Cisco shares lessons learned in zero-trust deployment

Victoria D. Doty

Cisco hopes that an energy to overhaul its internal protection will assistance shoppers with their have transitions to a zero-trust design.

Talking at the 2021 RSA Convention, Cisco main protection and trust officer Brad Arkin reported that around a five-month period, the networking huge managed to changeover several of its have personnel into a zero-trust setup. The new method replaces common password logins with alternative authentication for every consumer and device that are checked at each individual action around the community.

Under the setup, passwords are no for a longer period employed as a substitute, every consumer and device is issued a electronic certificate, along with a multifactor authentication ask for. When that is confirmed, the certificate is checked every time the consumer attempts to obtain as specific resource, these types of as a database or an internal application.

“The true target is searching at the consumer certificate that we associate with the consumer and the device certificate that we associate with every device the consumer could use,” Arkin reported of Cisco’s zero-trust approach. “We can then start out to talk to thoughts close to the device posture: Is this device effectively patched? Is it configured the way it is intended to be?”

Aside from improved protection, Cisco aimed to give users identical activities for logging into the two SaaS applications and people housed on premises, a little something that had previously needed connecting to a VPN.

With people targets in brain, Cisco to start with embarked on a comparatively compact pilot challenge, which Arkin estimated to be close to 10,000 authentications daily, to get the zero-trust method up and functioning.

Within just five months, the zero-trust design was functioning corporation-vast and managing some one hundred,000 staff laptops and even far more cell products, Arkin reported. He added that the overhaul has not only simplified authentication, but has also permitted Cisco to handle in true time achievable protection concerns, these types of as misconfigured or unpatched products.

“What we obtained was a vastly improved conclusion-consumer experience,” he reported. “Currently being able to intervene at that second has permitted us to build a substantially superior protection posture for the entire fleet. It permitted us to absolutely change the way conclusion users obtain our setting.”

Cisco believes that it is also likely to be able to translate people lessons uncovered internally to shoppers in what the corporation sees as a growing market place for zero trust. Arkin reported the most important challenge of the challenge was getting ready all the distinct groups associated and creating sure they understood it would be a transformational change in the conclusion-consumer experience.

All people understood this was not a business-as-common, incremental improvement but a truly dramatic, before-and-after change.
Brad ArkinChief protection and trust officer, Cisco

“Building that determination, and leaping in with the two ft, is what permitted us to get this challenge finished so swiftly mainly because anyone understood this was not a business-as-common, incremental improvement but a truly dramatic, before-and-after change,” he reported.

Carla Roncato, a senior analyst at Company Method Team, reported Cisco’s determination to consume its have dog foods just isn’t uncommon — the two Microsoft and Google have deployed their have zero-trust designs internally — but it is a favourable sign.

“I wholeheartedly guidance these initiatives, and although there are distinct complex strategies, they all are requirements-primarily based, interoperable options under the handles,” Roncato reported through email. “Every single corporation can target on the consumer experience, context and disorders that are right for them. Endpoints/products, for the most component (Gain, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS) are all capable of passwordless/PINless authentication. It is commonly the obtain regulate factors and obtain procedures, and IT guidance workflows that want the most change along with some conclusion-consumer instruction.”

COVID accelerated transfer to zero trust

Talking to SearchSecurity in advance of the convention, Cisco Security main method officer Dug Song reported that as the pandemic has moved personnel off premises and toward SaaS offerings, businesses have had to transfer up their strategies to get into a zero-trust setup. This was even more backed up by the latest White Dwelling directive that encouraged the transfer to zero-trust designs.

“We accelerated three to five many years into the potential with this electronic transformation. Clients had to transfer swiftly,” Song reported. “In some scenarios, they decided to rip the Band-Help off and go full zero trust, some of them truly went entire hog. Other individuals had to determine it out. They had heaps of legacy infrastructure and applications, so we had to assistance them determine it out.”

A major component of that changeover was thanks to staff likely off-campus and accessing company networks not only from their house, but in several scenarios making use of their particular PCs, laptops and cell products. This created a want for protection setups that accounted for not just a corporation-managed device and a consumer account, but also for staff-owned hardware that could carry its have dangerous configurations.

Even as the pandemic subsides, Song reported he believes that businesses are over and above the tipping level, and the type of hybrid community setups that need a zero-trust method are turning out to be the norm.

“Now as we start out to see a light-weight in the tunnel, we see a whole lot of organizations that are indicating this is our new usual,” Song reported. “Our shoppers have told us they are not likely back.”

Company Method Team is a division of TechTarget.

Security Information Director Rob Wright contributed to this report.

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