Federal networks face an incredible number of diverse cyber threats that range from unsophisticated hackers to nation-state actors using the most advanced methods available. But with each passing day, attackers are getting smarter, faster, and stronger.

Agencies store some of the most sensitive data in the world, and protecting the systems that users tap into to access that information is paramount. New models and solutions are popping up every day, and it can be tough to tell what’s right for any given organization.

Every agency has different needs and a solution should be built around those needs, but a new fundamental architecture called Zero Trust should be part of any agency’s cyber framework.

What does Zero Trust mean?

To put it simply, Zero Trust security means treating everyone and everything as a threat until they can be verified. The model requires strict identity verification for everyone and every device — whether they’re inside or outside the network perimeter — trying to access resources.

This runs directly counter to traditional network security that trusts everyone inside the network by default. While that might make things easier on those working within the network, it also introduces vulnerabilities — namely that if an attacker gets inside, they’re free to roam.

Beyond that, agencies need to be comfortable with sharing their data with other agencies making it nearly impossible to protect using legacy security measures. The castle-moat defense isn’t effective anymore; the government needs to defend more than just the perimeter.

How do Zero Trust and ICAM work together?

One of the foundational principles underpinning Zero Trust architecture relates to how much access any given user should get. Least-privilege access means that those on the network only get access to the places and information that they need at any given time — and those credentials can be granted or revoked as projects are finished.

The access built into Zero Trust models limits a user’s ability to access sensitive parts of the network. Those who deploy this architecture are effectively trading in the legacy model of protecting the overall network perimeter with the forward-thinking model of putting a perimeter around every user.

This makes Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) a crucial piece of the Zero Trust puzzle. An identity management solution deployed with a Zero Trust mindset is the most effective way to cordon off users so they can only access the resources they need at any given time. A good solution will offer a single management platform that determines and monitors access policies for each user. That means cyber managers have complete visibility into what users can and cannot access.

What does this mean for federal agencies?

The federal government has information spread out across nearly 100 individual agencies and much of that data needs to be accessible through multiple platforms accessed by any number of departments.

That means defending the perimeter is impossible, because there really is no perimeter. Instead, federal agencies should be taking the Zero Trust approach and defending against the user by deploying an identity management solution that manages authentication for all resources and continuously monitors users for changes in behavior.

This takes away the perimeter giving easier access to resources for those who have permission and easier management for those who monitor networks and activity.

For more information about ICAM and Zero Trust, contact us.