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Adopting a zero trust cybersecurity strategy for your veterinary practice

By January 31, 2022February 16th, 2024No Comments

In the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats and attacks, the White House recently released a zero trust cybersecurity strategy aimed at reducing the risks of cyberattacks against the US government.

The change in strategy and migration to zero trust strategy comes amidst the realization that cybercriminals are becoming more innovative in their attacks. It also comes on the heels of the Log4j vulnerability, which put most federal IT infrastructure at risk of being compromised due to access cybercriminals were getting in each cyberattack using the vulnerability.

What is a Zero trust cybersecurity strategy?

The US Department of Defence defines zero trust strategy as an evolving set of paradigms that moves the defenses from status, network-work based parameters to focus on users, assets and resources.

The strategy ensures that no implicit trust is granted to assets, applications, or users based solely on their physical or network location. Instead, the strategy grants access to these users, applications, and assets on a case-by-case basis, evaluating the context of every access to determine if access should be granted or denied. Its fundamental principles are least privileged access and strict user authentication.


Zero trust policies implementation in a veterinary practice

Continued digital transformation acceleration in veterinary practices such as hybrid workforce, migration to the cloud, remote working and the adoption of cybersecurity policies has changed the way these practices approach cybersecurity threats. The transformation, however, has not been exclusive to veterinary practices alone. Across other industries, the adoption of new technologies and cybersecurity measures has also increased in the past few years.

The integration of new technologies has also increased attack vectors that cybercriminals can use. This has resulted in an increased risk of being victims of cyberattacks from criminals who now have more avenues they can use to launch attacks.

These risks have been highlighted in recent high-profile cyberattacks such as Solarwinds, Microsoft Exchange, the Colonial Pipeline attack, and others. These attacks were targeted and sophisticated, which has led both public and private sectors to come to the realization that such attacks need a defense mechanism.

This is why the concept of zero trust has become important across all industries and government institutions. It is also the reason why veterinary practices should implement the strategy.

While zero trust strategy will not completely stop future cyberattacks, it will make it harder for cybercriminals or anyone looking to compromise your veterinary practice to succeed. It will also be able to capture attacks, whether launched from outside the veterinary practice or through an insider threat and prevent them from being successful.

Foundation of zero trust cybersecurity strategy

At its core, zero trust is a strategy upon which a cybersecurity ecosystem can be built. It aims at being comprehensive by not limiting itself to single technology such as user identity, remote user access, or network segmentation. To achieve this, the following three tenets are applied:

  1. Terminate every connection: Technologies such as firewalls do not terminate connections but instead allow infected traffic and files to pass through at the same time they are being inspected. An alert is later sent to clients in case an infected file is detected. Unfortunately, alerts may be too late, leading to compromise of the system. On the other hand, the zero trust approach ensures that the network is terminated, and files passing through are held until a verification process can be completed before reaching the endpoint. It operates inline and inspects all traffic at line speed while still being able to do threat analysis.

  2. Data protection using granular policies based on context: In the zero trust approach, every user and device is verified before being granted access. This is achieved through the use of granular business policies that are based upon the context, including user, device, applications being requested and the type of content being accessed. These policies are made to be adoptive and contextualize requests based on the user’s location or device. Access privileges are also continually reassessed each time a new request is made.

  3. Reduction of risk through elimination of attack surface: The zero trust approach also ensures that users are not granted access to networks. Instead, they are only connected to applications they intend to use. This ensures the risk of lateral movement within the network is eliminated in case a device used to access the applications is compromised. It also prevents compromised devices from infecting other network resources. The zero trust approach also hides users and applications to the internet, preventing them from getting discovered and compromised.

Benefits of adopting zero trust strategy by veterinary practices

With the rise in attack vectors that cybercriminals can use to attack your veterinary practice, implementing a zero trust cybersecurity approach will see your practice getting the following benefits:

  1. Gaining good visibility across the veterinary practice: Because one of its core tenets is not to assume anyone or anything as trusted, it allows veterinary practices to have total control of what each person or device accesses. Practice owners also have the full visibility of who and what type of device accessed the network at all times, including their location, time and applications accessed, giving you the power to monitor and flag unusual behaviors.

  2. Cybersecurity risks are reduced: with the assumption that all users and devices are malicious until they can get positively verified by their identity attributes, it locks out potential cybercriminals who have compromised part of the network from being able to move through veterinary practice network laterally.

  3. Increased security for cloud services: Despite the recent advancement in cloud computing technology, workload security still remains a shared responsibility between cloud service providers and their clients. Practice owners who use cloud services can ensure that they are doing their part in protecting their cloud systems by implementing a zero trust strategy to verify that everyone and everything accessing their cloud services is verified and authorized. This will help them prevent future attacks on their cloud services.

  4. Reduction of a data breach: Because every access is assumed to be hostile, users and devices are authenticated before permission for access is granted. Therefore, if an attacker gains access to a device or compromises a network, they have to be verified again because these devices and users are considered hostile by default. This prevents them from accessing data or moving laterally within the network.

  5. Secure remote workforce: If your veterinary practice has some staff who work remotely, the chances of being compromised are very high. However, with the zero trust approach, every attempt to access your network is thwarted, especially if it is cybercriminals who are trying to access it.

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