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U.S. Defense Agency Delivers Zero Trust Cybersecurity Reference Architecture

The Defense Information Systems Agency is laying the foundation for next-generation cybersecurity with the release of the initial Department of Defense Zero Trust Reference Architecture (Dod ZT). Zero Trust is a cybersecurity strategy and framework that embeds security throughout the architecture to prevent malicious actors from accessing the most critical assets.

The document states the foundational tenet of the Zero Trust Model is that no actor, system, network, or service operating outside or within the security perimeter is trusted. Instead, they must verify anything and everything attempting to establish access.

The reference architecture describes seven zero-trust pillars – user, device, network/environment, application and workload, data, visibility and analytics and automation and orchestration – and outlines the zero-trust capabilities aligned with each.

The capabilities for the device pillar, include identifying, authenticating, authorising, inventorying, isolating, securing, remediating and controlling all devices. The architecture also outlines the technical, legal regulatory and procedural standards that apply to each pillar.

The standards forecast section details how the technology-related, operational or business standards are mapped to each pillar’s capabilities and whether those standards are emerging, active, mandated or retired. Additional sections describe the dependencies between planned capabilities, mapping between capabilities required and the activities and services that enable those capabilities.

The intent and focus of zero-trust frameworks are to design architectures and systems to assume breach, thus limiting the blast radius and exposure of malicious activity. Moving from network-centric to data-centric cybersecurity model, zero-trust is a paradigm shift that leverages three guiding principles: never trust, always verify; assume breach; and verify explicitly.

DISA personnel worked with the Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Information Officer (CIO), U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency to develop the initial DoD Zero Trust Reference Architecture. DISA personnel says that from start to finish, the development of this initial DoD ZT Reference Architecture has been a true team effort.

The partnership they have fostered through this process with their NSA, Cyber Command and DoD CIO mission partners was integral toward the development of a comprehensive reference architecture that was unanimously approved by DoD senior leadership.

Cybersecurity has become an increasingly popular topic for both the executive branch and lawmakers as many cyberattacks have appeared, therefore many departments and agencies prioritise cybersecurity, including the Department of Energy (DOE). As reported by OpenGov Asia, The Department of Energy (DOE) will prioritise its research programmes on cybersecurity in the fiscal year 2022.

In a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, a member pointed out that the DOE’s budget overview lacked any mention of cybersecurity. However, DOA reassured that DEO and its industry partners are totally focused on cybersecurity.

DOE is completely committed to getting industry partners the tools, intelligence and cyber response that they need to address the cyber threats that are out there. DOE is refocusing on providing grid operators with threat intelligence and response capabilities. DOE will be making sure that cyber R&D is a focus for all of their technology programmes.

In written testimony, DEO noted a 100-day plan announced by the White House in April to shore up the country’s electrical grid. The 100-day plan includes aggressive but achievable milestones and will assist owners and operators as they modernise cybersecurity defences, including enhancing detection, mitigation and forensic capabilities.

Deputy national security advisor has previously discussed the public-private partnership effort which is being launched around the same time the administration is expected to publish a wide-ranging executive order also focused on cybersecurity.

U.S. government needs the visibility of the systems on cybersecurity because of the significant consequences if they fail, or if they’re degraded. A high standard of visibility is the threshold of success they seek from a cyber perspective. Many efforts still need to be done achieve the results.


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