Why in news:  In response to rising cyberattacks, the Centre has established a secure e-mail system for 10,000 users across critical ministries and departments. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has designed this system, incorporating Zero Trust Authentication (ZTA).

What is Zero Trust Authentication (ZTA)?

  • ZTA is a security concept and framework that operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.”
  • This approach to cybersecurity is a significant shift from traditional security models that operated under the assumption that everything inside an organization’s network should be trusted.
  • In contrast, Zero Trust assumes that trust is never granted implicitly but must be continually evaluated and authenticated, regardless of the user’s location or the network’s perimeter.

Key Principles of ZTA

  • Least Privilege Access: Users are granted only the minimum level of access needed to perform their job functions. This limits the potential damage in case of a security breach.
  • Strict User Verification: Every user, whether inside or outside the organization’s network, must be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted access to applications and data.
  • Micro-segmentation: The network is divided into small zones to maintain separate access for separate parts of the network. If one segment is breached, the others remain secure.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): ZTA often requires multiple pieces of evidence to authenticate a user’s identity. This could include something the user knows (password), something the user has (security token), and something the user is (biometric verification).
  • Continuous Monitoring and Validation: The system continuously monitors and validates that the traffic and data are secure and that the user’s behaviour aligns with the expected patterns.

Implementation of Zero Trust Authentication

  • Technology: Implementation of Zero Trust requires technologies like identity and access management (IAM), data encryption, endpoint security, and network segmentation tools.
  • Policy and Governance: Organizations need to establish comprehensive security policies that enforce Zero Trust principles, including how data is accessed and protected.
  • User Education and Awareness: Training users on the importance of cybersecurity and the role they play in maintaining it is crucial.

Benefits of Zero Trust Authentication

  • Enhanced Security Posture: By verifying every user and device, Zero Trust reduces the attack surface and mitigates the risk of internal threats.
  • Data Protection: Sensitive data is better protected through stringent access controls and encryption.
  • Compliance: Helps in meeting regulatory requirements by providing detailed logs and reports on user activities and data access.
  • Adaptability: Zero Trust is adaptable to a variety of IT environments, including cloud and hybrid systems.