Get Started on Zero Trust

A practical, 5-step approach based on advice from the experts

Digital transformation, adoption of cloud, the disappearing perimeter, and in 2020 the sudden everyone-work-remote push of COVID-19 has super charged the urgency and adoption of a Zero Trust approach to security. A simple Google search brings up volumes of news about ransomware getting through the perimeter to take over organizations in attacks that take advantage of corporate exposure to the internet through vulnerable and unpatched network equipment and servers, misconfigured workloads, remote access servers with open RDP access, and more.

Now is the perfect time to kick off a Zero Trust initiative if you haven’t already. Zero Trust has implications for almost every element of your IT infrastructure. It can feel like you are boiling the ocean.

But where do you start?

If you examine the Forrester and NIST playbooks for achieving a Zero Trust architecture you will discover a practical blueprint for implementing your initiatives. We took inspiration from their advice to create the 5-step process outlined below. LOGO-forresterLOGO-NIST

Step 1: Baseline

The experts agree that the first thing you need to do is discover and inventory all your assets.

This extensive asset inventory must include known owned assets as well as difficult-to-discover unknown “shadow IT” assets and third-party-owned assets that connect into your enterprise. Both Forrester and NIST emphasize the requirement to have this asset inventory baseline and both warn that a Zero Trust initiative can fail if you don’t do this. This is basic infrastructure and security hygiene but most organizations do not have a reliable asset inventory, so this is where your Zero Trust journey begins.

Step 2: Test & Secure

Perform a risk assessment on your assets and business processes. Involve the owners of those assets and processes. This also includes third-party owners. Take steps to secure these assets. NIST specifies security posture, configuration management and monitoring here. 

Step 3: Establish Microperimeters & Policies

This is where you build policies and deploy new technologies to move your organization to a Zero Trust default model. Make sure your microperimeters are tightly controlled because, as your digital transformation progresses, you will have more assets outside your traditional perimeter. A network-centric project might lean in on microsegmentation here. An identity and access project would lean in on user-centric access policies. A cloud project might focus on security configurations. Most organizations start with a reporting-only or a test deployment mode to ensure new policies are workable before moving to fully deployed enforcement.

Step 4: Continuously Monitor

Continuously monitor your environment and log traffic. Be prepared to respond to issues and modify policies based on real world operations. Watch for emerging exploits, vulnerabilities, and exposures. The Forrester model emphasizes visibility and analytics to help your SOC respond better and faster to security issues. NIST recommends establishing a baseline of activity patterns after initial deployment so that later anomalous behavior can be more easily identified.

Step 5: Automate, Orchestrate, & Report

Forrester recommends organizations deploy orchestration and automate responses to security incidents and changes in the enterprise environment. You’ll thank yourself if you can find ways to do this. This is often easier said than done but every little bit helps. Track your progress and report your success back to leadership. It is easier to get budget and resources if you can show steady progress.  

A typical enterprise will operate with a hybrid of Zero Trust and traditional perimeter architectures. Most Zero Trust strategies are chunked into Zero Trust projects anchored in specific network, cloud, application, or access initiatives.  You will continually revisit this process as you identify new initiatives, assets, and workflows for your organization.

Here’s how Attack Surface Visibility fits into the 5-step process described above:



An Attack Surface Management platform will discover, inventory, classify, assign business context, and identify owners of purposefully or inadvertently external facing digital assets. Most organizations don’t have a reliable inventory of assets and it is really difficult to find shadow IT and third-party-owned assets. Attack surface management really helps fill out the baseline asset inventory required for Zero Trust by providing intelligence on all external-facing digital assets.


Test & Secure

Attack surface management will perform a risk analysis on your external-facing assets to identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other security issues that could expose your organization to breach. A good attack surface management platform will prioritize the issues you have to help you more efficiently use the resources you have to improve your overall security posture.

3 & 4

Establish Micro-perimeters & Policies — Continuously Monitor

You will be adjusting perimeter configurations and policies as you make changes to support a Zero Trust environment. There are potentially many moving parts to making this transition and it is normal to introduce accidental misconfigurations, unfinished set ups, and other errors. An attack surface management solution continuously monitoring your attack surface will quickly identify misconfigurations and errors that create external exposures for your organization.


Automate, Orchestrate, & Report

You can automate external risk analysis with an attack surface management platform that operates continuously to check and check again on your changing external-facing attack surface and assets. Regular reports from an attack surface management solution over time will document your changing security posture and can be used to show off your progress towards a more secure environment overall.


The CyCognito platform can help organizations get started on their Zero Trust journey. It continuously discovers and performs risk assessment on assets affiliated with an organization from the outside-in; checks for misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and internet exposure risk; and prioritizes issues.

Watch an 8-minute demo video to see what CyCognito can do for your Zero Trust efforts and gain visibility over your entire attack surface.

About Raphael Reich, Vice President of Marketing

Raphael Reich, Vice President of Marketing, has helped bring innovative, category-defining security products to market for over two decades.

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