Enhancing Security with Zero Trust Hardware Access
Zero Trust (ZT) is a security concept that follows the principle of “never trust, always verify.” It recognizes that threats exist both inside and outside an organization’s traditional perimeters. Zero Trust eliminates the element of trust given to users and devices and instead relies on dynamic policies and the principle of least privilege (PLP) enforced by the Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). By authenticating devices and assessing access requests based on defined policies, organizations can implement a robust security framework.
The Growing Need for Zero Trust Hardware Access
Although the concept of Zero Trust (ZT) has been around since 1994, its importance has become more evident as the threat landscape continues to evolve. In the past, internal users and devices were automatically trusted within secure enterprise walls. However, organizations now realize that this assumption is flawed. Insider threats pose a significant risk, and enterprises struggle to provide comprehensive security due to a lack of visibility and control.
Nowadays, one cannot assume that an internal user, or device, can be automatically trusted. Why? Well, for starters, insiders themselves might act with malicious intent. Several reasons might incentivize such action, and the employee’s insider privileges can prove beneficial in causing maximum damage. However, more worrisome is that enterprises struggle to provide comprehensive security due to a lack of visibility and control.
Securing Hardware in Organizations
With expanding assets and perimeters, securing hardware assets has become increasingly challenging. The rise of remote work, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has introduced additional complexities. Employees often use personal devices (BYOD) for work purposes, which are difficult to manage and may lack proper security measures. The infiltration of household IoT devices into corporate networks further expands the attack surface.
Additionally, remote work environments are typically less secure than traditional office settings, providing more entry points for potential attacks. Any compromised device can grant insider access to malicious actors, increasing the vulnerability of the organization. The need to secure hardware assets and manage risks has become paramount.
Addressing the Struggle with Zero Trust Hardware Access
While security departments face increasing challenges, malicious actors continue to thrive. Traditional network and endpoint detection and response solutions have proven inadequate, as cybercriminals constantly develop new techniques to bypass them. Social engineering tactics further exploit employees’ access privileges, causing significant damage.
Zero Trust eliminates the inherent trust in internal users and devices and assumes a breach has already occurred. Access is granted based on the principle of least privilege, allowing access only to necessary resources. Micro-segmentation further reduces the blast radius of attacks by dividing the network into smaller sections, preventing lateral movement.
Challenges of Zero Trust and the Role of Hardware Access Control
Zero Trust is not without its challenges. Limited asset visibility creates blind spots in Identity and Access Management (IAM) evaluations, affecting the effectiveness of access requests. Traditional security solutions often overlook the Physical Layer, allowing spoofed devices to bypass Zero Trust protocols. The use of BYOD and shadow IT introduces additional concerns.
According to PulseSecure’s 2020 Zero Trust Progress Report, 71% of organizations are seeking to improve their IAM, highlighting the need for deeper visibility. Existing security solutions do not cover the Physical Layer. This means that Spoofed Devices, which operate on this layer, are able to impersonate legitimate devices and subsequently bypass Zero Trust Hardware Access protocols.
So, despite Zero Trust enabling the safe use of BYODs and “good” shadow IT and IoT, the security model is not enough to protect against such devices compromised by a Spoofed Peripheral. In fact, BYOD and shadow IT exposures are a cause for a concern among 43% and 40% of organizations, respectively. As a result of a lack of visibility, there are spillover effects that create additional challenges. Naturally, malicious actors seek to exploit the visibility blind spot and turn to hardware-based attacks (operating on the Physical Layer).
To overcome these challenges, Sepio’s platform (HAC-1) provides visibility into the Physical Layer, Hardware Access Control capabilities, and Rogue Device Mitigation. By addressing the blind spots and enhancing the Zero Trust approach, Sepio enables organizations to achieve a complete Zero Trust environment. Zero Trust Hardware Access is the missing piece of the puzzle to strengthen security and ensure comprehensive protection.
Zero Trust Hardware Access Control
Component of Zero Trust
Challenges mitigated by Sepio
Comprehensive security monitoring for validation of users and their devices’ security posture.
Visibility The Zero Trust Architecture relies on identifying a user and device to evaluate the access request. However, hardware-based attacks involve the deployment of tools which hide/spoof their identity: Rogue Devices. By manipulating the authentication and authorization processes, such devices render the ZTA ineffective as they are not validated with accurate information. As a result, access is granted under false pretenses, allowing the attacker to bypass ZT security protocols.
Sepio Complete Asset Visibility provides enterprises with ultimate asset visibility through Physical Layer fingerprinting. As the only company to offer Layer 1 coverage, Sepio can see all assets operating within the enterprise’s infrastructure whether they are managed, unmanaged or hidden. More importantly, Sepio reveals the device’s true identity. Physical Layer fingerprinting technology and Machine Learning allows Sepio to calculate a digital fingerprint from the electrical characteristics of all devices. The digital fingerprint is compared with the extensive built-in threat intelligence database for known-to-be-vulnerable devices to instantly detect when a vulnerable or malicious device is present within the organization.
Granular, dynamic and risk-based access control through policy enforcement.
Access policies enable the Zero Trust security measure of micro-segmentation. By breaking the network into smaller, more granular parts, the enterprise can implement PLP by granting access only to the resources necessary to carry out the job. It is access policies that indicate to the Zero Trust Architecture which segment(s) the requesting entity is permitted to access. Such policies, however, cannot be accurately enforced on assets that impersonate legitimate devices, or those which are not visible to the ZTA. How can the security guards at Wembley stop the unauthorized attendees from entering the stadium if they go to an unmanned entrance? Ineffective access control allows the malicious actor to bypass micro-segmentation and move laterally across the network. Moreover, the creation of data access policies is based on asset and network traffic information. The lack of visibility means that policies are created without full information, resulting in validity and reliability issues.
Sepio’s Hardware Access Control policy enforcement mechanism allows the system administrator to define a strict, or more granular, set of rules for the system to enforce that controls hardware access based on device characteristics. Furthermore, the threat intelligence database enables Sepio’s to notify the system administrator when a vulnerable device has been detected, allowing action to be taken to determine how such device should be handled. Through such capabilities, micro-segmentation is achievable as the policies are not only enforced on all devices, but are based on complete, accurate information.
System security automation that protects data and resources.
Insufficient protection The two challenges mentioned above mean that an enterprise cannot be sure that its data and resources are protected. If the Zero Trust Architecture mistakenly grants access to a Rogue Device, the perpetrator has the ability to carry out harmful attacks on the victim the directly puts its data and resources at risk.
Sepio’s Rogue Device Mitigation automatically instigates a mitigation process to block unapproved or Rogue hardware as soon as a device breaches the pre-defined policy. In doing so, the attacker is stopped at the first hurdle, and is unable to even attempt to bypass micro-segmentation and other security protocols. By blocking the perpetrator at the first instance, the enterprise’s data and resources are protected from malicious hardware-based attacks.
In conclusion, implementing Zero Trust Hardware Access is crucial in today’s threat landscape. By adopting the Zero Trust approach and incorporating hardware-level security measures, organizations can effectively mitigate risks, overcome visibility challenges, and establish a robust security framework. Partnering with Sepio’s platform enables organizations to enhance their Zero Trust implementation and protect against hardware-based attacks, creating a secure environment for their digital assets.