Network segmentation: All you need to know
What is network segmentation?
Network segmentation refers to the network security technique of partitioning a network into smaller, network regions. After the network is segmented, each compartmentalized network region can then have different security measures and rules applied to it. Furthermore, network segmentation enables security teams to control how traffic flows between the network regions as well. For example, traffic between two network regions can be completely restricted, or limited by things like the type of connection, source machine, etc.
The full details of how a network is segmented, and what security rules apply to each sub-network, are set by what’s called a ‘segmentation policy’, with the typical aims of improving network performance and better defending against attacks. Some other common terms used in place of segmentation are network segregation, network partitioning, and network isolation.
Network segmentation benefits
The supposed benefit of a segmented network is that it provides “better security”, but what exactly does that mean? While it’s certainly better than no segmentation at all, network segmentation doesn’t go far enough towards protecting an organization (but more on that later 😉). First, here are the main ways that network segmentation can improve an organization’s security posture (even if it’s just a small improvement):
- Reduce the attack surface. A segmented network (one that is split into smaller network regions) reduces unauthorized network traffic and lateral movement, thereby reducing the ability for attackers to reach large portions of the network in the event of a breach of the network’s perimeter. Because of this, network segmentation reduces the scope and impact of ransomware and attacks (not as much as microsegmentation, but at least a little bit).
- Protect critical assets and devices. Network segmentation stops attackers from reaching parts of the network that are mission critical for your organization but may not have advanced security measures of their own. For example, a hospital may deploy network segmentation to protect lifesaving medical devices from attacks.
- Boost network performance. Because network segmentation silos network traffic into smaller network regions, it can reduce overall network congestion and improve network performance.
- Simplify compliance. Network segmentation can reduce the scope and cost of performing regulatory compliance by keeping parts of the network that require compliance separate from ones that don’t. For example, only certain network regions within a hospital would handle a patient’s medical data, and other network regions might handle billing.
Network segmentation challenges
Historically, implementing network segmentation tools has been costly and difficult. Some of the older approaches include internal firewalls, Access Control Lists (ACL), and Virtual Local Area Networks (or VLANS). These approaches are outdated and cumbersome. Besides the large expense of buying special hardware and maintaining it, today’s network is more dispersed (both on prem and in the cloud), making these traditional approaches largely ineffective anyways.
With this hybrid network, the perimeter is blurry and therefore impossible to effectively secure with a traditional hardware perimeter-based approach. And, since these old-school segmentation methods are typically based on trust (meaning whatever is inside the network or network region is trusted and everything outside is not), it means there is little to stop an attacker if they are able to breach the perimeter.
Network segmentation vs. Microsegmentation
To reiterate our point from earlier, network segmentation is better than no segmentation, but it is far from good enough when it comes to protecting an organization’s network from attacks and lateral movement. While it can help organizations shrink their attack surface, protect their critical data, and improve their network’s performance, the old hardware-based perimeter model of network segmentation has many flaws. This is because even within segmented networks there are many opportunities for attackers to do damage (and eventually reach everything in the network).
For example, if an organization segmented their network by functional department, and an attacker managed to breach their finance department, that attack would still be catastrophic to the organization. The attack would also likely reach at least one machine it could use to traverse to other network regions, and then repeat the process to reach most –if not all – the network eventually. This is because network segmentation, while a great direction for organizations to go, doesn’t go far enough to really stop attackers.
So, what do organizations need to do to stop these attacks? The answer is microsegmentation.
Microsegmentation—the process of isolating all clients, workloads, applications, virtual machines, and operating systems into individual protective barriers that cannot be penetrated by attackers—is a much more granular and robust way to protect an organization. And it actually works when it comes to stopping attacks. Microsegmenting a network makes it virtually impossible for attackers to move laterally within the network and cause damage. The attack surface is reduced to virtually nothing.
The Zero Networks solution
Zero Networks provides an automated microsegmentation solution that adapts to your environment, keeping only the necessary connections between machines open. By leveraging adaptive MFA (Multi Factor Authentication), normal usage for non-admin users is uninterrupted (attackers do not use that to spread), while the rest (admin users) require MFA for temporary access.
Zero Networks virtually eliminates your network’s attack surface with no manual segmentation or rule manipulation, and no agents.
The benefits of automated microsegmentation:
- Isolate everything (down to the individual machine) with a single click and no friction
- Prevent 99.9% of attacks. Stop lateral movement without interrupting normal network traffic
- Scalable for any size organization, without the need for agents or manual operation
- Streamline security operations; reduce the cost of NACs, internal firewalls, IPS and manual ACL-based microsegmentation
- Stay compliant with cyber insurance policies
About Zero Networks
Microsegmentation means that every module in the environment should only be able to access the information and resources necessary for legitimate purposes.
Great idea – in theory – that few organizations practice. Sadly, past efforts at microsegmentation required cumbersome agents, hair pinning, or expensive professional services.
Zero Networks, instead, found a new paradigm that proves that microsegmentation can be fast, easy, effective, and deployable by anyone to get military grade security.
Reduce the risk of breaches to almost zero with Zero Networks’ MFA-based microsegmentation solution.