Is Zero Trust Bad For Workplace Culture?

Zero trust protects assets, but over-applying it to employees can backfire. Explore balancing security needs with a healthy company culture for a more productive and secure workplace.

Embracing the cybersecurity principle of zero trust is essential for protecting valuable assets. However, the indiscriminate application can take a toll on workplace dynamics. It’s critical to cultivate a positive work culture where trust flows between the organization and its employees. Explore how business leaders can help balance security needs with a healthy workplace culture to foster a more productive and secure environment.

 

Zero Trust and the Human Workplace: can they coexist? 

Zero Trust means trust is never freely given and must be earned through continuous verification and authorization of user credentials and behavior. It presumes that an attacker has already infiltrated the network and eliminated the outdated practice of “one-and-done” verification that previously determined successful access attempts.

For zero trust to work, leaders must strategically assess how to protect the entire infrastructure to facilitate a secure and seamless workflow across remote and hybrid teams, multi-cloud environments, identity and authentication, and rapidly expanding endpoints. 

But be careful not to go overboard with controlling employee access. An overreliance on blocking, banning, and denying access to applications can erode employee trust and reduce job satisfaction.

 

What can leaders do to make Zero Trust work?

 

• Make an inventory of all assets and resources

To implement zero trust, companies need to know everything they’ve got – their assets, data, workflows, and everything digital. This survey makes it easier to know what processes or policies need changes. After assessing everything, companies can monitor their assets and see how policy changes impact them.

• Run zero-trust pilot programs

Pilot programs allow employees to experience and learn zero-trust principles without the pressure of immediate acceptance. Teams can see how zero trust might affect access and responsibilities and give feedback. This feedback helps organizations plan for a full zero-trust implementation.

 

• Look for accessible applications

Zero trust doesn’t have to disrupt everything. Find areas to apply zero trust that won’t disrupt personnel or workflows. Once comfortable, move on to more critical applications.

 

• Use enrollment-based controls

Enrollment-based controls balance security and employee productivity by incentivizing security-conscious decisions. They build employee trust and reduce the negative impact of security measures on morale.

 

• Use the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP)

 Limiting network access to protect critical functions and data only to those who need it is crucial. This principle includes third-party vendors, partners, and specialized staff. A zero-trust policy can help by providing access based on levels of trust and limiting access to only what’s needed to perform tasks. Learn more about POLP in this guide.

• Review security tools and strategies

Relying too much on enforcement-based controls can hurt employee trust and productivity. IT and security teams should explore alternative tools and strategies that don’t disrupt workflow. The goal is to balance security and employee satisfaction. Research showed that 60% of employees feel negative about their company due to enforcement-based controls.

 

• Build a culture of trust

A workplace where employees feel valued and respected is essential to building trust. Encourage open communication and listen to their opinions and concerns. By fostering a culture of trust, you can reduce the risk of security breaches and create a more productive and satisfying workplace.

 

• Find the experts

Implementing zero trust involves many steps and processes. Seek out experts who have contributed to zero-trust research, like NIST’s 800-207 Zero-Trust Architecture. Other federal bodies, such as NSA and CISA, have also released their guidance and recommendations.

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RECOMMENDED IMMEDIATE NEXT ACTIONS

  1. Determine which systems were impacted and immediately isolate them. Take the network offline at the switch level or physically unplug the systems from the wired or wireless network.
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