Zero Trust Browsing: Protecting Your Organization From User Error
Over the past couple of years, “Zero Trust” has become one of the most talked about topics in cybersecurity. It seems that, no matter what category of cybersecurity you’re discussing, the idea of zero trust has become inescapable. Despite the hype, the idea of zero trust isn’t just the latest buzzword. It represents a fundamental shift in the way we think about and approach cybersecurity, and it holds great promise for turning the tide back in favor of security teams and against threat actors.
As the core philosophy of zero trust matures, we’re beginning to see its implementation across a wide variety of contexts and environments. And one of the most significant of those emerging applications is in the realm of browsing security. With the browser’s newfound role as our primary window to work, security decision-makers would be wise to begin implementing zero-trust principles in the space.
The Zero Trust Philosophy At a Glance
Zero trust browsing security is a security model that assumes that all networks, devices, and users are untrusted, and access to resources is granted on a need-to-know basis. In other words, zero trust browsing security operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” This means that access to resources is only granted after a user has been authenticated and authorized, And their authentication and authorization is continuously validated after the access is granted.
How this philosophy is ultimately implemented, however, can vary widely. Depending on one’s network architecture and what one is trying to defend, the actual implementation of zero trust can vary. However, the core tenet, which assumes compromise, is proving both popular and useful across the cybersecurity landscape.
Why Browsing Security Matters Now More Than Ever
At this point, it should be clear to everyone that the rise of hybrid and remote work has fundamentally and irreversibly reshaped the cybersecurity landscape. With traditional notions of the enterprise perimeter having effectively evaporated, organizations the world over are struggling to remain secure in the face of unprecedented risk.
And as a result of these forces, the web browser has gone from just another application to employees’ primary gateway to work. As recently as 5 or 10 years ago, web browsing played an incredibly minor role in the workplace. Now, the average knowledge worker spends the lion’s share of every workday in a web browser. We email, chat, draft memos, conduct research, develop presentations, submit expense reports, and so much more, all within the confines of our preferred web browser.
As a result, the web browser has become an increasingly attractive target for malicious actors. In just the past year, the rate of browser-based attacks has skyrocketed, along with the volume and frequency of zero-days affecting web browsers. It comes as little surprise, then, that a recent survey of American and British CISOs found that insecure browsing was the number one concern of these leading professionals, regardless of whether their organization worked primarily remote, hybrid, or in-office.
Bringing Zero Trust to Web Browsing
Given this newfound focus on web browsing as an attack surface, it comes as no surprise that security professionals are working to implement zero trust in the browsing space. So what precisely does that look like?
Well, there is no one right answer, but the following steps and policies should provide a good start for any organization looking to shore up their browsing defenses in the spirit of zero trust:
- Authenticate user identity when accessing applications — Identity remains one of the most persistent challenges facing cybersecurity today. By requiring users to authenticate their identity whenever accessing vital applications, organizations are more likely to prevent malicious actors from accessing sensitive information or assets.
- Verify that any device connecting to a specific application is managed by the organization — With the proliferation of personal devices and the rise of distributed teams, checking the security of endpoint devices has become increasingly challenging and necessary. By allowing only managed devices to access sensitive applications, organizations can ensure that unsanctioned and unprotected devices do not gain access to sensitive information or network architecture.
- Check a user’s geo-location when accessing a given application — This helps to ensure that users accessing organizational resources are who they say they are. If, for example, all of your employees live in the United States, someone trying to access an organization’s network using an IP address based in India, you can rest assured that this individual should not be accessing whatever they’re attempting to access.
- Check device diagnostics of the user when accessing a given application — Device diagnostics provide an invaluable window into the inner workings of a given endpoint. By monitoring or checking these diagnostics before granting a user access to a given application, organizations can more reliably identify suspicious or anomalous behavior and conditions/setting, which can lead to compromise.
Additional measures for implementing zero trust browsing include:
- Proactively assessing security posture, and identifying and patching any known vulnerabilities.
- Identifying which resources are considered sensitive and defining strict access policies for those resources, employing the principle of least privilege (PoLP) — which states a user should only be given those privileges which are absolutely necessary to their function, and no more.
- Monitoring and analyzing user activity in real-time to identify any suspicious or anomalous behavior.
Other ways organizations can seek to uphold zero trust browsing security include: regularly updating security policies and access controls; providing security awareness training for users; and enabling two-factor authentication for users. At the end of the day, these are just some of the countless different ways in which organizations can apply zero trust principles to their
The Benefits of Zero Trust Browsing
Zero trust browsing security offers organizations a variety of benefits, chief among them being a dramatically improved security posture. Zero trust browsing ensures that, even if a user is exposed to a security threat, compromise to the company’s sensitive assets and resources can be prevented.
Zero Trust also helps to provide higher visibility into end users’ activity — allowing organizations to increase productivity, optimize workflows, and identify anomalous activity that could be compromising the organization’s security posture.
However, at the end of the day, highly stringent security philosophies (like Zero Trust) are often challenging to implement. By virtue of setting a high bar for security, many organizations looking to implement zero trust quickly find that doing so comes with significant costs. This usually manifests itself as increased workload and overhead for security professionals and administrators; less flexibility for end users; and reduced productivity as a result of restrictive policies interrupting regular workflows.
Red Access Makes Zero Trust Browsing a Breeze
However, there is a way to avoid these tradeoffs. With Red Access, you can enjoy true zero trust browsing security, without sacrificing the user experience. By allowing users to access the resources they need without having to worry about their security, organizations ensure improved productivity and fewer costly incidents. Users can access resources from any device without having to install any additional software or worry about security updates, which makes life easier for end users and admins alike.
Red Access is the only fully agentless, secure browsing solution that works across any browser or device — meaning your organization can enjoy the benefits of a zero trust browsing experience, with minimal administrative overhead and zero disruption to the user experience.
Moreover, Red Access is the only secure browsing solution to secure every single web session, inside the browser and out. In a SaaS-first world, not all web browsing happens inside a browser. With numerous web and desktop applications allowing users to initiate web connections, it’s imperative that your secure browsing solution protects users inside the browser and out.
Want to see zero-trust browsing in action for yourself? Start your free trial of Red Access today.