High Trust vs. Zero Trust: The Battle of Cybersecurity Models

September 14, 2023

In today’s digital landscape, the ever-increasing number of cyber threats demands robust and adaptive cybersecurity measures. Two prominent approaches to cybersecurity have emerged: High Trust and Zero Trust models. Although Zero Trust is fast becoming the choice approach, each framework has its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Choosing the right one for your organisation is crucial.  

Let’s explore the key differences and weigh the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

High Trust model

The High Trust model, also known as the traditional or perimeter-based security approach, is built on the assumption that internal networks are secure, and users within the network are trusted by default. This method focuses primarily on securing the network perimeter with firewalls and other security measures. Once inside, users enjoy relative freedom to access various resources.

Pros of High Trust models

  • Simplicity: High Trust models are often simpler to implement and manage, making them a convenient choice for organisations with limited resources and expertise.
  • User experience: Employees within the trusted network have relatively unrestricted access, leading to smoother navigation and potentially increased productivity.
  • Compatibility: High Trust models may seamlessly integrate with legacy systems and applications, reducing the need for extensive updates.

Cons of High Trust Models

  • Vulnerabilities: Relying solely on perimeter security creates a single point of failure. If hackers breach the perimeter, they can freely navigate through internal systems.
  • Insider threats: Malicious insiders or compromised accounts can exploit the trust granted within the network, leading to significant security breaches.
  • Limited visibility: High Trust models offer little visibility into user behaviour and network traffic, hindering threat detection and response.

Zero Trust model

In contrast, the Zero Trust framework operates under the principle of “never trust, always verify.” In this approach, every user, device, and application is considered untrusted, regardless of their location. Access is granted only after thorough verification, and users receive the least privileges required to perform their tasks.  

Pros of Zero Trust models

  • Enhanced security: Zero Trust models are designed to minimise the attack surface by enforcing strict access controls, reducing the chances of successful cyberattacks.
  • Mitigation of lateral movement: Since users are given the least necessary privileges, attackers’ lateral
  • movement is significantly restricted if they manage to breach a specific area.
  • Continuous monitoring: The Zero Trust framework emphasises continuous tracking and authentication, allowing real-time threat detection and response.  

Cons of Zero Trust models

  • Implementation complexity: Adopting a Zero Trust model can be complex and resource-intensive, requiring careful planning and execution.
  • User friction: The constant need for verification and multi-factor authentication may lead to user frustration and potential productivity slowdowns.
  • Impact on legacy systems: Integrating Zero Trust principles with legacy systems and applications can be challenging, requiring updates and potential replacements.

Which model is better for my organisation?

The decision between High Trust and Zero Trust models cybersecurity framework depends on various factors specific to your organisation’s needs and security goals. However, the Zero Trust model is becoming increasingly favoured due to its proactive approach and emphasis on continuous monitoring.

Choose High Trust if…

  • Your organisation has limited resources and requires a simpler security model.
  • Compatibility with legacy systems is a critical concern.
  • User experience and productivity are considered top priorities.

Choose Zero Trust if…

  • Your organisation handles sensitive data and requires robust security measures.
  • You have the resources and expertise to implement a more complex security framework.
  • The mitigation of insider threats and lateral movement is a significant concern.

While the High Trust model has served its purpose in the past, the Zero Trust model’s proactive and adaptive security approach is gaining momentum as the preferred choice for IT companies aiming to stay one step ahead of cyber threats. However, the decision should be made after a thorough assessment of your organisation’s specific requirements and readiness to adopt the model. Remember that cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and regular evaluations and updates are crucial to maintaining a robust defence against ever-evolving threats.

Do you need to up your company’s cybersecurity game to a Zero Trust model? Or do you need a consultation to determine which framework is best for you? At ITRS we offer top-quality risk management solutions, using the best infrastructure in the industry. Let’s chat!

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