What is Zero Trust Architecture, and is it a must in your security?

Never trust; always verify. All users and devices can cause harm. That’s at the core of Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA), a strategic approach to cybersecurity currently gaining momentum among IT leaders. As of 2024, 63% of organisations worldwide have implemented ZTA.

When cyber threats consistently make headlines and compromise the most critical digital assets, it’s no surprise that businesses are seeking innovative security strategies to manage risks effectively. But is Zero Trust Architecture a cybersecurity measure for everyone? How does it benefit each industry? What are the dos and don’ts of building ZTA in your company? Do you even need it?

In this article, we’ll cover:


What is Zero Trust Architecture?

Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) is a security model that operates on the principle of "Never trust, always verify." It requires strict identity verification and access controls for all users and devices inside and outside your network before granting access to resources.


How does Zero Trust Architecture work?

Zero Trust Architecture redefines traditional security boundaries. It goes beyond a set of technologies and is more of a shift in how we think about cybersecurity.

This approach departs from older security models that rely on a defined perimeter and assume everything within is secure. Instead, ZTA scrutinises every access request with equal rigour, irrespective of its origin—inside or outside the network.


What’s required for Zero Trust Architecture?

Implementing Zero Trust Architecture involves combining multiple defensive strategies to strengthen your IT environment: Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP), micro-segmentation, multi-factor identification, and continuous monitoring and validation.

Principle of Least Privilege

Following the Principle of Least Privilege, access rights are tightly controlled, providing users only what they need to fulfil their roles. Your employees get just enough access to perform their job functions—nothing more, nothing less.

Limiting access rights this way can minimise the risk and impact if someone’s credentials fall into the wrong hands. It's about keeping your assets tightly secured and only letting users reach what they need, which helps prevent accidental and malicious data breaches.


Micro-segmentation is another technique for building a Zero Trust Architecture. It means breaking your network into smaller, more manageable segments. Each segment operates almost like its own mini-network with strict access controls.

This way, micro-segmentation prevents someone who gains unauthorised access to one part of the network from quickly moving to other areas, effectively containing potential threats and minimising the impact of an attack. So even though one segment is breached, others stay secure.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

In the context of ZTA, integrating Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) requires users to verify their identities through multiple independent credentials before accessing network resources.

MFA combines something the user knows (say, password), something the user has (for example, a security token), and something the user is (say, facial recognition). Each layer of authentication serves as a barrier, strengthening security and reducing the likelihood of unauthorised access, as attackers must compromise several security measures simultaneously rather than just one.



Continuous monitoring and validation

In Zero Trust Architecture, you set up continuous monitoring and validation to ensure all users and devices consistently meet your security standards. Each access attempt triggers a verification process that evaluates and adjusts permissions based on the current security status.

Having one single variable, such as whether X user's location is in an authorised location, isn’t sufficient. Multiple variables, such as location, time, date, and ID, should all be involved in monitoring and validation. This dynamic method keeps your network secure by automatically responding to changes and preventing unauthorised access.

You'll need to continuously verify who’s trying to connect and what device they’re using before they get anywhere near your data. This shift from a trust-based model puts you in the driver’s seat, ready to respond and adjust as threats evolve.


How Zero Trust Architecture fits different industries

Zero Trust Architecture is adaptable across various sectors and industries, especially those where information security and data privacy are of utmost importance:

Financial services

Financial data is highly valued on the black market, so cybercriminals often target it. If you’re a FinTech company, Zero Trust Architecture might be the way to go, as it helps secure transactions and data access. By constantly verifying and controlling access, ZTA minimises the attack surface for breaches that could expose sensitive financial information.

Healthcare companies

Zero Trust Architecture safeguards highly sensitive patient data, including medical history, diagnoses, and financial information. This multi-layered approach minimises the risk of unauthorised access and data breaches, which are major concerns in healthcare.

ZTA also helps healthcare organisations comply with regulations like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). By continuously verifying user and device identities, restricting access based on the least privilege principle, and encrypting data at rest and in transit, Zero Trust Architecture strengthens the overall security posture.

Governmental institutions

Zero Trust Architecture secures classified military data and national security secrets. Unlike traditional models that trust users once inside the network, ZTA constantly verifies access. This minimises the risk of insider threats or compromised devices exposing critical information that could compromise military operations or national security.


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Any organisations with remote work environments

Are there many remote employees in your company? As remote work becomes the norm, Zero Trust Architecture provides a secure access framework for geographically dispersed teams. By continuously verifying user and device identities before granting access to resources, ZTA reduces the risk of unauthorised users accessing the network from unsecured personal devices.

This minimises the attack surface and potential breaches that could compromise sensitive company data or disrupt services. Zero Trust Architecture empowers remote workforces with secure access while maintaining robust network security.


Do you need Zero Trust Architecture in your organisation?

To answer this question, you first need to ask yourself: What’s the most important thing in your organisation when it comes to information security? Is it preserving confidentiality, integrity, or availability? If confidentiality is at the top of your list, Zero Trust Architecture is a great cybersecurity measure as it has multiple security layers to prevent data breaches. However, ZTA comes with a few drawbacks.


Why Zero Trust Architecture might not be for everyone

For all its security benefits, ZTA might not be suitable for everyone. Implementing Zero Trust architecture presents several challenges that may deter your organisation from adopting it fully.

Difficult to map out data and workflows across multiple endpoints

You’ll need to map out data and workflows across multiple endpoints and third-party services, a complex undertaking which requires significant time, technology, and human resources.

Incomplete network visibility exacerbates this complexity. Your organisation may lack complete visibility into its network, making it challenging to identify all resources and endpoints integral to ZTA implementation. This incomplete understanding can lead to gaps in security coverage and potential vulnerabilities that adversaries could exploit.


Only a fraction of companies know where their data is, especially when they use a hybrid cloud. If you don’t know exactly where your data is, it can be nearly impossible to protect it fully. Relying solely on your cloud provider may not provide a robust foundation for data protection.

Zero Trust Architecture can be costly

The cost involved in setting up and maintaining ZTA can be substantial. This includes initial setup, ongoing maintenance, pilot projects, and employee training. Additionally, operational challenges arise from continuous verification processes, which may interrupt your organisational workflows and reduce productivity.

There may be compatibility issues with the existing tech stack

Compatibility issues with legacy systems and applications further complicate implementation, as ZTA relies on dynamic rules that may not align with static access permissions.

Zero Trust Architecture may cause employee frustration

Because implementing ZTA comes with significant changes in your organisation’s security setup, there can be pushback. Employee resistance may stem from frustration over denied access due to evolving job roles or unclear boundaries.


The dos and don’ts of building a successful Zero Trust Architecture

If you’ve concluded that Zero Trust Architecture should be a part of your security setup, take note of its multi-layered approach. This means understanding what to prioritise and what pitfalls to avoid. Here's a breakdown of the dos and don'ts to keep in mind:


  • Do implement strong identity verification: Use strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, to ensure only the right people and devices can access your network. This adds an extra layer of security beyond passwords.
  • Do employ strong encryption: Encrypting data both at rest (stored data) and in transit (data being transmitted over networks) ensures that even if unauthorised individuals gain access to sensitive data, they cannot understand or use it without the decryption key.
  • Do educate your team: Building a culture of security will ultimately be a defining factor here. So, run regular training on the latest security threats and Zero Trust protocols to maintain a secure environment, as human error remains a significant vulnerability.


  • Don’t assume any network is safe: Treat all network traffic as potentially malicious, even traffic within your organisation’s own network. Encourage your team to adopt a mindset of cautiousness, consistently verifying the legitimacy of network activities and transactions. Emphasise the importance of robust security measures, regardless of the perceived safety within internal networks.
  • Don’t neglect device security: Ensure all devices meet your organisation's security standards before granting them network access. Establish clear protocols ensuring that all devices, including endpoints and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, comply with organisational security policies. Strengthen device security through continuous monitoring, regular updates, and enforcement of access controls to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.
  • Don’t overlook regular audits: Cybersecurity requires constant vigilance. Maintain a proactive approach to cybersecurity through regular audits and assessments. Allocate resources for comprehensive evaluations of security frameworks, network infrastructure, and access controls. Facilitate ongoing dialogue among IT teams to identify emerging threats and implement necessary adjustments to fortify defences.

Know what to protect in your organisation—and how

While Zero Trust Architecture promises enhanced security, navigating industry-specific rules and infrastructural complexities could pose challenges. Additionally, getting everyone in your organisation on board and securing the necessary resources for implementation might prove to be daunting tasks.

If you’re unsure whether ZTA is the right route for you, start by understanding your risks and critical assets. This will help you define what risks to target first and what measures to use to address them.

To do this, find a system that can cater to all your information security needs, choose the right protection measures, and seek expert guidance along the way.

DataGuard can help you identify your primary protection targets. Check out our security platform, or contact us for a chat.



Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of Zero Trust Architecture?

An example of Zero Trust Architecture is requiring all users to authenticate through multi-factor authentication before accessing any internal company systems, regardless of their network location.

How to design Zero Trust Architecture?

To design Zero Trust Architecture, identify sensitive data and services, enforce strict user authentication at every access point, apply least privilege access principles, and segment networks to limit lateral movement.

What are the disadvantages of Zero Trust Architecture?

The main disadvantages of Zero Trust Architecture include its high complexity and cost of implementation. It can also lead to delays in access due to stringent verification processes, potentially impacting user experience.

Why is Zero Trust Architecture hard to implement?

Zero Trust Architecture is hard to implement because it requires comprehensive changes to the existing security infrastructure and policies, demanding significant investment in technology and training.

What are the minimum requirements for Zero Trust Architecture?

The minimum requirements for Zero Trust Architecture include strong user authentication mechanisms, dynamic access controls, network segmentation, continuous monitoring of network activity, and encryption of data both at rest and in transit.


About the author

Kyle Tackley Kyle Tackley
Kyle Tackley

Senior Principal - Global Corporate - InfoSec

Kyle is a Senior Principal at DataGuard and talks all things Information and Cybersecurity. With over 12 years experience in IT, Privacy and Information Security roles, he has implemented and operated a multitude of Security frameworks across enterprise businesses. Ensuring world-class service delivery of DataGuard’s Hybrid Information Security and Privacy as a service solutions to customers, and building a dynamic and successful teams are some of Kyle’s top priorities.

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