Network Segmentation: Why it matters?
You don’t need to closely follow cybersecurity news outlets to know the scope of threats that are menacing businesses. New trends like remote and hybrid work only contribute to already swamped businesses trying to catch up in cyber security. For this reason, new security measures are needed to tackle risks that are no match for legacy tools. Thankfully, there’s a good variety of various methodologies that can help businesses out. One such example would be network segmentation.
What is Network Segmentation?
Network segmentation is the process of dividing and directing email traffic that comes from other IP addresses based on the different features that are associated with your email application. Segmentation is used to help maximize performance and organization. Network segmentation is an architecture that divides a network into smaller sections or subnets. Each network segment acts as its own network, which provides security teams with increased control over the traffic that flows into their systems.
With network segmentation, businesses can prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to their most valuable assets, such as customer data, financial records, and intellectual property (IP). These assets are often located across organizations’ hybrid and multi-cloud environments, which means it is vital to secure all locations against cyberattacks.
Network segmentation is also commonly referred to as network segregation but differs from other related concepts such as micro-segmentation, internal segmentation, and intent-based segmentation.
How does it work?
Network segmentation divides a network into multiple zones and manages each zone, or segment, individually. This means applying traffic protocols to manage what traffic passes through the segment and what is not allowed. It also covers security protocols for each zone to manage security and compliance.
Network segments are designated with their own dedicated hardware to the wall each other off and only allow credentialed users to access the system. Rules are built into network configurations to determine how users, services, and devices on subnetworks can interconnect with each other.
Why do businesses need Network Segmentation?
For modern organizations, IT infrastructure security is one of the key assets. Network segmentation is a good way to achieve this and reduce cybersecurity expenses. Perimeter-based segmentation plans are being phased out with more modern solutions that better respond to current business needs.
Network segmentation enforces security policies and helps to create boundaries between the teams to prevent data spills. It also helps to distribute network traffic, increasing performance more evenly.
Benefits of Network Segmentation
Network segmentation offers many benefits for businesses. These include reducing the attack surface, preventing attackers from achieving lateral movement through systems, and improving performance levels. The most prominent advantages of network segmentation include:
Segmentation improves security by preventing attacks from spreading across a network and infiltrating unprotected devices. In the event of an attack, segmentation ensures that malware cannot spread into other business systems. Furthermore, passing different devices through a firewall enables organizations to enforce the least privilege – allowing just enough access for users to perform their jobs – and inspect the devices for potential threats.
A good example of how this works is segmentation preventing a malware attack on a hospital from reaching mission-critical devices that do not have security software installed.
Network segmentation reduces the congestion that often results in performance drop-off. This is particularly important to resource-intensive services like online gaming, media streaming, and videoconferencing.
For example, by reducing network congestion through segmentation, businesses that rely on videoconferencing tools to carry out meetings can prioritize the performance of their applications. Congestion could result in packets being lost, which would delay the stream, causing the sound and video quality to become jumpy and difficult to understand. But segmenting network traffic can guarantee high-quality video meetings.
Monitoring and Response
Network segmentation simplifies the process of monitoring network traffic. It helps an organization quickly detect suspicious activity and traffic, log events, and record connections that have been approved or denied. Splitting subnets allows organizations to monitor the traffic going in and out of them, which is less tough compared to monitoring the entire network. As a result, security becomes easier, and the chances of a threat being missed are reduced.
Use cases this could apply to are organizations that need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Effective traffic monitoring is crucial to preventing credit card data from being compromised and minimizing the complexity of a PCI DSS assessment.
Types of Network Segmentation
Traditionally, there have been two basic types of network segmentation:
- Physical segmentation uses discrete firewalls, wiring, switches, and internet connections to separate parts of a computer network. This is the more expensive, less scalable type.
- Virtual segmentation, also called logical segmentation, typically segments network traffic flows using virtual local area networks (VLANs), which can be protected by the same firewall.
Organizations can use network segmentation for a variety of applications, including:
- Guest wireless network: Using network segmentation, a company can offer Wi-Fi service to visitors and contractors at relatively little risk. When someone logs in with guest credentials, they enter a microsegment that provides access to the internet and nothing else.
- User group access: To guard against insider breaches, many enterprises segment individual internal departments into separate subnets consisting of the authorized group members and the DAAS they need to do their jobs. Access between subnets is rigorously controlled. For example, someone in engineering attempting to access the human resources subnet would trigger an alert and an investigation.
- Public cloud security: Cloud service providers are typically responsible for security in the cloud infrastructure, but the customer is responsible for the security of the operating systems, platforms, access control, data, intellectual property, source code, and customer-facing content that typically sit atop the infrastructure. Segmentation is an effective method for isolating applications in public and hybrid cloud environments.
- PCI DSS compliance: Network administrators can use segmentation to isolate all credit card information into a security zone – essentially a protected surface – and create rules to allow only the absolute minimum, legitimate traffic in the zone while automatically denying everything else. These isolated zones are frequently virtualized SDNs in which PCI DSS compliance and segmentation can be achieved via virtual firewalls.
While cyber threats pile up, businesses must look into various cyber security solutions. Sometimes, the tech doesn’t have to be revolutionary to contribute to the business significantly. Network segmentation as an administrative practice can help to organize the network by splitting it into smaller segments. This can be further customized by introducing different security levels for particular networks and limiting the overall access to any single user.
There are many ways it could be done: from physical segmentation relying on hardware to virtual segmentation using various software. Therefore, virtual segmentation can also be further classified into types like VLAN or firewall segmentation.
The most important benefits of segmentation allow a business to introduce greater isolation between different sub-segments, ensure stricter access control, introduce monitoring, streamline network performance, and achieve regulatory compliance status. It’s truly a simple but effective game-changer in network security.