Why Zero Trust Security Should Be A Priority in 2024 For Washington DC Associations and Nonprofits

Why Zero Trust Security Should Be A Priority in 2024 For Washington DC Associations and Nonprofits

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Achieving their core mission and maintaining stakeholder relationships are critical priorities for nonprofits and associations. Unfortunately, a data breach can jeopardize an organization’s focus and community trust, thanks to the likely downtime and loss of sensitive and confidential information.

Heading into 2024, organizations face increasingly sophisticated and more large-scale cyberattacks. Picture more incidents like the 2023 attack against the file-transfer software company MOVEit, which likely impacted over 2,000 organizations worldwide and hundreds of millions of individuals just from cybercriminals exploiting one zero-day vulnerability.

In the new year and beyond, focusing on implementing a zero-trust cybersecurity framework will be your best defense for preserving your online safety in that environment.

Need a real-world case study for proof?

At a recent session at our VisionCSI conference titled “Securing the Future: Building Trust in a Zero Trust World,” attendees learned the story of how the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians applied a Zero Trust architecture to help recover from a devastating cyberattack and experience more advanced data protection.

Below, we give an in-depth overview of the Zero Trust fundamentals discussed at the session. Keep reading to gain actionable insights to improve your information security and keep your organization resilient amidst an uncertain and risky environment.

What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is a modern security framework that follows the motto “Never trust, always verify.” Previously, traditional perimeter-based cybersecurity treated internal users as trustworthy and everything outside its network as unsafe. This new model sees every identity as suspicious, a more effective approach that can help organizations reduce their likelihood of a data breach by 50%.

The zero-trust framework has three fundamental principles:

  1. Verify explicitly: Prioritize comprehensive and continuous authentication throughout an identity’s journey with your IT infrastructure.
  2. Least privileged access: Restrict access to resources so users can only interact with the specific data necessary for their work and the exact duration required.
  3. Assume breach: Act as if a malicious actor has already breached your system, and work to prevent lateral movement and minimize an intruder’s potential attack surface.
How to Implement a Zero Trust Paradigm to Improve Your Cyber Defense

Your Zero Trust approach should focus on gaining visibility into six key pillars:

  1. Our data
  2. Endpoints
  3. Identity
  4. Applications
  5. Network
  6. Infrastructure

With so much area to cover, organizations must seamlessly orchestrate security controls and policies into a comprehensive defense system. Automation will be critical for streamlining the process and detecting threats in real-time.

How can you get started on establishing this new model in your workplace?
  1. Assess your existing security posture and evaluate your current environment based on Zero Trust principles.
  2. Build or outsource a security operations team that can execute the project.
  3. Implement multi-factor authentication that prioritizes the security of your identities, devices, and legacy applications.
  4. Establish governance, including data loss prevention policies and data classification systems.
  5. Proactively and routinely identify gaps in your posture to optimize your cybersecurity infrastructure continuously.
Cybersecurity Best Practices To Complement Your New Framework

Associations and nonprofits need industry-proven strategies to stay ahead of emerging threats.

To improve your online safety, your organization should adopt several cybersecurity best practices before and alongside your Zero-Trust approach.

Do the following:

Establish policies
Before adopting a zero-trust framework, your organization must develop procedures addressing your data’s privacy and confidentiality. Consider which team members can access your data and how they can use it. Then, document those decisions to ensure your employees approach data security cohesively. Written documentation also allows for accountability in case a compliance issue pops up.

Assess your inventory
Effective data protection starts with understanding the resources you need to keep safe. Focus on building an inventory of information assets such as addresses, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and physical assets like laptops, mobile devices, and IoT devices. This process will allow you to address incidents and breaches quickly.

Conduct cybersecurity training
Help your team protect your data as the first line of defense. Organizations should invest in regular staff cybersecurity training so employees understand how to navigate risks, avoid scams, and use technology securely.

Prioritize incident response and disaster recovery
Your staff should have a roadmap for containing security incidents and promptly restoring operations. Define roles, assign responsibilities, and establish reporting mechanisms. Also, develop a communication plan and a process for analyzing an incident’s severity.

Remember, your incident response planning should never be static! Continuously reassess your plans to enhance how your team recovers from future incidents.

Administer regular cybersecurity risk assessments
Your organization should systematically audit your information assets, systems, security policies, and controls to identify potential vulnerabilities. Your current setup may not be compliant with regulatory requirements, aligned with best practices, or effective in mitigating risk.

This cybersecurity risk assessment will help you pinpoint areas for improvement and take action to allocate your resources to manage threats better.

Tailored IT support for Washington DC Associations and Non-Profits

A proactive zero-trust security framework, in combination with evidence-based security measures and best practices, can help associations and nonprofits protect their sensitive data and business continuity—which is critical for the communities that depend on your organization.

Collaborating with cybersecurity experts and service providers will make implementing a new IT architecture simpler and more efficient.

When you partner with designDATA to address your information technology needs, your organization will benefit from our robust cybersecurity solutions and specialized expertise. From dark web scans and endpoint protection to Layer 7 Firewall and managed drive encryption, our tools will give you the security and peace of mind you need. With our offices in Washington, DC, and Maryland, local organizations from the region can benefit from more regular hands-on support.

Are you curious about attending future educational sessions to boost your cybersecurity and technology knowledge? Join our training webinar mailing list HERE.

Interested in talking about your cybersecurity? Discover how a no-pressure conversation can provide peace of mind and improve your digital safety.

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