How to Overcome Zero Trust System Obstacles (and Make Small Improvements)

Written by Ashley Gwilliam on August 31, 2022

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Zero Trust.

One may expect to hear the term in a rendition of “Long John Silver”; the rallying cry of a pirate gang leader expressing his wariness at the supposed loyalty of his crew members, perhaps. 

However, for those working in IT departments, Zero Trust conjures images of secure network perimeters. Zero Trust is now the mothership of network protocol standards. While organizations of all sizes scramble to get aboard, most are still on the outside looking in. 

According to a 2022 JumpCloud-sponsored survey, nearly 59% of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are “pursuing or planning to pursue” a Zero Trust security program. But only 23% of SMEs have already adopted Zero Trust. 

Are you stuck making do with old technology? Understandably, executives are reluctant to invest in new systems when old ones work “fine.” After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

8 Tips to Overcome Zero Trust System Incompatibility Issues

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On-prem systems are often the best option for many industries — healthcare, telecom, public sector, banking, and finance — but they aren’t always Zero Trust-friendly. 

So, let’s take a closer look at how to handle systems that were never designed to support Zero Trust best practices. This short guide outlines common IT obstacles that prevent Zero Trust adoption and presents practical ideas for overcoming them.

We recommend slowly integrating new systems and tools as you move from one Zero Trust stage to the next. Adopt one or several of the following measures to make strides toward your ultimate security objectives:

1. Use the 3-2-1 Backup Rule 

The 3-2-1 Backup Rule is a data backup and storage practice that can help SMEs overcome system incompatibility obstacles with Zero Trust. The rule states that you should have three copies of your data stored on two different media types, with one copy off-site. 

Following this rule can protect your data from various threats, including hardware failures, software corruption, and malicious attacks. In a disaster, you can quickly and easily restore your data from a backup. Additionally, storing backups on both local and cloud-based storage systems ensures your data is always available, even if one system goes offline.

2. Upgrade Tool Plans for Increased Functionality

Sometimes, upgrading your tool plans can go a long way in ensuring that you have the proper framework to implement Zero Trust. Suppose a health clinic, KliniK X, is a customer of Ackxes Grant, a vendor that offers identity management services and device management solutions as premium tools.

Suppose KliniK X employs the device management option solely to enable file access. In this case, it trusts that every device registered by the security system is being operated by an employee with access to that information.

So, a clinic receptionist who uses a company-recognized device to schedule appointments can just as easily open and examine patient or financial files as a doctor or financial officer. A simple plan upgrade that permits the proper devices and people to access specified information can solve this problem.

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3. Request Customized Solutions from Vendors

Sometimes, SMEs find implementing a Zero Trust system challenging because the available solutions do not fit their needs.

You can request an additional feature from your vendor in such cases.

For example, suppose KliniK X uses an in-house electronic health record (EHR) system that stores patient data. The clinic wants to allow patients to access their records through a patient portal but finds that the EHR system somehow doesn’t support this functionality — perhaps because Ackxes Grant does not allow any device other than those registered to company employees to access the company’s network and view those files.

KliniK X could request that Ackxex Grant create a custom solution to enable patients to access their records through the patient portal through other verification methods. By doing so, KliniK X could overcome the system incompatibility obstacle and provide its patients with the self-service access they need. And who knows, Ackxes Grant might find that this is not a unique problem to KliniK X, and maybe the solution will be readily available to other customers.

4. Switch Tools

Switching tools is another way to overcome system incompatibility obstacles when all else fails. This is often a decision that executives hesitate to sanction. This can arise from concerns about investment costs, downtime costs during the migration, or the time needed to learn how to use new tools.

But sometimes, switching is the best decision for your company — especially if the current tools are no longer practical or supported. When switching tools, it’s essential to be mindful of a few things:

Avoid Vendor Lock-In 

Vendor lock-in is a common problem in the tech industry. It occurs when a customer becomes so dependent on a vendor’s product that switching to another vendor becomes very difficult and expensive. 

This can arise from technical dependencies, such as data format incompatibility, or business practices, such as lengthy and costly contract terms. Ensure you avoid a vendor who locks you into their system when shopping for a solutions partner. 

Research

Take the time to vet your new vendor thoroughly. Ensure they have a good reputation and that other companies in your industry have succeeded with their products.

Also, take note of their pricing model and see that it makes the most sense for your finances. Some vendors may charge high upfront costs, while others have low upfront costs but require a monthly subscription fee. There’s no correct answer here — it depends on what model is more helpful for your company in the long run.

Test Drive

Many vendors provide an option for a free trial with limited features. So, always test the new system before fully committing to it. This will help you catch any potential problems early on and avoid unnecessary costs, downtime, or data loss during migration to an inappropriate vendor.

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5. Strategize to Mitigate Risk

Before adopting a Zero Trust framework, SMEs can take proactive steps to reduce their risk exposure. The first step in this process is to assess what risks they could be exposed to and devise a plan to avoid or mitigate them.

General steps they could take to mitigate risk include migrating sensitive data into a more secure solution, such as a private cloud or an on-premises data center. By doing this, SMEs can significantly reduce their attack surface and make it more difficult for attackers to access sensitive data. 

In addition, SMEs can also take steps to improve their incident response capabilities by investing in security awareness training for employees and establishing clear protocols for dealing with security incidents.

Businesses could also implement user authentication and activity monitoring to detect and prevent malicious activity.

6. Quarantine Outdated Systems 

Another way to reduce risk is to quarantine outdated systems that can’t be easily updated or replaced. Isolate these systems from the rest of the network using a Demilitarized Zone or microsegmentation. Doing this can protect the network from attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in outdated systems.

7. Enable Remote Lock and Wipe

An easy way to mitigate risk is by enabling remote lock and wipe on devices that contain company data. This feature allows organizations to lock a device if lost or stolen remotely and wipe all company data off it.

This ensures that company data does not fall into the wrong hands and is critical to any data security strategy. While remote lock and wipe is certainly not a cure-all for every data security risk, it’s an important step that SMEs can take toward fully implementing a Zero Trust strategy.

8. Tighten Access Controls 

Tightening access controls is another way to reduce risk and improve security. By implementing a least privilege model, IT teams can ensure that users only have access to the data and systems they need to do their job.

This minimizes the chances of accidental or malicious misuse of company data and helps to make sure that only authorized users have access to sensitive information. In addition, organizations should consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all users.

This adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to log in and provide a password and other forms of identification, such as a fingerprint or code from a physical token. Implementing these controls can help SMEs close security gaps and make it more difficult for attackers to access company data.

Consolidate with JumpCloud

Imagine what it would feel like going to bed at night knowing you’ve done everything you can to protect your company’s most valuable asset — its data.

Remember: Zero Trust is a journey, not a destination. And like every literal and metaphorical journey, every single step counts. Translation: you need not replace everything at once. Our Ultimate Guide to Implementing Zero Trust in an Imperfect World provides a walk-through on:

  • How to deploy a Zero Trust model.
  • What problems to expect along the way.
  • How to fuel cloud adoption through Zero Trust. 
  • And how to develop a security framework where trust isn’t a passcode.

Click here to download the guide OR sign up for your free JumpCloud account within seconds — the first 10 users and 10 devices are always free!

Ashley Gwilliam

Ashley Gwilliam is a Content Writer for JumpCloud. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from on-camera acting to interviewing NBA basketball players to ghostwriting for CEOs. Today she writes about tech, startups, and remote work. In her analog life, she is on a quest to find the world's best tacos.

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