients being denied immediate care, and entire operations shutting down.

This is why the zero-trust journey is never complete. The ever-changing threat landscape and evolving technology landscape means that security teams must be constantly looking at the next step in their journey. No one security solution can solve an organisation’s zero-trust challenges or provide a finish line in the zero-trust journey.

By unifying security policies to simultaneously cover identity, privilege, and assets, organisations will be able to make careful decisions about the right protective measures for their operations. Those who are successful in synergising all three can significantly reduce their attack surface and bolster their security posture.