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Role Of Zero Trust In India's Digital Transformation Journey A Zero Trust model identifies the critical security pain points of an organisation—applications, passwords, and data—and requires it to envelop them with maximum protection through rigid policies

By Samuel Sathyajith

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Moreover, the government's push for digitalisation through initiatives such as Digital India is further striving to bring transformation in India's digital journey.

While the wheels of digital transformation were set in motion much earlier, the pandemic accelerated their speed. It significantly impacted how organisations approach their IT ecosystem and security. Cloudflare's 2021 report, 'Data security in the Age of Zero Trust', indicated that around 90 per cent of IT influencers and decision-makers from Indian organizations expect a more mobile workforce in the future with greater use of personal devices. This impacts IT security and makes it vital for organizations, governments, technology providers, and leaders to make decisions driven by insights to build a secure and efficient digital ecosystem.

Challenges in driving digital transformation

Building a digital ecosystem in a developing country can be tough. From budget constraints to lack of change management and proper IT skills, to the security framework and evolution of cultural mindsets, an organization faces many challenges. Moreover, another crucial aspect that organizations need to keep in mind is setting up an IT infrastructure that can withstand cyber-attacks.

According to data provided by Statista, as of February 2022, India had approximately 658 million online users; approximately half of India's population relying on the Internet to conduct business, study, consume and create content, etc. This means that ensuring IT assets are secure is not just a nice-to-have, it's an absolute must-have. According to the Indian Government report by The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), more than 6.74 lakh cybersecurity incidents were reported this year (upto June).

Businesses, big and small, are under threat and therefore need to ensure they have a robust security posture in place in order to protect their IT and network assets. Today's landscape, with no perimeter, requires a Zero Trust approach. Consider the analogy of traditional boats built with very thick, sturdy hulls. While strong, a single leak would sink the entire boat. Zero Trust is like the invention of bulkheads for boats. You want to make sure that if there is that leak somewhere, that it doesn't sink the entire ship, that it's contained to a small portion. And that's what Zero Trust brings.

How does Zero Trust eliminate security risks?

Zero Trust is a framework or security principle where there is no default trust but always verified. A Zero Trust model identifies the critical security pain points of an organisation – applications, passwords, and data – and requires it to envelop them with maximum protection through rigid policies. The next step is the determination of access. The solution identifies the assets being accessed within or outside a specific network perimeter. A Zero Trust security model not only secures the network but also offers a plethora of other benefits, unlike traditional security solutions. These include:

Increased productivity: Unlike traditional security models, Zero Trust has less scope for damage to digital assets and credentials because of the limited access to critical information. This allows the team to work from anywhere, increasing overall productivity.

Greater reliability: Modern websites and browsers with complex algorithms often succeed in negating traditional security frameworks. However, the Zero Trust system goes the extra mile to verify the user and the device, allowing them to navigate and have a better experience.

Transparency: The organisation can verify users at each stage, which allows them to track unusual behaviour and mitigate data breaches.

Data protection and authenticity: The solution stops attackers from gaining access to all digital assets and prevents phishing by putting additional verifications in place. Since users are required to verify their identity at each step, the solution also removes the need for VPNs.

Reduced risks: The risk is much lower since access to all assets is verified with strict identity and access verifications. Owing to this, the evaluation of infringements is also easier to track.

IT security is an ongoing process, and organisations need to commit to enhance and implement a robust IT security strategy sooner rather than later. However, the first aspect organisations need to address is the lack of IT security staff to carry out these implementations. Beyond this, it is also vital for IT leaders and cyber security decision makers to fully understand Zero Trust, to implement it efficiently. According to Cloudflare's 2021 report, 'Data security in the Age of Zero Trust', there is high awareness of Zero Trust across countries like Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and India, with an almost universal awareness in Australia and Malaysia. The lowest awareness level is in India, which needs to be addressed.

As the digital landscape evolves, cyber threats are becoming more advanced with attackers developing newer tactics to steal data and access sensitive information. With most attacks generated within organisations, it is clear that the traditional approach of monitoring and prevention is no longer effective. What's needed are advanced and stringent solutions to eliminate these threats. It is now imperative for businesses to have a foolproof security framework like Zero Trust to empower their digital transformation journey.

Samuel Sathyajith

Head of India & SAARC Region, Cloudflare

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