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Measuring Zero Trust Success

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: Apr 17, 2024.

Contents

  1. Importance of Measurement
  2. The Metrics Lifecycle
  3. A Hybrid Approach
  4. The Follow-Up

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In Zero Trust We Trust

In Zero Trust We Trust

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Initially, Glenn the consultant had the CIO’s (Mr. Jonathan Smith’s) attention. Now Glenn has Mr. Smith’s curiosity. With more detailed discussions, leadership teams appreciate the value of Zero Trust as a concept; however, they want to know how to apply the concept to their own enterprise. Hence, the logical next step is to map specific business drivers to measurable outcomes that are aligned to the larger Zero Trust vision. Effective metric creation will help enable strategic discussions on identifying Zero Trust mission statements to drive adoption across diverse teams within the organization. A common challenge enterprises face is to convince other leaders (ops, finance, and so on) within the organization that Zero Trust has a larger impact, not only to the security architecture but to overall enterprise risk, strategy, and cost. For example, business operations teams may not see the benefit of adopting Zero Trust unless there is a tangible metric that aligns with their strategy. For a vendor-neutral consultant, it appears obvious to move to a secure access model; however, many intricate dependencies such as cost implications, politics, and overall organization position in the market need to be considered when proposing a metric, as adverse conditions might deter enterprises from implementing Zero Trust. Some of the common deterrents to adoption have been discussed in Chapter 1, “When It All Begins.”

As translators of strategy and operational requirements, if consultants are unable to craft the right metric that is acceptable to leadership, they will not be able to showcase the value that Zero Trust brings to the enterprise infrastructure, processes, and people. Similarly, if the daily operational problems are not considered when crafting metrics, end users and employees will not fully appreciate the value of Zero Trust and its impact to their workflow. It is common knowledge that leadership speaks in the language of performance and risk, and the focus of this chapter will be to help craft metrics based on these key constructs, such as risk and performance. Risk and performance metrics are standard measurements that can be consumed by all business units within the enterprise.

Once leaders and adopters see the value of Zero Trust as a concept for their enterprises, they will be keen to understand from vendors how they incorporate Zero Trust not only into their products but also within the vendor’s enterprise itself. For example, Cisco has been on the Zero Trust journey for quite some time and hence is a good reference point to showcase to other enterprises how they can begin their own journey. Cisco’s journey also helps enterprises understand how to craft customized Zero Trust metrics to validate the efficacy of the Zero Trust initiative.

By driving Zero Trust in the enterprise, you are essentially committing to improve the security posture of the enterprise. Since you are looking at the adoption process of Zero Trust holistically, you must acknowledge that there are very few people who really see the entire Zero Trust picture. The key observants and enablers are leadership stakeholders. Unfortunately, without metrics, the value Zero Trust provides is conjecture at best for most stakeholders. Budgeting is another touchy subject. The board members must buy into your vision, and you must be able to showcase to them that the initiative will bring back quantifiable success in terms of performance improvements or risk reduction and eventually monetary gains and organizational stability. You cannot achieve these broader strategic goals without taking all precautions to protect the data of the customers and employees. At the same time, you do not want to let customers or employees create backdoors due to the extreme lengths the organization goes to secure data. That is where intelligent metrics come in.

There are some common metrics you identify to set a baseline that can be utilized to craft enterprise-specific metrics. Before any discussion about metrics begins, it is important to understand what a good metric is and why it is important to create tangible metrics.

Importance of Measurement

As a consultant, you need to help the enterprise identify a measurable metric. Consider a common example of showing the current status of a movie download in movie download software. It is a common strategy to see status messages on the software user that show “Almost done” rather than “99%” completion. There could be end users comfortable just knowing that the download will finish soon, and there might be other users who want to see the exact download percentage. Another example is the traffic lights showing a countdown to the next light change. Some people consider this a good feature on traffic lights because they prefer to switch off their vehicles when the traffic light is red and turn on the engine seconds before the light turns green. However, the number of such vehicle owners is lesser than the majority population that do not care about the time frame and just keep the engine running. What the architecture and design team must do is run a survey to understand the percentage of each of these users and decide which option to lean toward, which can bring in more utilization and value. Leadership is typically interested in maximizing recurring subscription to services or products along with increase in customer promoters. It is a strategic decision to decide what metric to consider when measuring a specific strategy. A metric like “reduce impact of an attack” is qualitative at best and in reality is very vague and broad scoped. When creating metrics, you must consider that each metric is a means to convince the listener that the scope can be measured and that the strategy is working from each stakeholder’s perspective. Crafting metrics is an adoption strategy by itself and therefore requires the knack of understanding what your target audience wants. To an operations lead, the metrics should resonate with availability and ease of operations. To an enterprise architect, it would resonate with providing the right architecture and design following all best practices and compliance. A CxO would be more concerned with support to the business, recurring revenue, and risk reduction. Hence, Zero Trust shouldn’t be restricted to one type of metric. It is usually an amalgamation of many metrics targeting all the stakeholders.

Another decision is the final state that has been envisioned for the enterprise. Once the metric has been crafted, the enterprise needs to decide where it would like to be from a Zero Trust access perspective, which aligns with their business vision. Should the enterprise target the highest maturity level or should it consider the asset value and context and decide which is the right state to be in. Enterprises need to build a meaningful and achievable metric to be able to show immediate value with tactical and operational returns and, in turn, propose more details about the strategic goals. By possessing some of the characteristics mentioned in subsequent sections, a metric can help an organization to identify, prioritize, and mitigate security risks and maintain a strong security posture to reach the desired performance and alignment to business. This will in turn drive the security budget requirement.

Deciding final state will hence depend on what the enterprise feels critical. A banking enterprise might want to consider any financial activity–related applications as important and applications handling personal identifiable information (PII) data as critical. Data classification, flow mapping, asset inventory, and segmentation will help identify the maturity vision of the enterprise based on the critical infrastructure present and identified. Once the vision is clear, the next step is to build observable, simple metrics to ensure that the capabilities around protecting these critical assets are in place.

2. The Metrics Lifecycle | Next Section

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