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Understanding Microsoft’s Zero Trust Model for Identity

Written by a Shaun Hardneck (ThatLazyAdmin)

Diagram of the steps within phase 1 of the initial deployment objectives.


In today’s hyper-connected world, the traditional perimeter-based security model is no longer sufficient. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, organizations need a new approach to security. Enter the Zero Trust model, a paradigm shift emphasizing “never trust, always verify.” At its core, Microsoft’s Zero Trust model for identity ensures that only the right individuals have access to resources and only under the right conditions.

What is the Zero Trust Model?

Zero Trust is a security concept centered on the belief that organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside their perimeters. Instead, they must verify anything and everything that seeks to connect to their systems before granting access.

Diagram of the steps within phase 4 of the additional deployment objectives.

The Pillars of Microsoft’s Zero Trust Model for Identity

  1. Identity as the Primary Security Perimeter: In the Zero Trust model, identity (user identities, device identities, application identities) becomes the primary security perimeter. This recognizes that attacks often target user credentials to move laterally within an organization.
  2. Always Authenticate and Authorize: Every access request should be authenticated and authorized based on all available data points. These include user identity, device, location, and other behavioral attributes.
  3. Least Privilege Access: Ensure that users, devices, and applications have just enough access to complete their tasks and no more. Regularly re-evaluate permissions and adapt as necessary.

Diagram of the steps within phase 5 of the additional deployment objectives.

Implementing Microsoft’s Zero Trust Model for Identity

  1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implementing MFA is the first and most essential step. It ensures that even if a password is compromised, attackers can’t gain access without a secondary verification method.
  2. Conditional Access Policies: With tools like Azure Active Directory, you can set up conditional access policies that assess the risk of a user’s access attempt based on various factors, and then grant, deny, or require additional authentication steps based on that assessment.
  3. Identity Protection: Utilize Azure AD Identity Protection to identify potential vulnerabilities affecting your organization’s identities, configure automated responses to detected suspicious actions, and investigate suspicious incidents.
  4. Privileged Identity Management (PIM): Use Azure AD PIM to manage, control, and monitor access within your organization, ensuring that only necessary users have privileged access and only when they truly need it.


The Zero Trust model represents a fundamental shift in how we approach security, moving away from a reliance on perimeter defenses to a holistic strategy centered on identity. Microsoft’s tools and platforms, such as Azure Active Directory, provide a robust framework for organizations looking to implement a Zero Trust strategy for identity.

With cyber threats on the rise, there’s never been a better time to embrace the Zero Trust model. By understanding and implementing Microsoft’s principles for identity-based security, organizations can significantly reduce their risk and create a more secure digital environment.

Remember: Trust is a vulnerability. Always verify.

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