Implementing Zero Trust in IoT: Challenges & Mistakes to Avoid

April 16, 2024

The rise of the cyber-physical world is the deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT), and with it comes the escalation of the security challenges it faces. Based on a barrier, an external defense, and an implicit trust, old security modes cannot solve modern security when constantly changing conflicts. The zero trust framework addresses these characteristics with an innovative security model. This model challenges the erroneous assumption of implicit trust by implementing rigorous verification and strict access control measures.

The situation opens up more room for the misuse of various resources, so the zero trust model is vital because it is a proactive method of dealing with security concerns and privacy preservation. This article will discuss the features and zero trust security model of the IoT industry as it presents possibilities for safeguarding new security mistakes.

Zero trust security model: 6 Main pillars

6 Key pillars of the zero trust security model

Zero trust leverages the startling breaching of network trust between internal and external entities with a new security assumption with no implied trust of any element in the environment. This agricultural extension program seeks to move away from inspection-based compliance to authentication-based compliance.

Various network sectors' zero-trust technologies impact healthcare, finance, manufacturing, governance, and defense, which exploit the zero-trust to protect sensitive data, reinforce critical infrastructure, and improve the general security posture.

Least privilege access

Least privilege access restricts user permissions to only the essential resources necessary for their tasks. This approach emphasizes the need to verify and authenticate every user and device attempting to access the network, whether inside or outside the perimeter. Organizations can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access by implementing least-privilege access.


The network is partitioned into segments to suppress the spread of horizontal assistance. This action limits the possible end product of a compromised IoT device.


All firms in this sphere should routinely demonstrate their security and stability by increasing authentication and access control measures so that no fraudulent activity or hacking could occur.

Identity and access management

Multi-factor authentication, exemplified by methods such as notebooks with multiple authentication factors, emerges as one of the most promising authentication approaches. It ensures the validity of user and device access to resources through rigorous verification measures.

Strict access control

Access policies, which range in their level of strictness, are dynamically enforced to ensure security. Real-time risk assessment serves as the standard, allowing organizations to adapt swiftly to evolving threats and maintain robust protection measures.

Data encryption

Communication cryptography and dealing with data in transit sets a barrier to insecurity. Consequently, overall protection is augmented.

Zero trust security model for IoT

The zero trust security model for IoT is a cybersecurity approach that assumes breach, verifies continuing trusted cooperation, and establishes pre-determined context hostilities and response enumeration. In this concept, every rider inside or outside the network has to be identified and authorized to run a continual revalidation process based on their security posture before accessing the systems. Zero trust displaces the worldwide network bound, and any location may have such assets, including the cloud and hybrid environments, with workers being at any place, including remote ones.

The cornerstones of zero trust with the IoT paradigm consist of a constant assurance of access to any resource, containing the blast zone to minimize the fallout from the breaches, and automating the collection and the response to the behavioral information being integrated throughout the entire IS environment.

With zero trust approval being continuous, organizations ensure continuous verification with risk-based conditional access that is in constant yet unhindered availability to users with adaptation to workloads that can scale dynamically to account for the user's requirements. Limited means that "intermodal execution" and a "privileged principle" cut off access to the minimum required attributes and possibilities. Getting context information along with the response in automation calls for data acquisition across sources like user data, workloads, endpoints, and networks for making the right and timely decisions.

The zero trust IoT security will be the cornerstone of the ever-evolving cybersecurity world, as it tackles the current concerns of IoT security, such as remote work, hybrid cloud, and ransomware threats. Implementing a zero trust-based architecture facilitates the establishment of a strong security foundation. It ensures continuous verification of access, minimizes the impact of attacks, and employs automated responses using data from all IT infrastructure.

Related article: Identity and Access Management Security in IoT

The five key principles of the zero trust security model

5 Key principles of zero trust security

Five key principles constitute the foundation of the security model, with zero-trust guiding organizations in safeguarding their digital assets through heightened access controls, continuous verification, and the implementation of logic-driven and data-centric policies. It has protection against malicious actor's objectives.

1. "Never trust, always verify"

The "defense-in-depth" posture should be the norm, even when users and devices are presumed to be within a granted and permissioned network such as a corporate local area network (LAN). The continuous verification component covers identity confirmation, device compliance assessment, and the least privilege system that provides easy access to their assigned resources.

2. "Assume hostility"

The model possesses a paradigm that all non-authorized users, devices, and services that connect to the network will be treated as hostile until they are authenticated by the system. Consequently, the premise of judiciously getting to know the neighborhood networks to safeguard them from traps is replaced with meticulously examining all possible hazards lurking in the networks.

3. Constant authentication and authorization

Authentication and authorization processes occur without much disruption since they occur continuously throughout the network, not just at the edge.

4. Dynamic and data-driven policies

Zero trust systematically incorporates data sources based on calculated processes. Modified policies should be able to respond dynamically and take into account factors like user ID, device health, and application page term to guarantee safe access to applications and resources.

5. End-to-end monitor

The model is interested in centralized data analytics for the security monitoring and threat detection of the whole scheme, including the cloud environment. Security organizations run data collection and analysis from different sources, determining an effective security posture for responding efficiently to possible threats.

Challenges with implementing the zero trust security model

Overcoming challenges requires meticulous planning, thorough implementation strategies, continuous monitoring, and adaptation. These steps can enable organizations to successfully implement the zero-trust security model, bolstering their cybersecurity stance and protecting their digital assets effectively. Despite its benefits, the zero-trust security model presents various challenges that organizations must tackle to ensure effectiveness. 

Piecemeal approach

Customizing zero-trust strategies using a piecemeal approach can lead to gaps or cracks in the security framework, making it less robust than intended. This approach may require significant architectural, hardware, and software changes, which can create unexpected security lapses.

Legacy system adaptation

Retrofitting legacy systems and applications designed with perimeter-based security in mind to align with zero trust principles can be complex. Legacy systems may need to be replaced or require different security deployments to ensure compatibility with the zero-trust model, leading to additional costs and time investments.

Productivity impact

Introducing a zero-trust approach can potentially affect productivity if access restrictions hinder workflows. Balancing stringent security measures with the need for efficient access to sensitive data is crucial to preventing disruptions that could negatively impact productivity.

Security risks

While the zero trust model aims to enhance security, it is not immune to risks, including IoT data storage threats and solutions. Potential vulnerabilities include trust brokers as potential points of failure, attacks on local physical devices, compromised user credentials, and the attractiveness of zero-trust admin account credentials to malicious actors. Organizations need to be aware of these risks and implement strategies to mitigate them effectively.

Five common mistakes to avoid in the zero trust security model

1. Overcomplicating implementation

One common mistake is overcomplicating the implementation process, leading to overwhelming security teams. It is crucial to start by identifying critical areas, prioritize implementation, and gradually expand the approach to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

2. Focusing solely on technical controls

Another mistake is focusing on technical controls only after considering other factors like user behavior and access management. Organizations should implement multi-factor authentication, restrict access to sensitive data, and monitor user behavior to enhance the effectiveness of the zero-trust approach.

3. Incomplete risk assessment

Neglecting a comprehensive risk assessment before deploying zero trust can lead to an incomplete understanding of security needs, resulting in less effective implementation. Conducting a thorough risk assessment involving key stakeholders and security experts is essential to effectively tailor the zero trust strategy.

4. Lack of continuous monitoring

Believing that the organization is fully protected once the initial deployment is complete is a misconception. Continuous monitoring and assessment are crucial as the threat landscape evolves, and new vulnerabilities may emerge. Regularly reviewing access logs, analyzing user behavior, and updating security policies based on emerging threats are essential for maintaining a robust zero-trust environment.

Implementing best practices such as prioritizing deployment, conducting up-to-date risk assessments, completely embracing the principle of this model, and monitoring the whole process continuously would allow companies to successfully apply the zero trust security model and improve their level of security regarding their digital assets.


Lastly, the zero trust model becomes crucial to ensure that IoT environments are sufficiently equipped with probation tips to prevail and thwart the changing cyber threats. Replacing traditional belief systems with the idea of verification and continuing to do so, zero trust is impenetrable to any potential threat that could cause damage to confidential data and vital infrastructure.

However, these principles are the concept of the least user access, micro-zoning, and continuous monitoring- which can help organizations build their IoT security position and reduce risks of the interconnected devices. Industries from healthcare and finance to manufacturing can rely on the zero trust approach by which IoT security in all its complexity is managed confidently, allowing the preservation of assets and remaining resilient in the face of anonymous threats.