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Zero Trust Networks by Doug Barth, Evan Gilman

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Chapter 6. Trusting Users

It’s tempting to conflate user trust with device trust. Security-conscious organizations might deploy X.509 certificates to users’ devices to gain stronger credentials than passwords provide. One could say that the device certificate strongly identifies the user, but does it? How do we know that the intended user is actually at the keyboard? Perhaps they left their device unlocked and unattended?

Conflating user identity with device identity also runs into problems when users have multiple devices, which is increasingly becoming the norm. Credentials need to be copied between several devices, putting them at increased risk of exposure. Devices might need different credentials based on their capabilities. In networks that have kiosks, this problem becomes even more difficult.

Zero trust networks identify and trust users separately from devices. Sometimes identifying a user will use the same technology that is used to identify devices, but we must be clear that these are two separate credentials.

This chapter will explore what it means to identify a user and store their identity. We will discuss when and how to authenticate users. User trust is often stronger when multiple people are involved, so we will discuss how to create group trust and how to build a culture of security.

Identity Authority

Every user has an identity, which represents how they are known in a larger community. In the case of a networked system, the identity of a user is how they are ...

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