Zero Trust: The Crucial Role it Plays in Ensuring Secure Cloud Connectivity

Zero Trust enhances security posture and aligns with regulatory standards. Secure access service edge (SASE) provides a practical implementation of Zero Trust principles, combining various security functions into a single cloud-native service.

DQI Bureau
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A recent headline reads: “Public cloud growth is back, baby!” The financial results for last year's fourth quarter clearly showed the major cloud service providers all growing substantially. But you don’t need to be a finance wiz to recognize that the rapid adoption of cloud computing is happening. The modern IT landscape has become a complex web of devices, applications, and users spread across various locations and geographies—from the confines of on-premises data centers to massive hyperscale cloud environments and everything in between.


The user base reflects this distribution as well. From office staff and hybrid workers to fully remote contractors, predicting where and when users will connect and securing their access is difficult, to say the least. New modes of work have rendered legacy network architectures inadequate, a fact brought sharply into focus during the pandemic. The reliance on VPN concentrators showcased the vulnerabilities of relying on centralized systems, as these became prime targets for denial of services attacks during COVID-19 times.

Even without the DDoS attacks, traditional VPNs often exposed their inefficiencies. The physical distance between users and apps, routing traffic through busy enterprise data centers, and the unpredictable performance across ISPs created daily challenges for network administrators and compromised the user experience. Despite these obstacles, the Internet's role in the corporate backbone has only increased, a change enabled by SD-WAN but significantly sped up by the shift to hybrid work, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.

At the same time, the threat landscape has become increasingly hostile. Organizations regularly contend with sophisticated cybercriminal gangs, insider threats, and even state-sponsored adversaries. The heightened risks of lateral movement within networks and the ever-present danger of ransomware necessitate a robust framework for monitoring and controlling data flows beyond the traditional network perimeter. For instance, minimizing the risk of remote users accessing SaaS platforms from unmanaged devices through home broadband networks requires a highly nuanced approach to data security and access control.


Enter Zero Trust, a security model that assumes no entity within or outside the network is inherently trustworthy. This model abandons the practice of one-time authentication in favor of continuous verification of all access requests. Zero Trust enhances overall security by reducing the attack surface area and limiting user access based on context. In the case of a security breach, network segmentation policies can help prevent lateral movement within a network and significantly limit the damage caused by an intruder.

It’s all about controlling access using policies that grant only the bare minimum access to apps and data. Zero Trust provides a framework that aligns with stringent regulatory standards by implementing granular access control and ensuring that all access requests are thoroughly authenticated and authorized. Policy enforcement and reporting are especially crucial for industries subject to rigorous data protection laws, where failure to comply can result in severe penalties.

Secure access service edge (SASE) is a practical way to implement Zero Trust principles, applying them to devices, networks, and applications. SASE is a cloud-native architecture that combines security functions like protective DNS, zero trust network access, secure web gateway, CASB and DLP, and remote browser isolation into a single service. By placing these services near end-users and enforcing a distributed security model at the edge, SASE improves performance, reduces latency, and enhances user experience.  This approach facilitates employees' ability to work from any location on any device and decouples security from the traditional network perimeter so organizations can embrace the cloud more fully.


This paradigm shift towards Zero Trust and a distributed networking and security architecture mirrors, in some ways, the ongoing adoption of cloud computing we’ve observed over the past decade and a half. Like the gradual, sometimes inadvertent migration to compute and storage clouds, organizations today are laying the groundwork for what we could describe as “connectivity clouds.” These networking and security services, which comprise a company’s connectivity cloud, are now delivered through the Internet and at the edge and are designed to unify and radically simplify enterprise connectivity.

As the adoption of AI intensifies and the demand for data for model training and inference grows, the importance of robust, agile, and secure connectivity has never been more critical. As we navigate this transformation, the role of IT leaders is not just to adapt but to anticipate, shaping the future with vision and determination. The future enterprise environment will be defined by distribution and dynamism across clouds, driven by trends like IoT, APIs, and artificial intelligence. Looking ahead, a connectivity cloud underpinned by Zero Trust principles will increase in value as organizations become ever more digital. Zero Trust and SASE must migrate from buzzwords to standard practices to manage connectivity, security, and compliance in this evolving landscape. Implementing Zero Trust and SASE today is not merely a strategic move—it's a necessary evolution.

By John Engates, Field CTO, Cloudflare