TIC 3.0 and zero-trust networking

Commentators on the new Trusted Internet Connection policy have noted that "zero-trust" strategies might not be a perfect fit.

network concept (Sashkin/Shutterstock.com)

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency wants to address how zero-trust cybersecurity strategies work with the latest iteration of its Trusted Internet Connection policy, said one of CISA's top policy administrators.

"Everyone wants to talk about zero trust," said Sean Connelly, CISA's TIC  program manager, at a Feb. 20 FCW cloud security conference.

CISA, the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity agency, rolled out its draft of the third iteration of TIC policy guidance in late December. The documents include TIC 3.0 program handbook; a reference architecture; a use-case handbook; and an overlay handbook that can offer specific tech-based solutions.

Some commenters said they were concerned about how the TIC 3.0 policy will work with emerging zero-trust cybersecurity frameworks that don't automatically admit users inside network perimeters. Zero trust, which assumes bad actors are already present in a network, is a departure from traditional cybersecurity approaches that extend permissions to known users and devices and works to keep intruders out.

Under TIC 3.0, agencies can assign security "zones" of varying degrees of trust from high to low. Within those zones, some TIC 3.0 draft commenters said, users can share data. That capability, they said, is at odds with the "trust no one" interconnection approach of zero-trust principles.

Although TIC 3.0 is more aligned to zero-trust frameworks than TIC 2.0, CISA is thinking about how to bring it closer, according to Connelly.

"The trust zones," said Connelly, "are elastic and dynamic. It can be networked. It can be used with containers, an app, a user. We hope that that is understood by the greater community."

When CISA releases its final draft of TIC 3.0 guidance, the agency will also issue a separate "lessons-learned" document distilled from the comments as a whole, Connelly said.

Additionally, he said CISA might take up zero trust in coming use cases it is developing with agencies.

"We understand the interest in it. It's possible we may be able to tie to the remote-user use case, which is in the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] memo," he said.

CISA's draft handbook release in December, contained two kinds of use cases, "traditional" and "branch office--remote."

Although Connelly said CISA is hoping to publish the final draft of the documents this spring, he declined to give FCW a specific publication date, citing OMB and others' review of the document.