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Zero Trust cybersecurity represents a departure from traditional security models that relied on the concept of a trusted perimeter. The traditional approach, often referred to as the “castle-and-moat” model, assumed that once you were inside, you were trusted. Security efforts were primarily focused on protecting the perimeter from external threats. 

In a Zero Trust model, trust is never assumed by default. Every user, device, or system is treated as potentially untrusted, regardless of their location or previous access. It’s often referred to as the “never trust, always verify” mindset—acknowledging that threats can come from both external and internal sources. Zero Trust prioritizes security measures that verify the identity and security posture of every user and device trying to access resources.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework isn’t inherently a Zero Trust model, but many of its components can be built out around the principles of Zero Trust, as we’ll show in this article. Blumira SIEM (security information and event management) is a tool used by small and medium-sized organizations to support NIST and Zero Trust cybersecurity strategies.

The Zero Trust model

Zero Trust represents a proactive and adaptive approach creating a more resilient defensive cybersecurity strategy. The Zero Trust approach takes shape across the entire landscape of cybersecurity:

Trust assumption. Rather than assuming trust once a user or device is inside the network perimeter, Zero Trust verifies the identity and security posture for every user and device, regardless of their location.

Access control. Zero Trust implements granular access controls based on the principle of least privilege, knowing it’s insufficient to rely only on perimeter defenses—such as firewalls—to block external threats. 

User authentication. The traditional security model relied on username and password authentication, which has proven vulnerable to credential-based attacks. Zero Trust steps up identity verification with multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Segmentation. By dividing networks into micro-segments and controlling the traffic between them, Zero Trust models are able to limit lateral movement in case of a breach. Before segmentation was being implemented broadly, attackers could move around within a network more freely once they gained initial access.

Monitoring. The Blumira SIEM supports a Zero Trust model of cybersecurity with continuous monitoring of user and device behavior. It quickly identifies and responds to suspicious activities or deviations from the normal parameters. This is a significant evolution from perimeter-focused monitoring that can result in delayed detection and response.

Organizations clinging to traditional cybersecurity practices can find it challenging to adapt to an evolving threat landscape. The NIST Cybersecurity framework helps organizations establish more flexible policies and processes meant to adjust to emerging threats and changing internal needs. A roadmap to implementing the Zero Trust model can be found within the NIST framework.

NIST CSF and Zero Trust

The National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) is a set of guidelines and best practices designed to help organizations manage and improve their cybersecurity risk management processes. While it was developed by a US government agency, it’s not a law or mandate. The framework is voluntary, but it’s been embraced by cybersecurity experts because of its comprehensiveness and depth of available resources. It’s structured around five core components: Identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

Here are some of the ways in which the NIST Cybersecurity Framework aligns with the principles of Zero Trust:

Risk-based approach. Both the NIST framework and Zero Trust emphasize a risk-based approach. They encourage organizations to assess and prioritize risks, focusing efforts on securing the most critical assets and data. One way to implement this approach is by isolating servers that store sensitive information from the general network to limit the potential impact of a breach. 

Continuous monitoring. NIST CSF promotes ongoing monitoring of systems and networks for security events, which is aligned with the Zero Trust principle that calls for real-time monitoring of user and device behavior. A security tool like Blumira SIEM monitors for anomalies by tracking user activities and network traffic patterns, then immediately flags any unusual or unauthorized access attempts.

Access control and least privilege. NIST CSF outlines multiple ways organizations can implement strong access controls and the principle of least privilege. Examples include restricting access to sensitive files only to those employees who require it for their job responsibilities, and limiting access to certain resources when a user is connecting from an unfamiliar location or a device that hasn’t been updated with the latest security patches.

Authentication and identity management. NIST CSF provides guidance for strong authentication systems and robust identity management practices that support Zero Trust principles of verifying the identity of users and devices before granting access. This includes multifactor authentication (MFA) that requires a temporary code or an authentication app.

Data protection: Both NIST and the Zero Trust framework highlight the importance of protecting sensitive data, including encryption and securing data both in transit and at rest. This includes using secure communication protocols (like HTTPS) for data transmission and encrypting sensitive files stored on servers.

Organizations can integrate Zero Trust principles into their cybersecurity strategy by following the NIST framework. The combination of the two approaches can enhance overall cybersecurity resilience.

Blumira supports your cybersecurity strategy

Whether you’re designing your cybersecurity strategy around NIST CSF or Zero Trust—or a combination of the two—neither framework prescribes specific tools for implementation. However, Blumira SIEM has proven to be an excellent fit for protecting, monitoring, detecting, responding to, and mitigating cyber attacks.

Blumira provides small and mid-sized companies with powerful log management, threat detection, and automated response capabilities—all without overburdening busy IT teams. Blumira’s secure SaaS platform enables rapid deployment as well as oversight by an MSP or MSSP. You can use pre-configured analytics, controls, and reporting while also working with Blumira experts to optimize your custom approach.

Learn more about how Blumira supports your cybersecurity strategy, or give the free Blumira SIEM a try.

This article is part of a five-part series that can help your business adopt the NIST CSF.

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