Network segmentation is one of the most important pillars of the zero-trust security model. It involves dividing a computer network into smaller subsegments that are independent of one another. This has the two-fold effect of improving network performance and increasing network security. Let’s take a closer look at how network segmentation improves security.
How Network Segmentation Works
Network segmentation controls the flow of traffic and data between the segments. You will need to establish a segmentation policy that outlines how you want to implement segmentation.
You can put a full stop to the traffic movement between some or all segments. You can also choose to allow partial movement between some or all segments, and you can base that movement on a variety of factors, such as the type of traffic, its source, and the intended destination.
There are three primary ways to segment your network. It is common for organizations to use a combination of the three. They are:
- Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) segmentation that creates groups of subnetworks that are connected on a virtual basis in the same broadcast domain.
- Firewall segmentation makes it possible to create firewalls between each application layer so the internal zones of the network are protected.
- Software-defined networking (SDN) segmentation, which is a type of micro-segmentation that uses an application programming interface (API) or similar software to configure and manage the network.
Benefits of Network Segmentation
There are several benefits to network segmentation. These include:
- Decrease in the amount of network congestion, which results in better operational performance.
- Limit the damage done by a cyberattack because the traffic is confined to the segment the attacker infiltrated.
- Protection of vulnerable devices on the network.
- Reduction of the required scope of the systems that must meet compliance.
Network Segmentation Best Practices
Implementing network segmentation may start with a policy, but the drafting of this policy should be guided by the following best practices to ensure that it is comprehensive. The top network segmentation best practices are:
Know Your Asset Values
Before you begin the segmentation process, it is important to identify your assets, such as databases and devices, and assign values to each one. You can then organize these based on their level of importance and risk and keep a full list of assets to ensure a smooth transition to segmentation.
Group Similar Network Resources
After you have inventoried your assets, you can then group them together based on their function. You will want to separate assets with a lower value from those that have a higher value. This will allow you to ensure that high-value assets have increased security protocols.
You don’t want to segment your network into too few or too many segments. Too few segments will leave you vulnerable to attacks, and too many segments can restrict the flow of traffic and make it challenging for legitimate users to access the data they need, resulting in inefficient workflows. You need to balance the amount of segmentation to ensure the appropriate level of security without sacrificing the productivity of your employees.
Network traffic and performance should be monitored on a constant basis so that you can detect any vulnerabilities or gaps in your network infrastructure. This monitoring can be automated using AI and machine learning to improve the detection of anomalies and vulnerabilities. It is important to conduct regular risk assessments and penetration testing of the network and to perform annual network audits.
Limiting Third-Party Access
Assess your third-party providers and vendors on a case-by-case basis and assign each one only the amount of access they need to fulfill their duties to your organization. You can do this by creating a unique portal dedicated to third-party access that has customized access controls for each provider or vendor. This will limit their ability to compromise your network.
Ensure Adequate Endpoint Security
Don’t forget your endpoint devices. These are commonly targeted by attackers simply because they are often left with inadequate protection. And when a single endpoint device is breached, it opens the way for an attacker to get into the network and wreak havoc.
Protecting endpoint devices is best done using endpoint detection and response (EDR) or a similar technology. This will allow you to monitor indicators of compromise (IOCs) and indicators of attacks (IOAs).
Establish Easy Data Paths for Legitimate Users
While you want to keep attackers out, you don’t want to make it a chore for legitimate users to access your network when they need to. Make sure that those users who need to use your network have easy data paths to follow without having to pass through multiple access points that are meant to keep attackers out.
Network segmentation is about preventing an attacker from compromising the entire network, even if they manage to gain access to one part. This gives IT and security time to determine where the breach occurred and minimize its impact. Reach out to Platinum Technologies to discover how we can help you implement network segmentation to improve your security posture.