SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Zero trust in NZ, and its rise from fringe approach to industry standard

By Nick Forrester
Mon 1 Nov 2021

In the last 18 months, cybersecurity has transformed. 

Ever the opportunists, cyber-attackers took advantage of the vulnerable state of the world early last year, preying upon the swathes of workers making the abrupt transition to remote working. 

Many had never worked from home before. Their devices were unsecured, they weren’t trained in remote working security best practices, they weren’t connected to the corporate, on-premises firewall — and cyber-attackers knew it.

VPNs were, historically, a popular solution to this problem. They provided a means to ‘tunnel’ into the corporate network — but they did not address the fact that perimeters had been weakened with so many devices away from on-premises networks. And when attackers pass through this perimeter, a VPN approach assumes they can be trusted throughout the network.

It soon became clear to many security teams that perimeter-based remote security was not a sustainable approach with half the world’s workforce and students working from their living rooms. The zero trust model, while not new, quickly became the industry standard: according to a report from Zscaler earlier this year, 72% of surveyed organisations are adopting or have adopted the approach.
 

What is zero trust?

The guiding principle of a zero trust security model is that no one in an organisation — from a new recruit to the CISO — is granted intrinsic trust to access the network. Every user and device must be verified and authenticated regardless of role or security clearance. 

It changes an organisation’s ‘default state’ to one that assumes the network has experienced a breach, with access denied until a successful authentication is achieved. 

The rise of zero trust has coincided with an increase in insider attacks — another risk factor made riskier by the onslaught of remote working. Without adequate protections in place, an organisation with a remote workforce is exceedingly vulnerable to breaches from within the company as well as without. 

In the last two years, many organisations have gained new insights into who can constitute a cyber-threat — including trusted insiders. Insider attackers are often thought of as disgruntled employees, or spies with ill intent. But with heightened vulnerabilities as a result of remote working, well-meaning employees are just as likely to be labelled as insider attackers if they open the door to hackers through poor password hygiene, falling victim to phishing attacks, and general lack of cybersecurity know-how.

IT and cybersecurity company A10 Networks’ vice president Adrian Taylor says a zero trust approach is an effective way to combat insider threats.

“While awareness and education can reduce the risk of successful phishing and ransomware attacks, a single moment of negligence can be enough to devastate the business,” says Taylor.

“In this environment, it is safer to assume that even your most trusted user can pose a security risk — and design your cyber defence strategy accordingly.”
 

The business benefits of zero trust

The rapid onset of remote working has exacerbated not only the volume of cyber-attacks but also the costs related to breaches. 

According to the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach 2021 report, the average cost of a data breach in 2021 is US$4.24 million — an increase of almost 10% year-over-year. This is the highest ever figure for this metric in the report’s 17-year history. When remote working was presumed to be a factor in causing the breach, the average cost increased to $4.96 million. 

But, a zero trust approach, the report found, makes a drastic difference in reducing this cost. While the average cost of a breach was $5.04 million for those without a zero trust approach, those that had adopted the approach had an average breach cost of $3.28 million — a huge 42% difference.

Aside from cost reduction, zero trust can also assist in bolstering user experience (UX). On Gartner’s podcast channel ThinkCast last week, Gartner analyst and senior director John Watts says if the approach is implemented correctly, businesses can capitalise on better UX.

“Rather than dealing with a problematic VPN that is always prompting for access, some of these solutions could seem much more transparent to the user,” says Watts. “There’s a lot of value to be gained even just by trying to get to a zero trust architecture over time. 

“The value in pursuing this mindset is in how you apply those principles, work to reduce implicit trust, and improve risk posture.”
 

Zero trust in Aotearoa

The last two years have been eventful, to say the least, when it comes to cybersecurity in New Zealand. There were some 350+ cybersecurity incidents recorded in New Zealand over the 2019/2020 period, according to New Zealand’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) — an increase from previous figures.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand suffered a breach in January this year, costing NZ$3.5 million; 100 local email servers were affected by the notorious Microsoft Exchange attack in March. Perhaps most notably, the Waikato DHB’s entire network was pushed offline in a ransomware attack in May this year, impacting medical procedures and resulting in a major leak of confidential patient data.

There’s no one solution to the cybersecurity woes of an entire nation, but moving closer to widespread adoption of zero trust architectures is a step in the right direction.

In August, it was reported that Kāinga Ora and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development are leading the charge in adopting zero trust security in the New Zealand government.

According to reporting from Reseller News, Kāinga Ora led a zero trust architecture working group as part of the Government Information Security Forum. The Crown agency told Parliament’s social services and community select committee that it had 21 projects planned under its cyber security initiatives programme in its 2022 financial year. One of these projects was the implementation of a zero trust architecture.

This should also be considered for the IT systems of the country’s health system, according to Palo Alto Networks New Zealand country manager Misti Landtroop — especially following the Waikato DHB breach, as well as the Government’s recent decision to scrap district health boards (DHBs) in favour of a centralised new body, Health NZ. 

“Surgeries were delayed, confidential patient information was sent to the media by the hackers and questions were asked about whether the other DHBs had taken the necessary steps to avoid a similar fate,” says Landtroop.

“With plans to centralise the country’s 20 DHBs into a single health service, we need to be confident that the IT systems undergirding such crucial public services are robust and that sensitive data remains safe — and a Zero Trust network is the best way to do that.”

Public Interest Journalism Fund logo
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.
Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Adatree, Brother, Databricks, Nutanix & Rubrik
We round up all job appointments from May 20-26, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Could New Zealanders initiate a cyber attack from within?
The threat landscape is significantly increasing worldwide, and the opportunities it presents are a growing concern in Aotearoa.
Story image
PIJF
The path to bolstering supply chain security in New Zealand
A significant amount of today's business and leisure activity relies on IT supply chains. From complex international freight trades to local small business distribution channels, any supply chain that involves IT infrastructure serves as a crucial tool in our daily lives. 
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft NZ and TupuToa to boost diversity in cybersecurity sector
Microsoft NZ has teamed up with TupuToa to co-develop a cyber security employment programme specifically aimed at creating more diversity in Aotearoa's cybersecurity sector.
Story image
Ransomware
Employees on the frontline of cyber defense - report
In the first quarter of 2022, employees found themselves more than ever at the frontline of cyber defense, according to a new report from Kroll. 
Story image
Cyber attacks
Devastating cyber attacks expected to hit energy sector
Energy executives anticipate life, property, and environment-compromising cyber attacks on the sector within the next two years.
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Ransomware
APAC ranks third-highest region targeted by ransomware
Asia Pacific has ranked the third-highest region globally to be targeted by ransomware, according to cybersecurity firm Group-IB.
Story image
Phishing
Vishing attacks reach all time high - Agari and PhishLabs
"Hybrid vishing campaigns continue to generate stunning numbers, representing 26.1% of total share in volume so far in 2022."
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Ponemon Institute
Email revealed to be riskiest channel for data loss
More than half (60%) of organisations experienced data loss or exfiltration caused by an employee mistake on email in the last 12 months.
Story image
Microsoft
Elevation of Privilege the top 2021 Microsoft vulnerability
BeyondTrust has released its 2022 Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report, finding that Elevation of Privilege is the top vulnerability category for the second consecutive year.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Gartner reveals top three tech trends for banks this year
Gartner says generative artificial intelligence, autonomic systems and privacy-enhancing computation are gaining traction in banking and investment services.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Check Point
Check Point and CCTV expert join forces to boost protection
The partnership will involve Check Point Quantum IoT Protect Nano Agent being embedded in Provision-ISR’s CCTV cameras for on-device runtime protection.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Comcast to use ThreatQuotient for cybersecurity operations
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal and SKY Group, has chosen ThreatQ Platform and ThreatQ Investigations to meet their cybersecurity needs.
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Training
Trojan cyber attacks hitting SMBs harder than ever - Kaspersky
In 2022 the number of Trojan-PSW detections increased by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2021 to reach 4,003,323.
Story image
Malware
'Alarming' rise in ransomware threats - Verizon report
As criminals look to leverage increasingly sophisticated forms of malware, it is ransomware that continues to prove particularly successful.
Story image
Cybersecurity
What every CISO must answer to enable a best-in-class security operations program
It has been widely reported recently that South Australian government employees have been the victims of a cyberattack.
Story image
Cybercrime
The ups and downs and runarounds of catching cybercriminals in NZ
We're becoming more and more aware of cybercrimes but how many criminals actually get caught? The New Zealand police explain why the answer is complicated.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Asia Pacific plagued by sophisticated bad bots - report
The three most common bot attacks were account takeover, content or price scraping, and scalping to obtain limited-availability items.
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Ransomware
CERT NZ releases first Cyber Security Insights for 2022
CERT NZ has released Quarter One: Cyber Security Insights 2022, which offers an overview of reports about cybersecurity incidents affecting New Zealanders.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Accenture - a collective security approach a driving factor for cyber resilience
With the approaching Davos World Economic Forum upon us, it is even more imperative to discuss the impact of cybersecurity on business operations leading into the future.
Story image
Kubernetes
Sysdig unveils new Kubernetes troubleshooting and cloud innovations
Sysdig has introduced two new innovations that look to help bolster cloud services and simplify Kubernetes troubleshooting.
Story image
Malware
Fortinet introduces self-learning AI in latest offering
Fortinet is introducing self-learning AI capabilities in its new network detection and response offering, FortiNDR.
Story image
BYOD / Bring Your Own Device
How zero trust can lead the battle against ransomware
SecOps teams champion a zero trust strategy to support the fight against the escalating risk of cybercrime and help monitor threat actors across a network.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity prompts upgrade for 1.3 billion electricity meters
ABI Research finds Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and cybersecurity concerns are prompting the upgrade of 1.3 billion electricity meters by 2027.
Story image
Data Protection
Information management capabilities to meet privacy requirements
Organisations with customers or operations across more than one country face a spate of new and proposed privacy and data protection laws.
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Transport
Third-party automotive apps bear significant privacy risks
Mobile applications for connected cars provide various features to make life easier for motorists, but they can also be a source of risk.
Story image
Managed service provider
Barracuda MSP Day 2022 highlights MSP opportunities
Barracuda Networks has released a report showing global services-related MSP revenue is set to increase by more than a third in 2022 compared to 2021.
Story image
Training
Infosec unveils role-guided cybersecurity training roadmaps
Infosec Skills Roles maps hands-on training and certifications to the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles to maximise training efficiency.
Story image
Microsoft
Global cybersecurity insurance market worth $11.5b this year
Future Market Insights finds the cybersecurity insurance market is expected to reach USD$11.5 billion in 2022, growing to $61.2 billion in 10 years.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC organisations fail to disclose ransomware breaches
85% of organisations in APAC were breached by ransomware at least once in the past five years, but only 28% publicly disclosed the incident.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
The post-pandemic workforce requires secure IAM capabilities
HID Global discusses what identity and access management means for organisations in today's convoluted digital world.