Why Does It Really Matter? In today's digital-first world, how does it matter?

Why Does It Really Matter? In today's digital-first world, how does it matter? ...

Access is becoming an increasingly important part of daily life. From disarming and re-arming my house alarm with a code, unlocking and starting my vehicle with a key fob, to logging onto my laptop with a biometric like fingerprint touch, to joining my first workday meeting with a secure Microsoft Teams or Zoom link, Ive already gone through a dozen different methods of access control.

Access (particularly controlling access) is at its finest the ability to grant, deny, or restrain entry to something, whether it be your car, house, bank account, mobile phone, or just about anything else in today's digital-first world.

Let's get to know apps for a moment. They are at the core of our daily digital existence. By 2023, the mobile app market is expected to generate $935 billion in revenue. Perhaps it's not surprising considering that the average person uses around 10 apps per day on their smartphone.

Today's businesses are increasingly dependent on apps to both drive their business and support it. And think of all the people who may access these business apps from their mobile phones or their homes. With today's hybrid work environment, not to mention a hybrid-cloud-powered one, managing all of these different apps (let alone securing and controlling access to them) has become increasingly complex.

The most serious web threats today require a zero-trust strategy.

Were aware that with all the benefits of digital transformation, there are also new hazards to consider. But there are serious consequences today for businesses, their employees, and their customers as this risk increasingly centers around bad actors targeting user identity and access. There are many sources out there to help highlight the dangers of this issue.

Attacks on a users identity have an impact on businesses across the world and across industries, although financial, IT, and manufacturing are the most affected. This, combined with the prevalence of broken access controls, makes it critical to adopt a zero-trust security strategy.

Never trust, always verify.

Never trust, always verify is a zero-trust strategy for today's hybrid cloud, hybrid work, and hybrid access scenarios. Securing access to all apps and resources, eliminating implicit trust, and granting least privileged access are all tenets of a zero-trust model. It's a violation of the principle of least privilege or deny by default, where access should be granted to anyone.

One of the biggest challenges businesses will face when it comes to avoiding this vulnerability is extending a zero-trust app access model across all their applications, particularly their legacy and custom ones. Some organizations can have anywhere from hundreds to thousands of legacy and custom apps that are vital to their daily operations.

Many of these apps (custom applications, long-running applications from vendors like SAP and Oracle, and legacy systems) utilize legacy protocol methods like Kerberos or HTTP headers for authentication. These apps often do not or cannot support modern authentication methods like SAML or OAuth or OIDC. It is often costly and time-consuming to try and modernize the authentication and authorization for these particular apps.

Many companies do not support multifactor authentication (MFA), which means users must manage different credentials and various forms of authentication and access for all their different applications. This perpetuates the cycle of potential credential theft and misuse. There are also additional costs for the business to operate, manage, and maintain different authentication and authorization platforms.

How can we achieve zero-trust access in the hybrid enterprise?

Modern authentication is critical to ensuring per-request, context-and identity-based access control in support of a zero-trust strategy. One of the most critical steps an organization can take to avoid the violation of least privilege is to enable never trust, always verify (per-request, context-and identity-based app access).

For extending modern auth capabilities like SSO and MFA to every app in the portfolio, including legacy and custom ones, it is difficult for the majority of businesses to modernize all of their existing or custom authentication methods.

The ability to take advantage of all of the innovation happening in the cloud with IDaaS providers as well as the improvements that come with OAuth and OIDC frameworks, all without having to modernize apps immediately, is a game changer for the business. It allows the employees to remain productive and confident, no matter where they are located.

A holistic zero-trust strategy goes beyond access.

In order to take a truly holistic zero-trust strategy, organizations must go beyond access and identity alone. That's because zero trust is the epitome of a layered security strategy. There are many security technologies that must be included in a zero-trust environment.

A zero-trust strategy and delivering a zero-trust architecture are best achieved through a continuous implementation of zero-trust principles, processes, and technological solutions (across various vendors) to protect data and business functions based off core business scenarios.

This zero-trust approach requires a different perspective and attitude on security, especially when it comes to access. Zero trust should, at best, complement what is already in place to secure and control access in your current environment.

Businesses will need to guard against advanced threats, including encrypted threats (especially since 90% of todays traffic is encrypted). Apps must also be audited, including how they are performing, how secure they are, and the context within which they are accessed. This also includes protecting APIs which have become increasingly too easily accessible and accessible for attackers.

All that said, what steps can you take to begin your holistic zero-trust journey? There are a few simple steps you and your organization can take to begin your holistic zero-trust journey:

In today's digital-first world, it may seem overwhelming to manage access and secure applications. But it doesnt have to be. If you start by enabling secure, least-privileged access to all of your apps, you can then begin phasing in a zero-trust strategy across your entire organization.

F5's principal product marketer, access control & authorization is Erin Verna.

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