Go back

Zero Trust Maturity Model: A Definitive Guide

Zero Trust Maturity Model: A Definitive Guide


Identity is a topic philosophers have struggled with for years. Identity as a concept spawns many smaller questions, such as “What makes you who you are?”. In the realm of cybersecurity, identity is just as groundbreaking and raises comparable concerns when trying to discern who is who and who should have access to what.

In 2023, the global average cost of a data breach was $4.45 million, representing a 15% increase over the last three years. Now more than ever, it is imperative that companies take a proactive approach to secure their resources and continuously monitor their security posture – starting with that age-old yet ever-changing concept of identity. 

This article will discuss what the zero trust maturity model is, its stages, and its pillars. Then, we will provide actionable steps for you to implement zero trust maturity model principles in your enterprise.

What is the Zero Trust Maturity Model?

The Zero Trust Maturity Model (ZTMM) provides a framework organizations can use to incrementally bolster their security by implementing zero trust in their environment. The fundamental principle of zero trust refrains from granting implicit trust to any user or asset within a given environment. In simpler terms, trust no one, always verify.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the initial version of the Zero Trust Maturity Model in August 2021, and it served as a valuable resource for organizations considering adopting a zero trust security architecture.

In March 2022, the CISA released a second version (ZTMM 2.0) in response to feedback from the original and to reflect modern security practices. Because the path to zero trust is an incremental process that may take years to implement, the CISA recommends a three-stage approach to zero trust maturity.

Stages of Zero Trust Maturity Model

1. Traditional

This is where most organizations find themselves at the starting line of their zero trust journey. Here, security practices are often largely manual and may rely on conventional trust models, where access controls are based on network location rather than the individual’s identity or device posture. It’s a common starting point characterized by a sense of trust within the network perimeter.

2. Initial 

At the Initial stage, organizations are tentatively moving away from heavily manual processes. Instead, they’re starting their digital transformation journey by automating tasks like policy enforcement, attribute assignment, and incident response, plus integrating external systems into their business operations.

3. Advanced

The Advanced stage in the Zero Trust Maturity Model signifies a vital evolution from traditional security practices. You can move beyond the initial manual security measures and embrace more sophisticated strategies. At this point, security professionals recognize the limitations of perimeter-based defenses and begin to prioritize identity and context in access control decisions. For example, they have started implementing multi-factor authentication, network segmentation, and more robust monitoring.

4. Optimal

In this pinnacle stage of the Zero Trust Maturity Model, organizations ascend to an advanced state of cybersecurity readiness. The Optimal zero trust architecture stage represents the zenith of their journey, where manual processes have largely yielded to automated tools and systems.

What are the Five Pillars of the Zero Trust Maturity Model?

1. Identity

Identity is central to zero trust as it focuses on verifying all users, devices, applications, and services within the network. The purpose is to ensure that only legitimate entities gain access to resources, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

2. Devices

This pillar emphasizes securing all devices accessing the network, including endpoints like computers and mobile devices. Its purpose is to establish trust by assessing the health and compliance of devices, preventing any from compromising the network.

3. Networks

The Networks pillar advocates for network segmentation and micro-segmentation. The aim is to minimize the attack surface by enforcing strict access controls, ensuring that threats cannot easily move laterally, even if a part of the network is compromised.

4. Data

The Data pillar is dedicated to protecting sensitive information. It aims to protect data through encryption, monitoring, and access controls, ensuring that data access adheres to policies and that data remains secure even if other security measures fail.

5. Applications and Workloads

This pillar focuses on securing applications and workloads to determine access based on dynamic policies. It provides the principle of least privilege and ensures that users or systems only have access to the resources relevant to their operations.

How Can You Apply Zero Trust Maturity Model Principles to Your Enterprise?

Applying Zero Trust Maturity Model principles to your enterprise is a gradual process that requires buy-in from all stakeholders and must align with your organization’s overall security goals. To help you become a zero trust enterprise, follow the below steps.

Define the Protect Surface

The “Protect Surface” spans the entirety of your organization’s digital assets, from critical data to the devices and applications that access it. To effectively safeguard this surface, it’s essential to begin by visualizing your current cybersecurity landscape. Understanding where your security misconfigurations lie is the first step towards fortification.

In this context, IAM solutions step into the spotlight for discovering and profiling human and machine identities and proactively enforcing real-world least privileged access.

Create a Strong Identity and Access Management Framework

Verifying identity is at the core of zero trust, so you can ensure that only legitimate users and devices have access to your resources. After all, 61% of data breaches involved credentials. 

Verifying identity through robust authentication methods is the first line of defense against unauthorized access. Implementing multi-factor authentication and single sign-on (SSO) is essential for enhancing your security posture.

While MFA and SSO are vital, keep in mind that you’ll need to continuously monitor access and identity across all your services and devices to rapidly address blind spots in your identity access management policies. 

Data: Protect Your Crown Jewels

The primary target of cyberattacks is often data, and it’s no surprise there were 493.33 million ransomware attacks in 2022 alone. The importance of protecting your data cannot be overstated. Encrypting data in transit and at rest plays a significant role here. Pairing this strategy with other IAM best practices fortifies the data pillar in your zero trust journey.

Mapping the Transaction Flows

Understanding how users interact with services, what resources they access, and how data flows within your ecosystem is paramount to security. Mapping the transaction flows reveals potential security misconfigurations and empowers you to proactively enforce access controls in line with a zero trust approach. For example, with Rezonate’s simple and intuitive platform, IAM engineers can see and orchestrate the full identity and access map, giving you better visibility over access journeys and greater confidence in making administrative changes. 

Again, IAM security platforms prove their value in this case. You can choose a platform that seamlessly integrates into this landscape, offering a comprehensive view of transaction flows. The best platforms enable you to profile and stay consistent with the principles of least privilege across multiple providers.

Implementing Security Controls Across the Stack

57% of organizations found the shift to decentralized work made patch management harder. As businesses embrace decentralized work models and multiple cloud service providers, ensuring consistent security controls across the stack becomes both challenging and critical.

Performing regular security audits and assessments to identify and rectify weaknesses in your security stack is crucial for maintaining compliance. In addition, you can implement a centralized patch management system to streamline updates across all your services, reducing vulnerabilities.

Educate and Train Your Workforce

Many people think it’s true that humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. This adage underscores a fundamental truth: even the most advanced security systems can be compromised through human error or manipulation. That’s where education and training become indispensable. 

Everyone within your organization must adopt a security-conscious mindset in a zero trust environment. By fostering a zero trust culture, you create a collective defense that operates on the principle of “trust but verify.” In this instance, trust is never assumed; it’s continually validated through stringent authentication and authorization. For example, you could introduce regular incident response drills to prepare your team in case of a security incident.

Securing Your Applications and Workloads

Safeguarding your workloads in the world of zero trust goes beyond mere firewalls and access controls; it’s about active, real-time protection. 

Runtime security steps into the spotlight here. It’s akin to having vigilant sentinels patrolling your digital kingdom 24/7. These sentinels, equipped with the power of runtime security, proactively monitor workloads, ensuring they adhere to the sacred principles of least privilege.

Make Zero Trust Easy and Effective With Real Time Visibility

Zero trust is where trust is earned, not assumed, and proactive measures are paramount. To help you implement zero trust, Rezonate’s identity-centric platform offers comprehensive coverage and visibility of all access plus continuous risk reduction and protection. With Rezonate, you’re not just prepared but actively discovering and mitigating risks.

The world of security is evolving, and your security should evolve with it. Take action and use Rezonate to proactively enforce real-world least privileged access and become a zero trust enterprise.

Book a free demo of Rezonate today.


Continue Reading

More Articles
Roy Akerman - 20 Minute Podcast on Identity Security

Podcast: A New Approach To Cybersecurity – An Identity-Centric Security One

In this riveting new episode of 20 Minute Leaders, Rezonate's CEO, Roy Akerman, the visionary mind behind Rezonate, a groundbreaking cybersecurity firm aimed at securing identities and protecting businesses. With 85% of today's attacks stemming from compromised identities, machines, or users, the need for a cybersecurity revolution is louder than ever. Roy enlighteningly delves into how Rezonate was born out of this urgent demand, Rezonate's innovative approach that disrupts traditional systems, and the future of cybersecurity. Don't miss out on this deep dive into the world of tech security, where old paradigms are challenged and revolutionary solutions are birthed. To listen to the full episode: https://youtu.be/F0xvRBrvS_M Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6dzJlrSrmVshYOGh4j6Jli?si=IG7SZiKNQOSBb4SXKlAEwA For more information, contact us or request a free demo. Like this article? Follow us on LinkedIn.
Read More
Rezonate Compliance SOC2

How Rezonate Maintains Audit-Ready State Using Rezonate

We all understand the importance of maintaining strong security protocols and controls. That’s why Rezonate decided to invest in the SOC 2 Type 2 compliance early on, and after only one month since our out of stealth announcement, we successfully achieved attestation. What exactly is SOC 2 Type 2 certification, and why is it important to you? SOC 2, or System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2 type 2 is a widely recognized set of standards that ensure a company’s controls have been independently examined and tested.  The “Type 2” designation refers to the fact that the audit covers a period of time, meaning that a company has not only implemented proper controls, but also demonstrated their continuous effective operation over a period of time.  Which is the key point I want to highlight here: a point-in-time validation vs. continuous readiness. Rezonate protects Rezonate Following any compliance requirements can be quite challenging. For starters, you need to fully understand the specific framework by analyzing and interpreting the right categories and controls. Then, using different assessment tools and manual efforts, you compile a list of all requirements, identifying what has been completed and what needs to be done, ensuring that the process is properly documented, logged, and monitored. So, how can you take steps to remove manual time-consuming actions, excel at all delicate tasks, ensure an error-prone process and achieve zero exception compliance? At Rezonate, we, the Security & DevOps team, use the Rezonate Cloud Identity Protection Platform (CIPP) on a daily basis for several use cases. As part of our ongoing protection of - our own human and compute resources’ IdP-IaaS identities and every access attempt to and from our cloud-native stack -  we ensure continuous compliance readiness across key identity-first trust principles defined by the SOC 2 audit: Security - Enforce the protection of data and systems, against unauthorized access, enforce MFA, and strengthen access controls. Strict inbound and outbound rules. Availability - Maintain availability SLAs at all times. Building inherently fault-tolerant systems which do not crumble under high load. Invest in network monitoring systems and DR plans in place. Confidentiality - Restrict and monitor access to organization’s confidential data and adhere to the principle of least privilege. We do that with the goal of continuously improving our controls and processes, ensuring that we are always meeting the highest standards in the industry. In a real-world and active environment, drifts may happen, however the process we’ve built around it course-correct itself. Protect identities, access, systems, and data We operate in a faced paced environment and therefore our infrastructure changes fast. Yet, we still allow our team the flexibility required to build fast - without compromising security. Using the Rezonate platform, our customers understand the identity security posture with complete visibility of their identities, policies, and access requests to meet all IAM aspects required for the security, availability, and confidentiality principles. Centralized identity inventory - Up to date inventory of all identities: employees, 3rd party vendors, machine resources, roles, groups, applications, and all required context across your multi-IdP / multi-cloud infrastructure. Access events - Discover and understand every access performed on or from a monitored identity, since its creation time to its last active session and activity performed. Privileges analysis - Evaluate entitlements provided to actual usage and true need for access and business operation. Behavior baseline & drift - Analyze every access request to critical data and application and realize possible risk across our IdPs and cloud infra. Risky exposures - Detect and better understand critical exposures, new access requests, and policy distribution to our engineering and overall staff. While we evaluate each request and relevant context to uncover potential hidden interdependencies, risk and implications. Threat detection - Detect any malicious impersonating, access rights, and excessive privileges, while evaluating possible impact, and taking action before damage occurred. Remediate - Proactively enforce a real-world least privileged access where Rezonate’s DevOps can ‘flex’ policy for unnecessary and risky privileges and ‘relax’ entitlements and access privileges for confirmed benign ones for increased productivity and agility. We have built this mechanism, all while abiding compliance mandates, to comply and stay audit-ready despite complex architectures to protect our most trusted asset - our customers’ data. Be able to provide required proof for observation period instantaneously without the manual effort involved.  If you want to speak with our team on how we are leveraging the Rezonate platform to protect Rezonate and by doing that, maintain SOC 2 Type 2 audit readiness for everything related to your identity and access, sign up for a demo or simply let us know info@rezonate.io.  Thank you to our partners, EY and Scytale, for their partnership on this and future milestones. 
Read More
Breaking the Identity Cycle

Breaking The Vicious Cycle of Compromised Identities

As we at Rezonate  analyze the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, an unmistakable deja vu moment grips us: A staggering 74% of all breaches are still exploiting the human factor — be it through errors, misuse of privileges, stolen credentials, or social engineering. This recurring theme serves as a clear call for businesses to switch gears and move away from static security approaches towards a more dynamic, identity-centric model. An Unyielding Threat Landscape Year after year, our IT landscape and attack surface continue to expand. Cloud adoption has soared, hybrid work becoming the norm, and our infrastructure continues to evolve. Yet, the threat statistics remain frustratingly consistent. This consistency points to a key issue: our security measures aren’t keeping up. Traditional security approaches, designed for a static operational model, distributed across tools and teams, are only increasing complexity and not meeting the demands of an ever-changing, dynamic infrastructure. In turn, this provides ample opportunities for attackers. The commonplace of Shadow access, increased attack surface, and greater reliance on third-parties all present identity access risks, making it harder see, understand and secure the enterprise critical data and systems. How Are Attackers Winning? Attackers are using simple yet effective methods to gain access to valuable data without the need of any complex malware attacks. A variety of account takeover tactics, bypassing stronger controls such as MFA, compromising identities, access, credentials and keys, brute forcing email accounts, and easily laterally expanding as access is permitted between SaaS applications and cloud infrastructure. Stolen credentials continue to be the top access method for attackers as they account for 44.7% of breaches (up from ~41% in 2022). Threat actors will continue to mine where there’s gold: identity attacks across email, SaaS & IaaS, and directly across identity providers. Where We Fall Short Security teams are challenged by their lack of visibility and understanding of the entire access journey, both across human & machine identities, from when access is federated to every change to data and resource. We're also seeing gaps in real-time detection and response, whether it be limiting user privileges or accurately identifying compromised identities. These shortcomings are largely due to our reliance on threat detection and cloud security posture management technologies that fail to deliver an immediate, accurate response required to successfully contain and stop identity-based threats. What Should You Do Different? We’re observing that businesses adopting an identity-centric approach:  Gain a comprehensive understanding of their identity and access risks, further breaking data silos, Are able to better prioritize their most critical risks and remediation strategies, Can more rapidly adapt access and privileges in response to every infrastructure change , Automatically mitigate posture risks before damage is inflicted, and Confidently respond and stop active attacks. Identities and access, across your cloud, SaaS, and IAM infrastructure, is constantly changing. Your security measures must evolve in tandem. The identity-centric operating model enables businesses to proactively harden potential attack paths and detect and stop identity threats in real-time. Breaking the cycle in Verizon DBIR 2024 Now is the time to make a change. Let’s change our old set-and-forget habits and know that security needs to be as dynamic and adaptive as the infrastructure it is protecting.  For more information about how can Rezonate help you build or further mature your identity security, contact us and speak with an identity security professional today.  This post was written by Roy Akerman, CEO and Co-Founder at Rezonate, and former head of the Israeli Cyber Defense Operations.
Read More
See Rezonate in Action

Eliminate Attacker’s Opportunity To Breach Your Cloud today

Organizations worldwide use Rezonate to protect their most precious assets. Contact us now, and join them.