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There’s no better time for zero trust

Security resilience requires strong, user-friendly defenses

The concept of zero trust is not a new one, and some may even argue that the term is overused. In reality, however, its criticality is growing with each passing day. Why? Because many of today’s attacks begin with the user. According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report, 82% of breaches involve the human element — whether it’s stolen credentials, phishing, misuse or error.

Additionally, today’s businesses are hyper-connected, meaning that — in addition to your employees — customers, partners and suppliers are all part of your ecosystem. Couple that with hybrid work, IoT, the move to the cloud, and more emboldened attackers, and organizational risk increases exponentially.

Adopting a zero trust model can dramatically reduce this risk by eliminating implicit trust. It has become so crucial, in fact, that several governments including the U.S., UK and Australia have released mandates and guidance for how organizations should deploy zero trust to improve national security.

However, because zero trust is more of a concept than a technology, and so many vendors use the term, organizations struggle with the best way to implement it. At Cisco, we believe you should take a holistic approach to zero trust, starting with what you have and adding on as you identify gaps in your defenses. And while layers of protection are necessary for powerful security, so is ease of use.

Strengthen security resilience with zero trust

Zero trust plays a major role in building security resilience, or the ability to withstand unpredictable threats or changes and emerge stronger. Through zero trust, the identity and security posture of users, devices and applications are continuously checked and verified to prevent network intrusions — and to also limit impact if an unauthorized entity does gain access.

Organizations with high zero trust maturity are twice as likely to achieve business resilience.
– Cisco’s Guide to Zero Trust Maturity

Eliminating trust, however, doesn’t really conjure up images of user-friendly technology. No matter how necessary they are for the business, employees are unlikely to embrace security measures that make their jobs more cumbersome and time-consuming. Instead, they want fast, consistent access to any application no matter where they are or which device they are using.

That’s why Cisco is taking a different approach to zero trust — one that removes friction for the user. For example, with Cisco Secure Access by Duo, organizations can provide those connecting to their network with several quick, easy authentication options. This way, they can put in place multi-factor authentication (MFA) that frustrates attackers, not users.

Enable seamless, secure access

Cisco Secure Access by Duo is a key pillar of zero trust security, providing industry-leading features for secure access, authentication and device monitoring. Duo is customizable, straightforward to use, and simple to set up. It enables the use of modern authentication methods including biometrics, passwordless and single sign-on (SSO) to help organizations advance zero trust without sacrificing user experience. Duo also provides the flexibility organizations need to enable secure remote access with or without a VPN connection.

During Cisco’s own roll-out of Duo to over 100,000 people, less than 1% of users contacted the help desk for assistance. On an annual basis, Duo is saving Cisco $3.4 million in employee productivity and $500,000 in IT help desk support costs. Furthermore, 86,000 potential compromises are averted by Duo each month.

Protect your hybrid work environment

La-Z-Boy, one of the world’s leading residential furniture producers, also wanted to defend its employees against cybersecurity breaches through MFA and zero trust. It needed a data security solution that worked agnostically, could grow with the company, and that was easy to roll out and implement.

“When COVID first hit and people were sent home to work remotely, we started seeing more hacking activity…” said Craig Vincent, director of IT infrastructure and operations at La-Z-Boy. “We were looking for opportunities to secure our environment with a second factor…. We knew that even post-pandemic we would need a hybrid solution.”

“It was very quick and easy to see where Duo fit into our environment quite well, and worked with any application or legacy app, while deploying quickly.” – Craig Vincent, Director of IT Infrastructure and Operations, La-Z-Boy

Today, Duo helps La-Z-Boy maintain a zero trust framework, stay compliant, and get clear visibility into what is connecting to its network and VPN. Zero trust helps La-Z-Boy secure its organization against threats such as phishing, stolen credentials and out-of-date devices that may be vulnerable to known exploits and malware.

Build a comprehensive zero trust framework

As mentioned, zero trust is a framework, not a single product or technology. For zero trust to be truly effective, it must do four things:

  1. Establish trust for users, devices and applications trying to access an environment
  2. Enforce trust-based access based on the principle of least privilege, only granting access to applications and data that users/devices explicitly need
  3. Continuously verify trust to detect any change in risk even after initial access is granted
  4. Respond to changes in trust by investigating and orchestrating response to potential incidents

Many technology companies may offer a single component of zero trust, or one aspect of protection, but Cisco’s robust networking and security expertise enables us to provide a holistic zero trust solution. Not only can we support all the steps above, but we can do so across your whole IT ecosystem.

Modern organizations are operating multi-environment ecosystems that include a mix of on-premises and cloud technologies from various vendors. Zero trust solutions should be able to protect across all this infrastructure, no matter which providers are in use. Protections should also extend from the network and cloud to users, devices, applications and data. With Cisco’s extensive security portfolio, operating on multiple clouds and platforms, zero trust controls can be embedded at every layer.

Map your path to zero trust

Depending on where you are in your security journey, embedding zero trust at every layer of your infrastructure may sound like a lofty endeavor. That’s why we meet customers where they are on their path to zero trust. Whether your first priority is to meet regulatory requirements, secure hybrid work, protect the cloud, or something else, we have the expertise to help you get started. We provide clear guidance and technologies for zero trust security mapped to established frameworks from organizations like CISA and NIST.

Much of our Cisco Secure portfolio can be used to build a successful zero trust framework, but some examples of what we offer include:

  • Frictionless, secure access for users, devices and applications through Cisco Duo
  • Flexible cloud security through Cisco Umbrella
  • Protected network connections and segmentation with the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE)
  • Application visibility and micro-segmentation via Cisco Secure Workload
  • Expert guidance from the Cisco Zero Trust Strategy Service

All of our technologies and services are backed by the unparalleled intelligence of Cisco Talos — so you always have up-to-date protection as you build your zero trust architecture. Additionally, our open, integrated security platform — Cisco SecureX — makes it simple to expand and scale your security controls, knowing they will work with your other technologies for more unified defenses.

Enhance security with an integrated platform

As Italy’s leading insurance company, Sara Assicurazioni requires complete visibility into its extended network, including a multi-cloud architecture and hybrid workforce. The company has adopted a comprehensive zero trust strategy through Cisco Secure.

“Our decentralized users, endpoints, and cloud-based servers and workloads contribute to a large attack surface,” says Paolo Perrucci, director of information and communications technology architectures and operations at Sara Assicurazioni. “With Cisco, we have the right level of visibility on this surface.”

“The main reason we chose Cisco is that only Cisco can offer a global security solution rather than covering one specific point…. Thanks to Cisco Secure, I’m quite confident that our security posture is now many times better because we are leveraging more scalable, state-of-the-art security solutions.” – Luigi Vassallo, COO & CTO, Sara Assicurazioni

Expand your zero trust strategy

To learn more, explore our zero trust page and sign up for one of our free zero trust workshops.

Watch video: How Cisco implemented zero trust in just five months 

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