What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is a Cybersecurity Paradigm for a Fine-grained, Dynamic, and Data-centric Access Control that supports visibility.
(Access control is mediating the usage of resources by authentication, authorization, and accounting based on the principles of need-to-know and least privileges.)

Zero Trust Cybersecurity Paradigm

The following diagram summarizes my study of Zero Trust that synthesizes various sources, such as Jericho Forum, DoD GIG/Black Core, Forrester’s Zero Trust Network, Google’s BeyondCorp, CSA’s SDP, and NIST SP 800-207.


Zero Trust Concepts

  • Data-centric access control
  • No inherent trust (trust is a privilege; it is earned and given)
  • Before-access and continuous verification
  • Fine-grained rules and dynamic policies
  • Inspection, logging, monitoring, and visibility

Zero Trust Architecture

  • Subjects and Data, services, devices, and infrastructure
  • Control plane and data plane
  • Policy Enforcement Point
  • Policy Decision Point (Policy Administrator and Policy Engine)
  • Trust Algorithm and its input (attribute and risk based)

John Kindervag and Zero Trust

John Kindervag coined Zero Trust in 2010 to eliminate the concept of “trust” that relies on perimeter security. He advocates that perimeter security is broken and not sufficient anymore and called the blind trust in network locations as “broken trust.” I believe “inherent authorization” is the core idea of “trust” in his Zero Trust Network Model and conclude his main idea of Zero Trust as follows:

Don’t rely on network locations (coarse-grained perimeters), but protect data and related resources (he called MCAP or microcore and perimeters) grouped into smaller pieces using an integrated segmentation gateway (NGFW, next-generation firewall).

Zero Trust Myths

He is now the field CTO of Palo Alto Networks. The company introduced Zero Trust Myths as follows:

  1. The goal of Zero Trust is to make a system trusted.
  2. It’s complex, costly and time-consuming.
  3. Zero Trust is all about identity.
  4. You can do Zero Trust at Layer 3.

I agree with all the myths but the first one, which treats “trust” as the synonym of “inherent authorization.” We don’t build systems that rely on inherent authorization, the so-called “trust” above, but I’d rather define trust as the confidence in security or trustworthiness. So, we do want to eliminate inherent authorization (blind/broken trust) to make a system trusted (secure and trustworthy), that is, to deliver a secure and trustworthy system and render assurance.


2 thoughts on “What is Zero Trust?

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