How to Implement Zero Trust for SMBs

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How to Implement Zero Trust for SMBs

Today’s digital landscape poses significant cybersecurity threats to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). In the past, the castle-and-moat network security model — a protected perimeter to safeguard a company’s information and assets from cybercriminals — was sufficient. However, the rise of remote work and cloud-based applications calls for a zero-trust approach.

Zero trust is typical among larger enterprises and government bodies. Although SMBs can implement it, doing so may seem daunting. The following is an overview of the zero-trust security model, its importance and the steps brands must take to strengthen their online defenses.

What Is the Zero Trust Security Model?

Traditional cybersecurity assumes internal users are responsible enough to enter corporate network security while external users are not. This often results in costly breaches, compromising corporate data and profits.

Zero trust is a more stringent security measure against cyberthreats. It entails confirming user identification and roles before granting access, regardless of where they log in. There are also additional security checkpoints throughout the network, for which users must have prior authorization to move between applications and systems.

Limited access decreases the risk of cyberattacks and information stealing. Experts even predict 60% of businesses will use zero trust in the security architecture by 2025.

Why Is Zero Trust Important for SMBs?

Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce has undergone dramatic changes. Nowadays, 35% and 41% of workers operate remotely or in a hybrid setup. The shift is particularly enticing to hackers.

Cyberattacks are at an all-time high, with 73% of small businesses enduring breaches in 2023 and 54% losing over $250,000. As such, SMBS must have protective measures in place — firewalls are simply not enough.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a safe and secure network for off-site users to access the corporate network from anywhere. Their primary functions are to encrypt data and communications and prevent unauthorized access. However, future VPNs must evolve with greater processing capabilities in end systems, which artificial intelligence will aid.

5 Ways to Implement Zero Trust Security

SMBs cannot sit around and wait for hackers to attack their networks. They must protect their data and assets before a breach ever occurs. These five strategies will help enterprises of any size implement zero-trust network security.

1. Assess Current Security Infrastructure

Teams must assess the company’s current security setup — including an inventory of all devices, applications and users — before upgrading the network. This comprises the following:

  • Listing all critical data, accounts and other corporate assets
  • Determining which users require access to resources on specific devices, including remote work and VPNs
  • Analyzing current monitoring of user activity

2. Develop Zero Trust Policies

Once the brand understands its current security posture, it can develop new zero-trust policies. Usually, this begins by granting employees the absolute minimum access to classified data.

Other policies include classifying data and controls based on information sensitivity. Ongoing assessment of device trustworthiness is just as crucial. Organizations should also have a way to measure user activity and look for suspicious behaviors.  

3. Utilize Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is more common than most perceive. It delivers extra security with an additional login type beyond a username and password. Utilizing MFA is especially critical since 52% of people use the same password for numerous websites.

MFA factors are wide-ranging, from security questions to temporary codes and biometric identification — the latter may include face scanning and fingerprinting. If a hacker can get into a device and steal its passwords, a prompt may pop up to verify the access attempt on a smartphone.

4. Monitor All Network Traffic

Monitoring is critical in implementing zero trust. Network specialists must be able to track data across all devices and systems, searching for vulnerabilities and suspicious activity. Traffic analyses might look at IP addresses and deviations from the usual patterns, like a sudden uptick in traffic or unusual data transfer times.

The insights SMBs gain from monitoring data and technology encourage teams to remain vigilant and protect themselves against potential threats. However, experts must review monitoring protocols regularly to ensure tracking works to their advantage.

5. Build an Anti-Breach Workforce

Recent studies show 85% of data breaches result from human error. As such, SMBs will want to roll out cybersecurity training to all staff members. The more informed staff are about potential threats and the signs, the less likely they will fall victim. Awareness leads to careful network usage.

Businesses can conduct security training in many ways, including game-based exercises and online learning modules. However, many workers prefer in-person training. After instructor-led simulations on phishing and threat responses, employee cybersecurity awareness rose from 77.75% to 93.24%, proving its effectiveness.

Zero Trust Is a Must for SMBs

Robust network security measures are not only for large corporations. SMBs must also focus their attention on protecting their systems from cyberattacks. Implementing zero trust into their security approach is an excellent safeguard of vital data and assets.