Redefining Security: Why Zero Trust is crucial in today’s dynamic environment

  • Article
  • 6 minute read
  • 20 Dec 2023
Dr. Silvia Knittl

Dr. Silvia Knittl

Director, Cyber Security & Privacy, PwC Germany

Hamil Bhoora

Hamil Bhoora

Partner | Cyber Security Leader, PwC South Africa

Fadi Daood

Fadi Daood

Manager, Cyber, PwC Netherlands

There is no such thing as a perimeter anymore. The interconnectedness of networks and endpoints requires security to take very different approaches. Hence it is becoming increasingly important for companies to internalize Zero Trust. Not just as a pure architecture, but as part of an overarching approach and philosophy.

Why is it important for companies to push ahead with Zero Trust?

Traditional IT security is being increasingly weakened by rapidly advancing technological developments and new ways of working. The existing infrastructure and IT systems are often no longer reliable and conventional perimeter-based security strategies do not offer comprehensive protection against today’s cyber threats.

  • The significant change in traditional IT security is caused by the following factors:
  • Organizations are integrating more and more services available on the Internet that offer access over an untrusted network.
  • Users are increasingly accessing companies’ on-premise IT systems and cloud applications using different end devices.
  • The various user groups – employees, external parties or service providers – are increasingly working at several locations.

What threatens companies that completely ignore Zero Trust?

The significant change in traditional IT security (mentioned above) increases the potential attack surface and results in new vulnerabilities that offer attackers new opportunities to steal valuable data or disrupt critical business processes and infrastructure. This increases the business challenges that companies face to protect critical assets, data and resources. For this reason, IT and security managers should seek modern, comprehensive solutions for their architecture and consider a fundamental change.

31 %

Gartner predicts that Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the fastest-growing form of network security, with a growth of 31 % in 2023.

31 %

The expected Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for Early-Stage Investments decreases to 31 % in 2023, down from 36 % in 2022.

25 %

For Groth Stage Financing, the average IRR falls to 25 % in 2023 (compared to 32 % in 2022).

Benefits and outcomes: Why implement Zero Trust?

“With a Zero Trust architecture, you can protect your assets more efficiently to strengthen your cyber security. The new premise is: Zero Trust and Always Verify – trust nobody and always verify or authenticate.”

Hamil Bhoora,Partner, Cyber Security at PwC Africa

For example Gartner believes that Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the fastest growing form of network security, growing 31 % in 2023 and completely replacing VPNs by 2025. In 2021, President Joe Biden made Zero Trust a key element of his executive order to modernize and strengthen the U.S. cybersecurity posture.

There are many reasons why customers are rethinking their current approach to security and implementing Zero Trust. It prioritizes the alignment of security to business objectives by directly focusing towards safeguarding crucial business processes, meticulous information asset mapping and classification, and judiciously minimizing unnecessary sensitivity.

Zero Trust strategy uniquely focuses on manageable factors. Prioritizing root cause resolution, it prevents incidents, mitigates future threats, and proactively focuses on individual assets’ protection, rather than fixating solely on external attacks and vulnerabilities which can not be controlled.

The objective here is building highly resilient networks while leveraging existing technologies. Another argument why organizations should incorporate a Zero Trust security strategy into their enterprise architecture is to reduce tool sprawl and traditional cyber security costs. This drives digital transformation, optimizes user experience and promotes smooth interaction to improve customer loyalty.

“Organizations turn to Cyber Insurance to minimize threats and financial losses from attacks. In order to obtain full insurance coverage, proof of a company’s adequate level of protection is becoming increasingly mandatory. Small and medium-sized businesses may need help meeting cyber insurance requirements that protect corporate data.”

Dr. Silvia Knittl,Director, Cyber Security & Privacy, PwC Germany

Cyber ​​insurers are also seen as a kind of de facto regulator. In order to qualify for cyber insurance (which many companies strongly desire), certain standards must be met.

Insurance companies often have specific requirements, when obtaining coverage can be challenging as organisations often find it difficult to consistently present their cyber maturity levels to insurers. For instance, consider a scenario where an insurer mandates Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for all users. Despite the customer’s belief that they have MFA implemented, they suffer a ransomware attack. The insurer then refuses payment, arguing that MFA was not enabled in their administrative Windows environment. This becomes a significant advantage for the insurer, highlighting the importance of proper MFA implementation and its potential impact on claim settlements.

What hurdles do companies typically encounter when considering ZTA and wanting to implement it within their organization?

There is no clear understanding of Zero Trust. It is important for organizations to understand that the Zero Trust approach is both a mindset and a concrete security strategy. Organizations looking to transition to Zero Trust must first assess their environment – including systems, processes, infrastructure, people, and resources – to identify existing capabilities to build on and gaps that need to be prioritized.

“The most important questions that users should ask themselves when starting their journey towards Zero Trust: Do I know all application owners? How up-to-date is my inventory of applications? Where are the central data assets located and who should have access to them internally and externally?”

Fadi Daood,Manager, Cyber, PwC Netherlands

What is really crucial for a successful Zero Trust implementation?

To anchor the ZTA strategy in all areas of the company. Zero trust must not be an isolated agenda item, but must be integrated into daily operations along the entire operating model. A successful Zero Trust implementation relies on data-centric security strategies, security policies, data classification standards, and identity and access management solutions. Because this can be very challenging in practice, we support companies at every point of this journey – from strategy to anchoring it in daily processes to reporting and managing the business impact.

Our approach to your zero trust security architecture includes:

  • initial Zero Trust maturity assessment
  • Definition of an individual Zero Trust architecture
  • Roadmap and technology modeling
  • Realization of the Zero Trust target operating model
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Contact us

Dr. Silvia Knittl

Dr. Silvia Knittl

Director, Cyber Security & Privacy, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 1511 5480524

Hamil Bhoora

Hamil Bhoora

Partner | Cyber Security Leader, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4102

Fadi Daood

Fadi Daood

Manager, Cyber, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 6 38759432

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