Bottom Line: Instead of only relying on security vendors’ claims about Zero Trust, benchmark them on a series of five critical success factors instead, with customer results being key.
Analytics, Zero Trust Dominated RSA
Analytics dashboards dominated RSA from a visual standpoint, while Zero Trust Security reigned from an enterprise strategy one. Over 60 vendors claimed to have Zero Trust Security solutions at RSA, with each one defining the concept in a slightly different way.
RSA has evolved into one of the highest energy enterprise-focused conferences today, and in 2019 Zero Trust was center stage in dozens of vendor booths. John Kindervag created the Zero Trust Security framework while at Forrester in 2010. Chase Cunningham, who is a Principal Analyst at Forrester today, is a leading authority on Zero Trust and frequently speaks and writes on the topic. Be sure to follow his blog to stay up to date with his latest research. His most recent post, OK, Zero Trust Is An RSA Buzzword — So What?, captures the current situation on Zero Trust perfectly. Becca Chambers’ blog post, Talking All Things Zero Trust at RSA Conference 2019, includes an insightful video of how the conferences’ attendees define Zero Trust.
With so many vendors claiming to offer Zero Trust solutions, how can you tell which ones have enterprise-ready, scalable solutions? The following are five ways to demystify Zero Trust:
- Customer references are willing to talk and case studies available. With the ambitious goal of visiting every one of the 60 vendors who claimed to have a Zero Trust solution at RSA, I quickly realized that there’s a dearth of customer references. To Chase Cunningham’s point, more customer use cases need to be created, and thankfully that’s on his research agenda. Starting the conversation with each vendor visited by asking for their definition of Zero Trust either led to a debate of whether Zero Trust was needed in the industry or how their existing architecture could morph to fit the framework. Booth staffs at the following companies deserve to be commended for how much they know about their customers’ success with Zero Trust: Akamai, Centrify, Cisco, Microsoft, MobileIron, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec, and Trend Micro. The team at Ledios Cyber, who was recently acquired by Capgemini, was demonstrating how Zero Trust applied to Industrial Control Systems and shared a wealth of customer insights as well.
- Defines success by their customers’ growth, stability and earned trust instead of relying on fear. A key part of de-mystifying Zero Trust is seeing how effective vendors are at becoming partners on the journey their customers are on. While in the Centrify booth I learned of how Interval International has been able to implement a least privilege model for employees, contractors, and consultants, streamline user onboarding, and enable the company to continue its rapid organic growth. At MobileIron, I learned how NASDAQ is scaling mobile applications including CRM to their global sales force on a Zero Trust platform. The most customer-centric Zero Trust vendors tend to differentiate on earned trust over selling fear.
- Avoid vendors who have a love-hate relationship with Zero Trust. Zero Trust is having an energizing effect on the security landscape as it provides vendors with a strategic framework they can differentiate themselves in. Security vendors are capitalizing on the market value right now, with product management and engineering teams working overtime to get new applications and platforms ready for market. I found a few vendors who have a love-hate relationship with Zero Trust. They love the marketing mileage or buzz, yet aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about changing product and service strategies. If you’re looking for Zero Trust solutions, be sure to watch for this and find a vendor who is fully committed.
- Current product strategies and roadmaps reflect a complete commitment to Zero Trust. Product demos at RSA ranged from supporting the fundamentals of Zero Trust to emulating its concepts on legacy architectures. One of the key attributes to look for is how perimeterless a given security application is that claims to support Zero Trust. How well can a given application protect mobile devices? An IoT device? How can a given application or security platform scale to protect privileged credentials? These are all questions to ask of any vendor who claims to have a Zero Trust solution. Every one of them will have analytics options; the question is whether they fit with your given business scenario. Finally, ask to see how Zero Trust can be automated across all user accounts and how privileged access management can be scaled using Identity Access Management systems including password vaults and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
- A solid API strategy for scaling their applications and platforms with partner successes that prove it. One of the best questions to gauge the depth of commitment any vendor has to Zero Trust is to ask about their API strategy. It’s interesting to hear how vendors with Zero Trust-based product and services strategies are scaling inside their largest customers using APIs. Another aspect of this is to see how many of their services, system integration, technology partners are using their APIs to create customized solutions for customers. Success with an API strategy is a leading indicator of how reliably any Zero Trust vendor will be able to scale in the future.
RSA is in many ways a microcosm of the enterprise security market in general and Zero Trust specifically. The millions of dollars in venture capital invested in security analytics and Zero Trust made it possible for vendors to create exceptional in-booth experiences and demonstrations – much the same way venture investment is fueling many of their roadmaps and sales teams. Zero Trust vendors will need to provide application roadmaps that show their ability to move beyond prevention of breaches to more prediction, at the same time supporting customers’ needs to secure infrastructure, credentials, and systems to ensure uninterrupted growth.