Perimeter security shortcomings are becoming more apparent as cybersecurity threats continue to rise for businesses of all sizes.
For this reason, IT teams are becoming increasingly motivated to adopt a Zero Trust security approach. Furthermore, today’s most common IT compliance regulations now include multiple elements of Zero Trust protocols (e.g., MFA, full-disk encryption, patch management).
More than half of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) said they were pursuing or planned to pursue a Zero Trust strategy, in late 2021. But adopting Zero Trust security is often easier said than done. Forrester pins full implementation at two to three years minimum.
For many businesses, knowing where to begin is the biggest hurdle. Every organizational infrastructure is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all implementation template. That’s where Zero Trust maturity assessments come in handy.
Why You Should Conduct a Zero Trust Maturity Assessment
Assessing an organization’s Zero Trust maturity is essential because it determines where it’s ahead of the game, where it’s behind, and what the next steps are to increase security posture.
Essentially, an assessment prevents organizations from focusing on the wrong priorities at the wrong times, and instead, sets them up for success.
A Zero Trust maturity assessment is the crucial groundwork for everything from leadership proposals to implementation planning to budgeting expectations. For these reasons, 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.
As you can see, any organization seeking to implement a Zero Trust model can benefit from conducting an assessment. So, what exactly does that look like?
How a Zero Trust Maturity Assessment Works
The Zero Trust maturity assessment should evaluate an organization’s maturity within five areas of Zero Trust:
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, 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.
Once you have gathered all of your information, IT management and executive leadership can work together to create a realistic plan of action.
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.
Interested in Zero Trust for compliance purposes? Our IT Compliance Quickstart Guide will walk you through how to prepare for an audit and how to boost your IT security baseline.