Network Segmentation to Secure Your Network
The “new normal” has given rise to rapid digitalization as businesses focus on thriving amidst the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations have had to add new networks such as multi-cloud online environments to assist their advancement efforts. This digital innovation has, however, spurred multiple cybersecurity threats like DDoS attacks, among others that continue to grow in intelligence and numbers. As business applications continue stretching into new environments, ensuring robust information security is crucial for IT teams. Network segmentation is one of the vital pillars of an effective information security plan. Below, we look at the network segmentation best practices to help your organization.
What is Network Segmentation?
Network segmentation addresses the modern cybersecurity landscape’s present realities, where it is essential to isolate any cyber breach that threatens your organization’s information, infrastructure, or networks. Segmentation helps to quarantine or isolate breached zones without crippling the entire system or enterprise network.
The key here is to separate various parts of an enterprise’s network from each other with controls or barriers, making it effective and easier to apply security policies to each zone.
Approaches to Network Segmentation
You’re likely to come across several ways commercial and government entities can perform network segmentation. One approach is through firewall segmentation at desired network boundaries. That means all traffic through those boundaries is directly routed through the assigned firewalls.
Organizations can easily enforce access control measures for specific boundaries by providing a firewall with full control and visibility over traffic. The firewalls can be set with predefined rules to block or allow different kinds of traffic. Through these rules, organizations can restrict or provide access to specific applications or users, etc.
Another alternative approach to network segmentation is through software-defined networking. Such a strategy implements micro-segmentation, where individual workloads are isolated from each other. This extra granularity gives the organization a greater level of control and visibility of the network.
Importance of Implementing Network Segmentation
Organizations can expect to reap massive rewards from implementing network segmentation best practices as part of their comprehensive information security plan. Some notable reasons network segmentation is critical include:
- Better defense: While an organization’s firewalls and cybersecurity prevention processes are critical practices, they often fail at some point to block or detect threats entering your enterprise network. Network segmentation benefits organizations by adding several boundaries between the essential enterprise assets and the external world, thus offering opportunities for detecting and quickly responding to arising threats.
- Better visibility: An enterprise with a more segmented network has greater visibility into its internal traffic. Network segmentation best practices ensure that the organization can better understand the network traffic that passes through their systems.
- Enhanced access control: The firewalls used to implement network segmentation best practices can also enforce key access control measures. It enables enterprises to limit network access to crucial assets based on specific user privileges.
- Limits lateral movement: Once a cyber-criminal compromises user endpoints, like workstations, they move into the network and try to access critical systems to achieve their mischievous objectives. Fortunately, network segmentation reduces the risk of access to other parts of your network and enhances the likelihood of threat detection as the attackers try to cross segmented boundaries.
- Improves network performance: When implemented correctly, network segmentation helps break an enterprise’s intranet into clearly defined discrete segments. It helps to minimize network congestion across the organization significantly while improving performance.
- Internal threat management: A perimeter-based defense can excel at detecting any external threat, but it can be blind to a malicious insider or a compromised employee. Network segmentation restricts access and provides more visibility to ensure you can also manage any arising internal threats.
- Simplifies information security compliance: Most regulatory compliance tests like penetration testing involve all machines within the organization that can access protected data. Segmenting the network limits the scope of access by confining protected and sensitive data to specific network segments, thus simplifying your compliance responsibilities.
- Protect critical enterprise systems: An essential part of information security is ensuring your high availability systems are safe from cyberthreats. That means placing them on highly secure and isolated network segments, thus minimizing their threat exposure.
- Isolate untrusted networks: Guest networks, BYOD policies, and the rising use of IoT in business all introduce multiple untrusted and insecure devices into enterprise networks. Separating these devices on their networks is one of the core network segmentation best practices as it limits their threat to the organization’s network.
Network Segmentation Best Practices
Although isolating individual network assets is a great cybersecurity plan, there’s the concern of a situation defined as excessive segmentation. If an enterprise network is too segmented, it will be harder to control and thereby, perform poorly—hence affecting employee productivity. You must evaluate each segment and balance the applied security policies against the systems and data you want to protect.
Perform Regular Comprehensive Network Audits
It is impossible for commercial and government entities to effectively isolate and safeguard what they don’t know they have. Thus, scheduling frequent network audits, such as a risk assessment, will be critical to identify current assets along with the threats and vulnerabilities those systems face. Penetration testing is used to test the segmentation controls in place and uncover other avenues a malicious actor might take to gain access to systems and data.
Restrict Third-Party Access
Most organizations today partner with multiple third-party vendors to address different needs. Even though not all vendors will require access to the organization’s backend systems, some will require a level of access to provide their services efficiently. The network segmentation best practice here is to create and separate access portals to serve each vendor. That way, if a vendor is unfortunately breached, the attackers cannot access your systems.
Combine Similar Network Resources
One of the network segmentation best practices is consolidating or combining similar network resources into individual databases. This tactic not only allows you to enact security policies quickly but also protect the extra-sensitive data more efficiently. When auditing data on your network for consolidation, you can categorize the data by both type and degree of sensitivity.
Network Reliability and Performance are Critical
Your network segmentation plan should not compromise the enterprise network performance. Most information security solutions struggle with meeting the modern, dynamic intranet traffic. For instance, internal segmentation may restrict the digital innovations your business depends on to function effectively.
Even so, when properly implemented, segmenting your networks should improve the network performance rather than diminish it. It is vital to maintain consistent, reliable performance even as you retain policy enforcement across different segments.
Contact SCA to Learn More about Network Segmentation Best Practices
The above post covers some of the network segmentation best practices that commercial and government entities can implement today for better information security.
Get in touch with SCA Security for more information about cybersecurity threats, and how to protect your organization’s assets. Be sure to download our breach notification guide and learn your state’s laws and requirements for responding to a breach.