Why Assess Your Zero Trust Maturity?

Written by Kate Lake on April 19, 2022

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For most IT professionals, Zero Trust security isn’t a new concept. It was introduced over 10 years ago and gained significant traction as the better alternative to perimeter security for protecting modern, cloud-based, and work-from-anywhere environments. As the shortcomings of perimeter security become more apparent and cybersecurity threats to businesses of all sizes rise, IT teams have become increasingly aware of the need for a Zero Trust approach. In a late 2021 survey, more than half of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) said they were pursuing or planned to pursue a Zero Trust security strategy.

But, as many IT admins have come to realize, adopting Zero Trust is usually easier said than done. Planning a Zero Trust initiative can be difficult: Forrester pins it at about two to three years, with the potential for it to take even longer. And for many businesses, knowing where to begin can be the biggest hurdle. Every organization’s infrastructure is different, which means every Zero Trust rollout will be different; there’s no one-size-fits-all implementation template. 

That’s where the Zero Trust maturity assessment comes in. Assessing an organization’s Zero Trust maturity determines its current state in terms of its Zero Trust security posture. It helps clear the confusion around Zero Trust by revealing where it’s ahead, where it’s behind, what its Zero Trust path should look like, and what it needs to do to get there. 

In short, the Zero Trust maturity assessment sets the stage for planning, advocating for, and executing a successful Zero Trust implementation rollout. Because it is so fundamental to a successful Zero Trust program, Forrester identifies the Zero Trust maturity assessment as the first step in a Zero Trust implementation. 

Who Should Conduct a Zero Trust Maturity Assessment?

Establishing a Zero Trust maturity baseline is useful for:

  • Organizations that haven’t committed to a full Zero Trust implementation yet. Learning how mature their Zero Trust architecture is can help them gauge how pressing the need is for further Zero Trust initiatives.
  • IT teams looking to gain buy-in from leadership. Demonstrating that an organization has poor security posture can underscore the need for a Zero Trust program. IT teams can use maturity assessment results to show leadership how vulnerable the organization is and contextualize its lack of security progress. This can be especially compelling when compared to industry competitors’ progress. 
  • Organizations wondering what it would take to become Zero Trust compliant. Often, IT professionals working in organizations with limited budgets and resources are interested in adopting Zero Trust security but unsure whether they have the resources to do so. Determining how mature the organization’s Zero Trust security architecture is to begin with reveals what it would take to become Zero Trust compliant. This can help with resource allocation and roadmap planning. 
  • Organizations ready to plan a Zero Trust initiative. The Zero Trust maturity assessment is essential to planning a successful Zero Trust implementation. The baseline it provides allows IT admins to develop a customized Zero Trust roadmap that:
  • Expands upon Zero Trust elements partially in place. For example, many organizations use multi-factor authentication (MFA) at least sometimes; expanding this to encompass more devices and accounts can be a great way to make Zero Trust progress.
  • Skips past elements the organization has already implemented fully and effectively. Identifying what’s already Zero Trust compliant at the outset avoids double work, optimizing time and resources. 
  • Identifies and prioritizes highly vulnerable areas. Highlighting priority areas can alleviate the paralysis of having too many things to do and no direction on where to start. 
  • Is realistic and cost-effective. Understanding what needs to be done removes hypotheticals from the planning process, allowing the organization to plan for specifics, including tasks, timelines, and costs.

How a Zero Trust Maturity Assessment Works

The Zero Trust maturity assessment should evaluate an organization’s maturity within five areas of Zero Trust: 

  • Identities.
  • Devices.
  • Workloads.
  • Networks.
  • Data.

Organizations rarely have to start from scratch in every area of Zero Trust; they most likely have some Zero Trust implementations at least partly in place, even if they don’t realize it. 

Further, organizations advance through the stages of Zero Trust differently — one may have matured its identity and access management (IAM) system before its mobile device management (MDM) platform, while another may have started with device and network security. Sectioning Zero Trust maturity into these five categories helps break the planning process into manageable increments and isolate areas that need the most attention.

After the Assessment: Next Steps

According to Forrester’s Practical Guide to a Zero Trust Implementation, the next steps after determining an organization’s Zero Trust maturity are:

  • Understanding the business’s current initiatives — security, and otherwise. This helps IT admins plan a Zero Trust rollout that accommodates and leverages business realities. A proposal that takes larger business operations into account is more likely to receive leadership’s approval and succeed.
  • Identifying areas to leverage or expand upon current capabilities. Finding ways to use existing infrastructure helps optimize costs and resources — which can also earn points with leadership come proposal time.
  • Establishing Zero Trust goals and time frames. After establishing the organization’s current state, IT can establish goals and milestones for Zero Trust progress. This becomes a custom template for the Zero Trust roadmap.

Start with an Interactive Assessment

Just like a Zero Trust implementation, assessing your organization’s Zero Trust maturity can be easier said than done. Fortunately, there are quick and easy ways to gauge your organization’s maturity that don’t require a manual, time-intensive audit. JumpCloud developed a free assessment that will give you an immediate maturity score. It only takes a few minutes — take the assessment now to see where you stand. 

Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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