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Embracing ‘zero trust’: A new era in cybersecurity

June 21, 2023

Joel A. Humphrey, CPA, CA shared this article

ARTICLE | June 21, 2023

As the digital landscape evolves, so too does the threat landscape. The shift toward decentralized networks, cloud computing and increased mobile access has significantly changed how companies need to approach cybersecurity. Today, the traditional perimeter-based security approach is no longer enough to protect systems and data. “Zero trust” is a comprehensive approach to security that operates on the principle of "never trust, always verify."

This perspective is why the zero-trust model is gaining popularity in specific industries and sectors such as government, health care and energy. A great example is the executive memorandum published in June 2022 by the federal Office of Management and Budget that “sets forth a Federal zero trust architecture (ZTA) strategy, requiring agencies to meet specific cybersecurity standards and objectives by the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 in order to reinforce the Government’s defenses against increasingly sophisticated and persistent threat campaigns.”

The essence of zero trust

Zero trust is not a product or a service; it's a philosophy and a strategy supported by people, process and technology. The “never trust, always verify” approach argues against the automatic trust of anything within an organization's network perimeters, insisting that everything trying to connect to a system must be verified before access is granted.

This model emphasizes features such as least-privilege access, micro-segmentation of networks, human and system identity and access management (IAM), and continuous monitoring and security analytics. These components ensure that only the right people have the right access at the right time, and even then, their activities are continuously monitored for any suspicious behavior.

Zero trust and cloud security

As more businesses transition to the cloud, maintaining secure access to resources becomes increasingly critical. In a cloud environment, the traditional network perimeter dissolves, making the zero-trust model's emphasis on verifying every access request, regardless of source, even more relevant.

Cloud security solutions supporting zero trust often provide features such as micro-segmentation, data encryption, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and security configuration management. These tools ensure that your cloud resources are segmented, encrypted, monitored and securely configured, thereby reducing the risk of data breaches.

In an era where cyber threats are continually evolving, zero trust offers an effective strategy to protect your organization.

Identity and access management

A critical component of zero-trust architecture, IAM is employed to identify, authenticate, and authorize individuals or groups to have access to specific applications, systems, or networks, based on their identities.

IAM plays a key role in supporting the zero-trust model by implementing multifactor authentication, least-privilege access, identity governance and risk-based authentication. By integrating these features, your organization can add significant protection to your networks and data, ensuring people have only access when and where they need it.

The road to zero trust: Risks and challenges

While the benefits of a zero-trust architecture are substantial, implementing this approach is not without challenges and potential risks. Operational disruption, significant upfront costs, complexity of implementation, compatibility issues with legacy systems, potential impact on user experience, lack of requisite skills and knowledge, and the need for continuous monitoring and adaptation are among the potential obstacles.

However, with the right guidance and support, businesses can manage these challenges effectively.

Plotting a course to navigate zero trust

RSM US LLP’s experienced cybersecurity advisors have developed an effective framework to provide you with a confident direction on your path to zero trust, mitigating associated risks and removing much of the complexity. The elements of the framework include:

  1. Minimizing operational disruption: Our team helps design a phased implementation strategy, ensuring a smooth transition with minimal disruption to your operations.
  2. Optimizing costs: We help identify the best-fit solutions that align with your budget and offer the highest return on investment, considering both the upfront costs and the long-term benefits of reduced security incidents.
  3. Reducing complexity: With our deep cybersecurity experience, we can simplify zero-trust implementation. We'll help you understand your current security posture, design a zero-trust architecture tailored to your needs, and assist with its implementation.
  4. Managing legacy systems: We understand the challenges posed by legacy systems. Our team can devise strategies to incorporate these systems into the zero-trust architecture or suggest secure alternatives where necessary.
  5. Balancing security and user experience: Implementing zero trust doesn’t mean compromising user experience. We help you find the right balance between security and usability, ensuring employees can work efficiently while maintaining robust security.
  6. Transferring skills and knowledge: Our zero-trust professionals provide training to your IT staff, equipping them with the necessary skills to manage and adapt to the new architecture. We also ensure knowledge transfer to help your team understand and adapt to the new security environment.
  7. Continuous monitoring and adaptation: The cybersecurity landscape is continuously evolving, and so must your security strategy. We provide you with tools and strategies to perform ongoing monitoring and adapt to new threats, ensuring your zero-trust architecture remains effective and up to date.

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This article was written by David Llorens and originally appeared on Jun 21, 2023 RSM Canada, and is available online at

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