Learn about 4 approaches to comprehensive security that help leaders be fearless

By Emma Jones

The last 18 months have put unprecedented pressure on organizations to speed up their digital transformation as remote and hybrid work continue to become the new normal. Yet even with all the change and uncertainty, having the right security support system in place means your organization can still move forward confidently to turn your vision into reality. I’ve seen our customers demonstrate this fearlessness every day, and I love learning from them as we stand together against ongoing threats.
According to the Microsoft Zero Trust Adoption report,1 security is the top concern for organizations moving to hybrid work, and it’s the number one reason that security professionals are adopting a Zero Trust approach. According to the report, only 31 percent of organizations that reported being ahead with their Zero Trust implementation were impacted by NOBELIUM, the perpetrators of the SolarWinds attack.2 Compare that to the 75 percent negatively affected by this devastating cyberattack that reported lagging behind in their Zero Trust implementation.

Figure 1: Negative impacts of cyberattacks in relation to Zero Trust implementation.
Knowing that your organization is protected from such threats, both external and internal, helps build the confidence you need to succeed. Zero Trust is a strategy that will help you get there. At Microsoft Security, we’re embracing the new reality of hybrid work by providing comprehensive security with best-in-breed coverage—driven by AI and simplified for easy management—so you can be fearless in the pursuit of your vision. In this blog, I’ll share some of our customers’ stories and how they’ve empowered their teams to move forward with confidence during this time of unprecedented change.
1. Comprehensive means coverage of your entire environment
Microsoft unifies security, compliance, identity, and management to help you improve productivity and protect your entire digital estate. By providing an end-to-end solution, we’re able to integrate layers of protection across multiple clouds, platforms, endpoints, and devices—Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Workday, Salesforce, and more. This comprehensive approach reduces the risk of data breaches as well as compliance and privacy missteps. Once the user sets the polices, Microsoft solutions provide data governance that can help enact better security.

Figure 2: Microsoft Zero Trust architecture.
More than providing products and services, we collaborate with our customers to understand their environments and build solutions that fit their needs. One such collaboration was with Siemens where they moved from traditional on-premises security to a scalable, flexible solution to fit the company’s complex environment. Having built its reputation for innovation across diverse industries—energy, healthcare, industrial automation, building control systems, and more—research and development continues to play a vital role in the company’s success. For that reason, protecting the company’s staff and intellectual property is always top of mind. And with offices in 200 countries, managing cybersecurity amid a global landscape of shifting compliance and security regulations provides an ongoing challenge.
“There aren’t many vendors on the planet that can create a solution capable of providing consolidated insights into large, complex environments like ours. That’s why we chose Microsoft.”—Thomas Mueller-Lynch, Service Owner Lead, Digital Identity, Siemens.
“The sheer size of Siemens challenges us as to how we provide the best possible security,” explained Peter Stoll, Cybersecurity Officer and Program Lead for Zero Trust at Siemens IT Worldwide. “We like to make sure we get the benefits of emerging technologies.”
When Siemens decided to make the move from on-premises security to a Zero Trust approach, it turned to Microsoft Security. Their IT team implemented a range of security solutions through their Microsoft 365 subscriptions, including Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) with Conditional Access as a policy engine, Microsoft Information Protection, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, Microsoft Defender for Identity, and other solutions—creating a blueprint for ongoing security enhancements. “We chose the best of suite approach with the Microsoft 365 E5 solution,” explained Mueller-Lynch. “Now we have an overview of our environment that helps us react in real-time and defend against attacks proactively.”
2. Comprehensive isn’t just coverage—it’s best-in-breed protection
Today’s organization not only requires security coverage across their threat landscape but also the confidence that comes with knowing that your provider has a proven track record. Microsoft is a leader in five Gartner Magic Quadrants and eight Forrester Wave categories, and we ranked the highest in the MITRE Engenuity® ATT&CK Evaluations. Microsoft was also named a Leader in IDC MarketScape for Modern Endpoint Security. With best-in-breed protection across the Zero Trust security fundamentals shown in Figure 2, Microsoft provides a security safety net that’s not only comprehensive and fully integrated, but durable for the future. Microsoft’s comprehensive solution has innovation at its heart.
Duck Creek Technologies serves the global property and casualty insurance industry by providing cloud-based, software as a service (SaaS) solutions that help insurance carriers operate faster and smarter. When the company’s existing security information and event manager (SIEM) neared the limits of its processing capabilities, Duck Creek needed to upgrade without losing critical data or reducing its ability to detect threats. “Security is a very big part of how we’ve created the relationships we have with our illustrious list of customers,” says John Germain, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer, Duck Creek Technologies. “I wanted to be sure that the solution we shifted to was best-in-class. Because Microsoft steadily improves its products and solutions to stay ahead of competing offerings, I know we’re in good hands.”
Duck Creek made a quick and painless migration to both Microsoft Defender for Cloud and Microsoft Sentinel. The company also uses Microsoft Endpoint Manager to manage its mobile-device security policies. Combining this functionality, Duck Creek has created single-pane-of-glass visibility for its remote workforce. “We now have incredible visibility across our entire technology stack, all in one place,” says Germain.
3. Integration and AI power Zero Trust security
Like Siemens, shifting from on-premises security to a multi-layered Zero Trust approach required the investment platform company eToro to reassess its infrastructure. As a social investing platform with more than 17 million registered users across more than 100 countries, their IT team has a lot to cover. “When we were operating our traditional third-party antivirus in parallel with our Microsoft solutions, we noticed that Microsoft Defender for Endpoint was acting as our first barrier against attackers. And in 99 percent of incidents, it was the first to detect and act on threats,” says Shay Zakai, Director of Corporate IT, eToro.
That level of protection gave eToro the confidence to remove its third-party antivirus software and rely on Microsoft’s comprehensive, integrated layers for Zero Trust security. That native integration enables Microsoft’s intelligent tools to cut alert volume by 90 percent while automatically remediating up to 97 percent of endpoint attacks. Today, eToro makes ample use of multiple components within Microsoft Defender for Endpoint—threat and vulnerability management, attack surface reduction, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and automatic investigation and remediation—to protect their global operations.
“Microsoft Cloud App Security [Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps] gives us the ability to analyze and classify information from Google Workspace and our other third-party apps in conjunction with Microsoft’s compliance tools,” Zakai explains. “That level of information gives us the power to restrict activities and enforce regulations as we see fit.”
eToro also integrates Microsoft Intune, a component of Microsoft Endpoint Manager, for their mobile device and mobile application management. By adopting Microsoft’s integrated, AI-driven security, eToro not only automated threat detection and remediation but also increased mobility for employees while reducing their operating costs. “Because of our adoption of Intune and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, we had virtually no security concerns as we adapted to COVID-19,” says Zakai. “We were more than 90 percent ready to move to a work-from-home model on day one of the crisis.”
4. Simplicity is stronger
Most security professionals agree that security silos bring risks.3 Microsoft enables organizations to simplify and strengthen their security by consolidating up to 50 disparate products—integrating with other tools to streamline investigation and remediation. When MVP Healthcare decided to divest from the numerous redundant security licenses they’d been relying on, it turned to Microsoft Security for a simpler, more easily managed security posture. The company was using roughly 300 different vendor solutions, many of them designed for specialized functions, and Chief Information Officer (CIO) Michael Della Villa wanted to simplify.
After replacing their legacy security solutions with Microsoft Sentinel, Microsoft Defender for Cloud, Azure Firewall, and other Microsoft security solutions, MVP Healthcare’s IT team was freed up to concentrate on crucial tasks that require human attention. “Microsoft offers the cohesive solution we need,” Della Villa says. “We spent so much time trying to maintain the prior system that we weren’t actually using it. Now we easily get very detailed information from Microsoft Sentinel because it’s so well connected across all of our Microsoft solutions. The focus and clarity we’ve gained is a crucial benefit.”
MVP Healthcare also uses Microsoft Defender for Cloud to protect hybrid workloads. “Alerts from Microsoft Defender for Cloud, Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps, and other solutions are chained together in an actionable way,” adds MVP Healthcare cybersecurity consultant James Greene. “The entire security suite is seamlessly connected. We appreciate that because we can build a comprehensive policy for dealing with security issues in one place.”
As a global leader in technology manufacturing for IoT systems, machine automation, and embedded computing, Advantech found itself the target of a widely publicized ransomware attack in November 2020. The attack was limited to corporate network servers and was quickly mitigated, but it served as a wakeup call. Future threats could affect factory production, delay customer deliveries, lead to theft of sensitive intellectual property, and even result in safety risks.
“We did many proof of concepts (POCs) with many different vendors, but no one met our needs,” says Kevin Lin, IT Manager at Advantech. “We wanted a comprehensive solution to create better efficiency and visibility. We needed security without affecting efficiency on the client side, or requiring specialist installation and configuration by administrators. We decided on Microsoft.”
According to Kevin, Microsoft Security offers a distinct advantage in its holistic approach to services and security. “Other solutions were a little siloed, specialized, and required individual testing—both for the product and support,” he says. “Many didn’t adequately address operational technology (OT) requirements for manufacturing plants, and we recognized that Advantech’s environment called for a comprehensive solution like Microsoft Security, not a collection of solutions.”
Advantech’s security team is now looking to further raise visibility into their IoT and OT risk with agentless, network-layer security provided by Microsoft Defender for IoT—including asset discovery, vulnerability management, and continuous threat monitoring with anomaly detection. “We didn’t have staff dedicated to figuring out our security situation in our manufacturing plants (where IT security isn’t their specialty),” Kevin says. “This attack alerted senior management that they needed to deploy OT security monitoring in our factory networks as well.”
Helping you be fearless
Across the world with organizations of all sizes, from startups to multinational corporations, we see security teams behind the scenes quietly being fearless in achieving their goals. Despite the threats they face daily, these unsung leaders bravely continue the journey of helping their organizations digitally transform. They and you are the reason we want to show up for this important work. By providing not just comprehensive security, but best-in-breed protection with deep intelligence and simplified experiences—Microsoft Security is right there beside you. We want to help you secure everything and be fearless, and turn your vision into reality. To hear from our customers in their own words, visit Customer Stories to learn more. We look forward to our journey together, being fearless, and empowering each other to thrive!
To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

1Zero Trust Adoption Report, Microsoft Security, Hypothesis Group 2021. July 2021.
2The hunt for NOBELIUM, the most sophisticated nation-state attack in history, John Lambert, Microsoft Security. 10 November 2021.
3Why Security Can’t Live In A Silo, Douglas Albert, Forbes Technology Council, Forbes. 5 October 2020.

Microsoft Zero Trust solutions deliver 92 percent return on investment, says new Forrester study

By Pooja Parab

In the last two years, we’ve seen a staggering increase in the adoption of cloud-based services, remote work solutions, bring your own device (BYOD), and IoT devices as organizations digitally transform themselves to enable a hybrid workforce.1 Zero Trust has become the essential security strategy for successfully preventing data breaches and mitigating risk in today’s complex cybersecurity landscape.

Implementing a Zero Trust security strategy, however, is a significant undertaking that requires in-depth planning, cross-company collaboration, and resources. Organizations need solutions that simplify and accelerate the adoption of Zero Trust by offering flexibility, integration, and a meaningful return on investment.

In the commissioned study The Total Economic ImpactTM of Zero Trust solutions from Microsoft, Forrester Consulting reports that adoption of Microsoft solutions to implement a Zero Trust security strategy delivers:

A three-year 92 percent return on investment (ROI) with a payback period of fewer than six months.  A 50 percent lower chance of a data breach. Numerous efficiency gains of 50 percent or higher across security processes.

To better understand the benefits, costs, and risks associated with this investment, Forrester Consulting interviewed eight decision-makers with experience using Microsoft Security solutions to implement a Zero Trust security strategy. These customers were able to improve their security posture, reduce costs, achieve greater business agility, and increase efficiency in managing security. 

Improved security posture 

Data breaches can be incredibly costly as organizations work to recover their environment and brand reputation. Forrester found that by adopting Microsoft security solutions for their Zero Trust strategy, organizations were able to reduce not only the risk of a breach but also the potential for regulatory violations. Customers also reported significant improvements in their security postures since beginning their journeys, a reduction of shadow IT, and increased compliance by meeting various regulatory requirements. 

Enhanced security reduced the risk of a data breach by 50 percent. Improved authentication, network, and endpoint security protocols coupled with increased visibility into the network allowed organizations to better protect themselves from data breaches. And with network segmentation, financial losses were contained in the event of a breach.

“[Implementing strong authentication strategies has] allowed us to provide our employees with a better, more secure environment.”—Principal Architect, Logistics

Reduced cost 

A comprehensive adoption of Zero Trust involves a significant transformation of the entire security strategy—and with it, a restructuring of costs. By eliminating legacy systems and improving processes, organizations uncover significant cost savings opportunities across the entire cybersecurity organization.  

With Microsoft Security solutions, customers were able to simplify their security strategy and retire unnecessary legacy software and infrastructure, resulting in cost savings of over USD7 million. This eliminates redundant security solutions delivered on average a $20 per employee per month savings.

Process efficiencies also led to cost savings. Calls placed to IT and help desk analysts decreased by 50 percent over a three-year period. The mean time to resolve (MTTR) per inquiry also decreased by 15 percent, leading to a total net present value (NPV) of USD1,773,095 over the three years. In addition, advanced audit and discovery capabilities in the Microsoft solution stack reduced the resources required for audit and compliance management by 25 percent, saving USD2 million NPV.

Greater business agility  

A simplified security architecture through Zero Trust improves business agility. Through efficient system management and user access, organizations can move quickly to pursue business opportunities, and support remote work while managing risk.

Microsoft Security solutions reduced the effort required to provision and secure new infrastructure by 80 percent through automated provisioning of new systems, from SQL servers to virtual machines for new applications. The time required to provision new infrastructure went from several months to days. Meanwhile, workers improved their productivity through better access. Frontline workers gained efficient access to business-critical applications and systems of record, saving them an average of 30 minutes per week.  

With many of the Microsoft solutions that support Zero Trust available on a software as a service (SaaS) basis, organizations can quickly expand or contract their environment without needing to purchase additional hardware or dedicate resources to implement changes. 

“[Using Microsoft security solutions] has allowed us to focus more on our future as opposed to worrying about infrastructure.”—Identity Engineer, Manufacturing 

Efficient security management  

Most organizations dedicate too much time to triaging, investigating, and remediating alerts. A simplified Zero Trust security framework can reduce management time, both by cutting down the number of security incidents and by improving security response. 

Customers that had implemented Microsoft’s Zero Trust security framework reported a 50 percent reduction in management time due to improved security processes. Security teams were able to provision and secure new infrastructure 80 percent more quickly and accelerate the process to set up users on new devices. They were able to more quickly remediate security issues using built-in automation in Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft Sentinel, Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), and Microsoft 365 Defender.

“Azure AD has definitely allowed us to become more agile. We can make changes on a dime. Whereas, with our legacy system, product changes were far more cumbersome and painful. With our previous identity and access management (IAM) solution, we often had to write custom code and update our IAM solution across multiple data centers [and] then troubleshoot any problems. With Azure AD, everything is handled by Microsoft. This has allowed us to free up some of our resources and dedicate them to migrating our remaining applications to Azure AD.”—Principal Architect of Technical Services, Logistics Firm

Embrace proactive security with the Microsoft Zero Trust framework 

Zero Trust is the essential security strategy in today’s hybrid work environment. A complicated IT landscape of remote and group office users introduces more digital attack surfaces and risk, as perimeters are increasingly fluid. With security products and services that verify explicitly, grant least privileged access, and assume breaches, the Microsoft Zero Trust framework supports a proactive, integrated approach to security across all layers of the digital estate. We look forward to continuing to serve and protect our customers with a comprehensive Zero Trust strategy and solutions.

Learn more

Read our Zero Trust position paper for key insights, an example of a comprehensive security architecture, and a maturity model to help accelerate your adoption. 

To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

1 New insights on cybersecurity in the age of hybrid work, Bret Arsenault, Microsoft Security, Microsoft. 27 October 2021.

Announcing a new name for the Data Analyst Associate certification

By NancyTandy

Power BI and business users, we’ve got great news to share about our certification portfolio. On February 28, 2022, the Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate certification will be renamed to Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate. We regularly review our portfolio to ensure that it’s up to date with the latest technology. This new name reflects our current vision on the data analyst job role and the skills that are required for that role today. Plus, it indicates the direction we’ll take as we prepare to include additional skills in the future.

On the same day, we’ll release the new Exam PL-300: Power BI Data Analyst, which will be required to earn the Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification. This exam is focused on skills in preparing, modeling, visualizing, and analyzing data to maximize value for an organization.

This new exam will replace Exam DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI, which retires on March 31, 2022. These exams cover the same knowledge domain.

What this means to you

If you’ve already earned the Data Analyst Associate certification, you will see the new name in your Certification Dashboard on February 28, 2022.
If you’ve been studying for Exam DA-100, no worries. You have until March 31, 2022, to take it. 
If you’ve just started preparing for Exam DA-100, consider reviewing the skills requirements for new Exam PL-300 and switching your focus to the new exam because the exams are very similar.  However, between February 28 and March 31, 2022, learners can pass either exam to earn their Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification.

If you plan to take the exam, you might start by exploring the data analyst certification journey. You can also find valuable resources for data analysts on the certification and exam pages. Next, review the required skills for Exam PL-300, use curated self-paced learning paths on Microsoft Learn. Or, if you prefer learning from an instructor, take in-depth courses, such as Analyzing Data with Power BI, from a Microsoft Learning Partner. Complement your training with additional resources, like Microsoft Docs or the Power BI Learning catalog. And don’t miss the Power BI community webinars. Until March 31, 2022, you can take a trial run for the exam using the Microsoft Official Practice Test for DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI.

The role of the data analyst
If you’re a data analyst or business user who uses Power BI to help your organization maximize the value of its data assets, you might consider earning this certification. In this role, your responsibilities include designing and building scalable data models, cleaning, and transforming data, and enabling advanced analytic capabilities that provide meaningful business value through easy-to-understand data visualizations. You’re a subject matter expert who collaborates with key stakeholders across verticals to deliver relevant insights based on business requirements. And you should have a fundamental understanding of data repositories and data processing, both on-premises and in the cloud.

If you pass this certification exam, you might be eligible for American Council on Education (ACE) college credit. For details, check out College credit for certification exams.

Celebrate with the world: Post badges on LinkedIn
When you earn the Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification, you can post your badge on LinkedIn and celebrate your accomplishment with your team and your network. It often takes less than a minute to update your LinkedIn profile and to share your achievements, highlight your skills, and show how you can help to meet the needs and goals of your current or potential employer and its customers.

It’s easy to renew a Microsoft Certification
When your Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification expires, we’ve got good news. You can renew it and other current certifications by passing a free renewal assessment on Microsoft Learn—anytime within six months before the certification expires. Get the details in our blog post Stay current with in-demand skills through free certification renewals.

Where’s my community?
Join a community to network with other Power BI Data Analysts, share ideas, and ask questions. You can also find news about Microsoft events and learning opportunities.

 
Shine a spotlight on your data analyst skills
If you’re a data analyst or business user with a passion for data, it’s time to validate your expertise and showcase your data insights. The Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification can validate that you have what it takes to stand out and help to differentiate your organization in this high-demand field.

Related posts and resources

New Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 training: December 2021 roundup

By MargoCrandall-MSFT

A new year means new opportunities, and now is the time to add to your skill set with the offerings in our training and certification portfolio. You might want to start with the new role-based learning path and modules that we released last month on Microsoft Learn. No matter where you are on your career path, you can make the most of Microsoft Learn to build and deepen your skills and then validate those skills by earning a Microsoft Certification.

This month, there’s a new Fraud Protection learning path and module. Plus, we’ve added new modules for Customer Insights and Customer Voice. In addition, virtual machine with product version 10.0.21 is now available for all Finance and Supply Chain Management labs on Microsoft Learn.

Our online training is free, and you can explore all our offerings at your own pace. Learn new skills to use on the job or to take your career in a new direction. Need help figuring out which training to take? Check out the Dynamics 365 learning paths and the Microsoft Power Platform learning paths.

The following learning paths and modules were released in December 2021.

Customer Insights

 
Customer Voice

 
Fraud Protection

 
Power Platform

Finance and Operations Apps

Product landing pages

New Microsoft Dynamics 365 training: December 2021 roundup

By MargoCrandall-MSFT

A new year means new opportunities, and now is the time to add to your skill set with the offerings in our training and certification portfolio. You might want to start with the new role-based learning path and modules that we released last month on Microsoft Learn. No matter where you are on your career path, you can make the most of Microsoft Learn to build and deepen your skills and then validate those skills by earning a Microsoft Certification.

This month, there’s a new Fraud Protection learning path and module. Plus, we’ve added new modules for Customer Insights and Customer Voice. In addition, virtual machine with product version 10.0.21 is now available for all Finance and Supply Chain Management labs on Microsoft Learn.

Our online training is free, and you can explore all our offerings at your own pace. Learn new skills to use on the job or to take your career in a new direction. Need help figuring out which training to take? Check out the Dynamics 365 learning paths and the Microsoft Power Platform learning paths.

The following learning paths and modules were released in December 2021.

Customer Insights

 
Customer Voice

 
Fraud Protection

 
Power Platform

Finance and Operations Apps

Product landing pages

Align your security and network teams to Zero Trust security demands

By Pooja Parab

The security community is continuously changing, growing, and learning from each other to better position the world against cyber threats. In the latest Voice of the Community blog series post, Microsoft Security Product Marketing Manager Natalia Godyla talks with Jennifer Minella, Founder and Principal Advisor on Network Security at Viszen Security about strategies for aligning the security operations center (SOC) and network operations center (NOC) to meet the demands of Zero Trust and protect your enterprise.

Natalia: In your experience, why are there challenges bringing together networking and security teams?

Jennifer: Ultimately, it’s about trust. As someone who’s worked on complex network-based security projects, I’ve had plenty of experience sitting between those two teams. Often the security teams have an objective, which gets translated into specific technical mandates, or even a specific product. As in, we need to achieve X, Y, and Z level security; therefore, the networking team should just go make this product work. That causes friction because sometimes the networking team didn’t get a voice in that.

Sometimes it’s not even the right product or technology for what the actual goal was, but it’s too late at that point because the money is spent. Then it’s the networking team that looks bad when they don’t get it working right. It’s much better to bring people together to collaborate, instead of one team picking a solution.

Natalia: How does misalignment between the SOC and NOC impact the business?

Jennifer: When there’s an erosion of trust and greater friction, it makes everything harder. Projects take longer. Decisions take longer. That lack of collaboration can also introduce security gaps. I have several examples, but I’m going to pick healthcare here. Say the Chief Information Security Officer’s (CISO) team believes that their bio-medical devices are secured a certain way from a network perspective, but that’s not how they’re secured. Meaning, they’re secured at a lower level that would not be sufficient based on how the CISO and the compliance teams were tracking it. So, there’s this misalignment, miscommunication. Not that it’s malicious; nobody is doing it on purpose, but requirements aren’t communicated well. Sometimes there’s a lack of clarity about whose responsibility it is, and what those requirements are. Even within larger organizations, it might not be clear what the actual standards and processes are that support that policy from the perspective of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC).

Natalia: So, what are a few effective ways to align the SOC and NOC?

Jennifer: If you can find somebody that can be a third party—somebody that’s going to come in and help the teams collaborate and build trust—it’s invaluable. It can be someone who specializes in organizational health or a technical third party; somebody like me sitting in the middle who says, “I understand what the networking team is saying. I hear you. And I understand what the security requirements are. I get it.” Then you can figure out how to bridge that gap and get both teams collaborating with bi-directional communication, instead of security just mandating that this thing gets done.

It’s also about the culture—the interpersonal relationships involved. It can be a problem if one team is picked (to be in charge) instead of another. Maybe it’s the SOC team versus the NOC team, and the SOC team is put in charge; therefore, the NOC team just gives up. It might be better to go with a neutral internal person instead, like a program manager or a digital-transformation leader—somebody who owns a program or a project but isn’t tied to the specifics of security or network architecture. Building that kind of cross-functional team between departments is a good way to solve problems.

There isn’t a wrong way to do it if everybody is being heard. Emails are not a great way to accomplish communication among teams. But getting people together, outlining what the goal is, and working towards it, that’s preferable to just having discrete decision points and mandates. Here’s the big goal—what are some ideas to get from point A to point B? That’s something we must do moving into Zero Trust strategies.

Natalia: Speaking of Zero Trust, how does Zero Trust figure into an overarching strategy for a business?

Jennifer: I describe Zero Trust as a concept. It’s more of a mindset, like “defense in depth,” “layered defense,” or “concepts of least privilege.” Trying to put it into a fixed model or framework is what’s leading to a lot of the misconceptions around the Zero Trust strategy. For me, getting from point A to point B with organizations means taking baby steps—identifying gaps, use cases, and then finding the right solutions.

A lot of people assume Zero Trust is this granular one-to-one relationship of every element on the network. Meaning, every user, every endpoint, every service, and application data set is going to have a granular “allow or deny” policy. That’s not what we’re doing right now. Zero Trust is just a mindset of removing inherent trust. That could mean different things, for example, it could be remote access for employees on a virtual private network (VPN), or it could be dealing with employees with bring your own device (BYOD). It could mean giving contractors or people with elevated privileges access to certain data sets or applications, or we could apply Zero Trust principles to secure workloads from each other.

Natalia: And how does Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) differ from Zero Trust?

Jennifer: Zero Trust is not a product. SASE, on the other hand, is a suite of products and services put together to help meet Zero Trust architecture objectives. SASE is a service-based product offering that has a feature set. It varies depending on the manufacturer, meaning, some will give you these three features and some will give you another five or eight. Some are based on endpoint technology, some are based on software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions, while some are cloud routed.

Natalia: How does the Zero Trust approach fit with the network access control (NAC) strategy?

Jennifer: I jokingly refer to Zero Trust as “NAC 4.0.” I’ve worked in the NAC space for over 15 years, and it’s just a few new variables. But they’re significant variables. Working with cloud-hosted resources in cloud-routed data paths is fundamentally different than what we’ve been doing in local area network (LAN) based systems. But if you abstract that—the concepts of privilege, authentication, authorization, and data paths—it’s all the same. I lump the vendors and types of solutions into two different categories: cloud-routed versus traditional on-premises (for a campus environment). The technologies are drastically different between those two use cases. For that reason, the enforcement models are different and will vary with the products. 

Natalia: How do you approach securing remote access with a Zero Trust mindset? Do you have any guidelines or best practices?

Jennifer: It’s alarming how many organizations set up VPN remote access so that users are added onto the network as if they were sitting in their office. For a long time that was accepted because, before the pandemic, there was a limited number of remote users. Now, remote access, in addition to the cloud, is more prevalent. There are many people with personal devices or some type of blended, corporate-managed device. It’s a recipe for disaster.

The threat surface has increased exponentially, so you need to be able to go back in and use a Zero Trust product in a kind of enclave model, which works a lot like a VPN. You set up access at a point (wherever the VPN is) and the users come into that. That’s a great way to start and you can tweak it from there. Your users access an agent or a platform that will stay with them through that process of tweaking and tuning. It’s impactful because users are switching from a VPN client to a kind of a Zero Trust agent. But they don’t know the difference because, on the back end, the access is going to be restricted. They’re not going to miss anything. And there’s lots of modeling engines and discovery that products do to map out who’s accessing what, and what’s anomalous. So, that’s a good starting point for organizations.

Natalia: How should businesses think about telemetry? How can security and networking teams best use it to continue to keep the network secure?

Jennifer: You need to consider the capabilities of visibility, telemetry, and discovery on endpoints. You’re not just looking at what’s on the endpoint—we’ve been doing that—but what is the endpoint talking to on the internet when it’s not behind the traditional perimeter. Things like secure web gateways, or solutions like a cloud access security broker (CASB), which further extends that from an authentication standpoint, data pathing with SD-WAN routing—all of that plays in.

Natalia: What is a common misconception about Zero Trust?

Jennifer: You don’t have to boil the ocean with this. We know from industry reports, analysts, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that there’s not one product that’s going to meet all the Zero Trust requirements. So, it makes sense to chunk things into discrete programs and projects that have boundaries, then find a solution that works for each. Zero Trust is not about rip and replace.

The first step is overcoming that mental hurdle of feeling like you must pick one product that will do everything. If you can aggregate that a bit and find a product that works for two or three, that’s awesome, but it’s not a requirement. A lot of organizations are trying to research everything ad nauseum before they commit to anything. But this is a volatile industry, and it’s likely that with any product’s features, the implementation is going to change drastically over the next 18 months. So, if you’re spending nine months researching something, you’re not going to get the full benefit in longevity. Just start with something small that’s palatable from a resource and cost standpoint.

Natalia: What types of products work best in helping companies take a Zero Trust approach?

Jennifer: A lot of requirements stem from the organization’s technological culture. Meaning, is it on-premises or a cloud environment? I have a friend that was a CISO at a large hospital system, which required having everything on-premises. He’s now a CISO at an organization that has zero on-premises infrastructure; they’re completely in the cloud. It’s a night-and-day change for security. So, you’ve got that, combined with trying to integrate with what’s in the environment currently. Because typically these systems are not greenfield, they’re brownfield—we’ve got users and a little bit of infrastructure and applications, and it’s a matter of upfitting those things. So, it just depends on the organization. One may have a set of requirements and applications that are newer and based on microservices. Another organization might have more on-premises legacy infrastructure architectures, and those aren’t supported in a lot of cloud-native and cloud-routed platforms.

Natalia: So, what do you see as the future for the SOC and NOC?

Jennifer: I think the message moving forward is—we must come together. And it’s not just networking and security; there are application teams to consider as well. It’s the same with IoT. These are transformative technologies. Whether it’s the combination of operational technology (OT) and IT, or the prevalence of IoT in the environment, or Zero Trust initiatives, all of these demand cross-functional teams for trust building and collaboration. That’s the big message.

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