How to Implement Zero Trust in the Cloud

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Zero trust policies can improve your organization’s cybersecurity. But it requires knowing how to put it into practice. Discover details about zero trust architecture and how you can use a zero trust approach to protect your business.

[Featured Image] A group of IT professionals meets in a conference room with laptops to discuss how to implement zero trust security in the cloud for their organization.

As businesses move their data storage and access points to the cloud, leaving behind the more traditional location-based networks, the need for security systems that address the new vulnerabilities this shift exposes increases. One such security method is zero trust, which operates on the idea that no user or access request should obtain access before the system properly authenticates them. Implementing this strategy, however, requires a robust understanding of what it is and how it works and a solid plan to make the necessary changes.

Read on to discover more about zero-trust architecture and how to use a zero-trust approach to protect your business.

What is zero-trust architecture?

This security framework operates based on a belief in constant network vulnerability from external and internal threats. A zero-trust security system operates on what’s called least privilege per request, which ensures an unauthorized user can’t access sensitive data because of the authorization requirements at every step of access. This helps minimize risks. It differs from the traditional “castle-and-moat” security system framework, which considers external threats but considers any internal user safe.

Understanding the main concepts of the zero-trust approach

Zero trust is quickly becoming the standard for modern security for the public and private sectors, replacing the old model that assumed trust in favor of a strategy that requires more robust authorization. The main concepts of zero trust are as follows:

Data-centric model

Zero-trust security is a data-centric model, meaning it doesn’t base access on a person’s location but rather on the information required for user authentication, such as a password. This approach is helpful because many workers and other users may require remote access to a computer network based in the cloud rather than a network established on computers in an office.

Access control

With zero-trust security, all assets and resources are inaccessible by default. Controlling the access to entry ports and the separate resources themselves implies that if a hostile user manages to get through, the exposure remains limited with minimal fallout. You implement access control by authenticating or verifying a user whenever they ask to access a resource. In preventing access to the entire network in favor of role-based access, you can reduce the risk of a breach and optimize the network’s traffic flow. 

Inspect and log

A crucial part of zero trust is inspecting and logging every user access request and activity. Doing so makes it easier for the system and the IT professionals monitoring it to catch suspicious or repeat access requests that might signal a hacking attempt. Over time, the analysis of these logs leads to more effective security.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of zero-trust policies?

Transitioning from traditional policies to a zero-trust approach requires a commitment to evolving how your business or organization approaches security and access to devices, networks, and data. The primary benefit is more robust security, but zero-trust policies have several other advantages and potential limitations.

Some examples of these pros and cons include:


  • Seamless experiences for employees: Zero-trust authentication methods, such as two-factor authentication, help provide robust security while offering employees a seamless experience.

  • Supports hybrid workforce: Zero-trust security systems offer secure remote access to a cloud networking system, which is very effective for a hybrid workforce. This way, resources stay secure no matter where workers log in from.

  • Allows for automation: Zero-trust security provides for automation of monitoring, authenticating, and logging of access requests, which saves IT teams time from having to do the same tasks manually.

  • Ability to apply consistent policy: Zero-trust security makes it easy to apply authentication policies, increasing the resources' safety consistently.


  • Identity theft could pose a problem: Identity security and preventing someone from maliciously gaining user credentials and accessing sensitive data requires unifying security silos.

  • Erosion of control points: Employees often use third-party apps or other SaaS services, which poses a challenge for businesses when ensuring control over every access point or resource, which is vital for zero trust.

  • Complicated setup: Zero trust requires companies to invest a lot of time and money into setup, often taking three to five years to integrate zero-trust architecture successfully.

Who uses the zero-trust approach?

Any enterprise using a cloud-based or digital computing network for its daily operations benefits from a zero-trust approach. Both federal and private businesses have used zero trust as part of their security frameworks.

How to implement zero trust in the cloud

Technological research firm Gartner anticipates that six out of 10 businesses will incorporate zero trust into their security strategies by 2025 [1]. Successfully implementing it requires a solid action plan and a few essential steps, including the following:


Before committing to a zero-trust framework, it’s essential to consider where your business stands as-is. What does your security look like now? What assets and resources are you trying to protect? Who is leadership, and whose buy-in do you need? What type of budget will you have for a new security system? The answers can help give you an idea about your starting point.


Next, examine the different workflows your business utilizes. You’ll need to know exactly what resources and access points your business has before you can successfully implement the right kinds of authentication and security applications. Knowing everything that’s part of your computing network also makes tracking and logging activities easier, encouraging transparency.


Once you have an inventory of everything that needs protection, it’s time to assess any security gaps or weaknesses you might have. What security technology is already in place? Where are there opportunities to implement zero trust? Identifying the weak spots and how you might address them helps make the framework more efficient and secure.


Once you’ve assessed and identified where to begin, it’s time to implement. Rolling out new applications and security protocols requires cooperation and staff, so be diligent and aware that this new process takes time, but it will be a net positive in the end.

Cybersecurity roles that involve zero trust

Zero trust has roots stretching back to the 1990s when it was a largely academic concept. The modern security landscape increasingly demands these types of stringent security policies. It also requires professionals with the skills to help implement cybersecurity strategies. If you’re interested in a career that uses zero trust, you should know that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the information security job market will grow by 32 percent in the decade leading up to 2032 [2]. A few of the jobs that you might consider include the following:

Identity and access engineer

Average annual salary: $97,119 [3]

Identity and access engineers manage the technical components of a zero-trust security framework. In this job, you would make sure everything is working smoothly and that the right people can gain access to the appropriate data. To become an identity and access engineer, you’ll need a strong IT background and knowledge of several computer programming languages.

Information security engineer

Average annual salary: $130,257 [4]

Information security engineers design, build, and manage the structures that support a zero-trust security framework. To become an information security engineer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in an academic field like computer science and professional experience in IT. 

Cloud security engineer

Average annual salary: $139,355 [5]

Cloud security engineers design, build, and manage security systems using technology and applications on the cloud. They use infrastructure to keep workloads secure. You’ll typically need an IT and security software background to become a cloud security engineer.

Learn more with Coursera.

All signs point to zero-trust policies as the future of navigating the increasingly threat-riddled digital landscape. Whether you aim to work directly with zero-trust architecture or want to understand why and how to implement zero-trust approaches into your business, you can sharpen your zero-trust security skills and learn more about careers in information security with courses and certificates on Coursera. With options such as NYU’s Real-Time Cyber Threat Detection and Mitigation course and Google’s Securing Cloud Applications with Identity Aware Proxy (IAP) Using Zero Trust Guided Project, you’ll learn more about how to work within cybersecurity and broaden your knowledge base.

Article sources


Gartner. “Implementing Zero Trust Security in the Public Sector,” Accessed May 28, 2024.

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