Zero Trust has become one of cybersecurity’s biggest buzzwords, but what does it mean? In short, Zero Trust assumes that all users and devices are insecure until proven otherwise and then implements the security architecture to support that. This concept is a significant departure from the traditional network security approach of the past, which trusted users within the network perimeter and looked for signs of risk.

Zero Trust principles better fit today’s cybersecurity landscape, which seemingly grows more dangerous by the day. In 2021 alone, there were 1,862 successful data breaches, up nearly double from the year prior, and organizations, on average, were hit by 925 attacks a week. These attacks cost organizations an average of $4.24 million to recover from, according to research by IBM and the Ponemon Institute. For an SMB, these attacks pose a genuine threat to their ability to serve their customers — or even stay in business at all.

This threat landscape is rising because of the increasing severity of attackers and a more complicated landscape for SMBs to protect, including devices and users that may be connecting anywhere in the world to company networks or leveraging cloud or hybrid cloud environments. This is exactly the dynamic that Zero Trust aims to address for SMBs and other businesses.

In practice, Zero Trust looks like an SMB implementing a security architecture where users and devices (no matter where they come from) are authenticated and authorized to meet security standards and policies. Only then are they given access to corporate applications and data. Instead of a single point-of-time exercise to get past a company firewall, these security configurations and postures are also continuously validated to ensure they haven’t changed over time.

These efforts provide particular resilience against ransomware, which has proven to be a particularly growing threat for businesses everywhere with a shocking 13 percent rise year over year, according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Report. Some of these landmark attacks in 2021 include the attacks on the Colonial Pipeline, meatpacking company JBS Foods, National Basketball Association, insurer CNA, Kaseya, and other organizations. When implemented effectively, Zero Trust principles help limit the spread of ransomware inside an organization, limit downtime and protect an SMB’s most critical assets.

Implementing Zero Trust isn’t an overnight activity but rather a philosophy that builds a security strategy around granting the least number of necessary privileges, always requiring continuous verification and monitoring for signs of change. This can include implementing risk-based conditional access, scalable policy deployment, identity-based segmentation, least privileged access, endpoint detection, and other factors.

The outcome of these efforts over time for an SMB can include a better ability to protect against today’s latest threats and limit the blast radius of an attack should one successfully breach the environment. SMBs that work towards Zero Trust principles inside their organization can expect to see increased cybersecurity resilience and ensure that they are protecting their organizations in a modern way against today’s threats.