What Small Businesses Need to Know About Zero-Trust Security

Trust no one. It sounds cynical and harsh, but that’s the approach many businesses are taking to protect their networks. Zero-trust security is a growing trend in cybersecurity based on the idea that every user, device, or connection should be treated as a threat. Everything and everyone must be verified before granting access.

At first, it seems counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t you be able to trust your employees? But between hackers and human error, many threats to your business come from inside your network. The term zero trust means that no one is automatically trusted, regardless of their location.

Adopting a zero-trust approach to cybersecurity is ideal to keep your organization secure. By verifying every single access attempt to your network–no matter how small or seemingly harmless–you can better protect your business from malicious attacks.

What Is the Zero-Trust Security Model?

Zero trust is an approach to IT security where no one is trusted by default, whether they’re inside or outside your network. Every user, device, and connection is continuously re-verified to ensure it’s not a threat.

With the rise of mobile devices, cloud services, remote work, and more, it’s harder than ever to protect your business from hackers and even the threat of human error from your employees. With zero-trust security, each user and device must be authenticated before they can access your network, thus eliminating any opportunities for an attacker to exploit trust-based relationships.

Standard Cybersecurity vs. Zero-Trust Security

In this modern age of interconnectedness, where data is stored on the cloud, employees are telecommuting from different locations, and even your thermostat may be part of a business network–traditional security approaches can no longer protect us.

perimeter security model

The standard approach to cybersecurity has historically been a perimeter model. Picture your office network as a castle where all your employees, digital devices, and data reside safely within its walls. The objective is always to build these walls bigger and stronger to keep out any potential threats or malicious attacks. Once someone enters the protected area, they are deemed secure from outside dangers and they are trusted to move around inside the perimeter

The zero-trust security model makes it much more difficult for malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities in traditional security models. Traditionally, users within the perimeter were considered trustworthy, which put your business at risk from hackers stealing legitimate credentials from your employees, or employees accidentally clicking on things they shouldn’t.

Zero-trust architecture doesn’t rely on a perimeter or your employees to define who should access your network. By asking for verification every time, zero trust makes sure that each connection attempt is trustworthy.

Principles of Zero-Trust Security

Zero-trust security isn’t a static product or solution; rather, it’s an innovative mindset toward cybersecurity based on some key principles:

  1. “Never Trust, Always Verify” – Confirmation is Key. Any effort to enter your system will be carefully authenticated before granting access.
  2. Least Privilege Access – Often referred to as the “Need-to-know” principle, zero-trust networks strive to provide users with only the necessary permissions and restricted access they need for a task at hand.
  3. Assume Breach – Zero-trust security plans for worst-case scenarios. Constantly monitor your systems for threats and strategically design your systems to minimize the impact when breaches occur.

How Zero-Trust Security Works

zero trust in speech bubble

The zero-trust security model aims to limit the potential for malicious actors to exploit trust-based relationships within your network. It does this by eliminating the concept of “trust zones”—the idea that certain areas of a system or network are more secure than others.

Instead, all users and devices must be authenticated and authorized to access any part of your system. This makes the attacker’s lateral movement through your network much more difficult, as they would have to continually re-authenticate to gain additional permissions. Eliminating trust zones makes it far more difficult for attackers to access confidential data.

Let’s explore a few practical examples of how zero trust works:

  1. Suppose a hacker gains access to an employee’s laptop WITH the password. Typically, they would have full control of your network since it is a trusted company device. However, by utilizing zero-trust security measures such as multi-factor authentication, you can ensure that employee laptops are properly secured and monitored. By requiring verification from a second device, you would prevent the hacker from accessing your network.
  2. Or what if one of your team members accidentally clicks on a malicious link in an email, which then downloads a virus onto their computer? Fortunately, you already have zero-trust architecture application whitelisting implemented. Your application whitelisting program will stop any new program from running until it’s double-checked. This will block the malicious link before any damage can be done.

Identity and access management are essential to prevent malicious programs from infiltrating your network and systems. With an effective zero-trust network access management strategy, administrators can limit user permissions and control who can access certain resources based on their roles and responsibilities. This helps to ensure that only legitimate users are performing the tasks they should be, guarding against unauthorized access or malicious activity.

Is Zero-Trust Security a Hassle?

With all this talk of verification and access control, you may be thinking: is implementing zero-trust security going to be a hassle? You know you need to protect your business, but not at the expense of getting work done.

The good news for small businesses is that it’s easy to get started with zero-trust measures that will improve security without hindering productivity. Because it’s not an all-in-one solution, zero-trust architecture can be implemented in small pieces and scaled as you go.

We recommend getting started with tools like Duo multifactor authentication and ThreatLocker zero-trust threat protection. These tools help add an extra layer of security verification to your accounts and prevent unauthorized programs from running. Our IT team can help you set up and manage everything so all your employees have to do is click one extra button.

Advantages of the Zero-Trust Model

The key advantage of the zero-trust model is its focus on continuous monitoring and verification rather than relying solely on traditional security measures such as firewalls or antivirus software. With this approach in place, you can quickly detect suspicious activity from known and unknown sources in real time and take immediate action if necessary.

By verifying identities at every step instead of granting blanket access privileges upfront, you eliminate the risk associated with misconfigured devices or stolen credentials falling into the wrong hands. Additionally, you can ensure that only verified users can access sensitive data like payroll or employee health information. This not only reduces the risk of theft and information loss but also enables your organization to better meet compliance regulations. This trust-free system is essential in ensuring that confidential details remain secure and protected!

Get Started with Zero-Trust Security

Even small businesses can take advantage of zero-trust security—and the best part is that it doesn’t have to be tricky or costly. Empower your business with this high-security approach and ensure that all communication channels are secure! We recommend getting started with cybersecurity fundamentals such as multi-factor authentication, application whitelisting, monitoring of stolen passwords, and threat detection.

Multi-factor Authentication


Application whitelisting & threat detection

Stolen password monitoring

Top-rated antivirus software

Take the guesswork out of protecting your business and let our IT support team help you get equipped with the appropriate tools. Make sure all traffic on your network is secure by scheduling a consultation today! Click the link below to get started.