Network segmentation is one of the most critical security measures that you can take to protect your data. You must identify and isolate different areas of your network to protect your data from potential cyber-attacks.
There are several different ways to do this, and depending on the type of data that you’re protecting, you may need to employ different methods. For example, if your data includes financial information, you’ll need to use security measures like firewalls and encryption. If your data contains personal information like addresses or contact details, you’ll need to use IPS/IDS software to detect and block malicious attacks.
The critical thing to remember is that no matter what type of data you’re protecting, always ensure it’s secure from cyber-attacks. By implementing proper security measures, you can help ensure that your organization remains safe from the increasingly dangerous cyber-world we live in.
What is Network Segmentation?
Segmentation helps organizations to manage their network resources more efficiently by dividing a network into multiple segments (subnets) with each segment able to operate independently. This allows the organization to better control the traffic and resources that are allocated to each segment, and it can also help reduce the risk of network attacks.
There are a few key benefits of network segmentation:
- It enables organizations to scale their networks while maintaining performance and reliability.
- It allows them to allocate more resources to high-traffic segments, which helps them achieve faster page loads and increased business efficiency.
- It protects against data breaches by isolating sensitive data from less important information.
- It reduces the overall cost of networking by enabling organizations to use fewer connections for more users.
Types of Network Segmentation
In a network, segmentation is the process of dividing the network into smaller parts. There are three main network segmentation types: physical, logical, and virtual.
Physical segmentation divides a network into logical segments based on physical characteristics such as location, device type, or application. This helps to identify and isolate networks that are unique or homogeneous in terms of their physical makeup. It can also help optimize performance by isolating those networks experiencing higher loads than others.
There are many reasons why an organization might want to create a logical network segment. For example, it can isolate sensitive data, create a test environment, or isolate a group of users from the rest of the network.
Segmenting your network into logical parts is generally a safe and effective way to protect your data and ensure it’s used correctly. It also makes it easier to manage your network and monitor its use. The downside is that it can be difficult to undo a segmentation if something goes wrong.
To create a logical network segment, you first need to identify which data should be protected in this way. Then, you need to decide how best to protect that data. Finally, you must establish mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing the protection measures.
Virtual segmentation is a process of creating virtual networks within a single physical network. This improves network security and performance by isolating traffic and reducing congestion.
Virtual segmentation can protect data from being accessed by unauthorized users, improve performance by separating high-traffic applications from the rest of the traffic, or enable different types of traffic (such as video) to run smoothly on separate networks.
It’s also possible to use virtual segmentation to manage bandwidth usage so that devices in one network don’t hog all the bandwidth for themselves and prevent other devices from using the internet. By using this approach, you can ensure that everyone on your network has an equitable share of resources.
How Does Network Segmentation Work?
Network segmentation is a process that divides a network into several zones or segments, each managed separately. This is done to improve security and compliance. Security protocols are also applied to each zone to manage security and compliance. This means managing what traffic passes through the segment and what is not allowed.
Network segments are designated with their dedicated hardware to wall off each other and limit access to the system to credentialed users. Rules are built into network configurations to determine how subnetworks can interact with each other.
Network Segmentation vs. Micro-Segmentation
Through the application of granular security controls and limiting east-west communication, micro-segmentation reduces an organization’s network attack surface.
As micro-segmentation evolved, it has expanded to include traffic in multiple segments and lateral traffic within a segment. As long as the resource requesting it meets the permissions set out for the host/application/server/user, intra-segment traffic will allow communication between servers and applications.
Often, devices are shipped without endpoint security or are difficult to take offline for endpoint security updates. Micro-segmentation can also be applied at the device level, such as protecting IoT or connected manufacturing or medical devices.
In summary, the two strategies differ in the following ways:
Network segmentation works with the physical network, has broad policies, limits north-south traffic, and is typically hardware-based
A micro-segmented network comprises a virtual network, policies are more granular, east-west traffic is limited at the workload level, and it is typically software-based.
Consider your network as a collection of castles. Segmentation represents the walls encircling the buildings, whereas micro-segmentation represents the guards outside each castle door.
It’s best to incorporate network segmentation and micro-segmentation into your security strategy.
Best Practices for Network Segmentation Explained
There’s no question that network segmentation is a critical to cybersecurity. By isolating different parts of your network, you can reduce the scope of potential damage in the event of a breach. But what are the best network segmentation practices? Here are the top 7:
- Follow the principle of least privilege.
As you segment your network, you should limit access within and across systems according to what is needed. In other words, not everyone needs access to all network parts.
It is possible to restrict hosts, services, users, and networks from accessing data and functions outside their immediate responsibility by following the principle of least privilege and role-based access. In addition to strengthening your overall network security posture, monitoring and tracking traffic across your network is much easier.
- Access to third parties should be limited.
The risk of third-party remote access remains a critical vulnerability for organizations, so limiting third-party access to your network is essential. According to a recent study, 44% of organizations experienced a breach in the last 12 months, with 74% blaming third parties for giving too much access.
Organizations should assess the security and privacy practices of third parties that access their networks and ensure they have only the access they need to fulfill their duties.
For third parties who need access to your network to provide services, it might be helpful to create isolated portals. This will limit the areas of your network to which these parties have access.
- Make sure your network is audited and monitored.
The first step in developing a solid segmentation strategy is segmenting your network. The second step is continuously monitoring and auditing your network to ensure its security and identify vulnerabilities in your subnetworks.
Conduct regular audits to expose architectural weaknesses in your network so you can quickly identify and isolate traffic or security issues.
Your network architecture may not meet your needs as your business evolves and grows; as your business evolves, your network architecture may no longer meet your needs. To maximize performance and security, you should conduct regular audits to determine when and where you need to adjust your network segmentation design.
- Provide legitimate access paths before illegitimate ones
When evaluating and planning your architecture design, pay attention to how you plot access and the paths users will take to connect to your network. You should create secure access points for your users, but pay attention to how bad actors might attempt to access those same subnetworks illegally.
You may have firewalls placed between your vendors and the data they need to access, but only some of these firewalls can block malicious actors. If this is the case, you need to reconsider your architecture. If you want to bolster your security, design your network so that legitimate paths are more accessible to navigate than illegitimate paths.
- Network resources with similar characteristics should be combined
Organize network resources into individual databases to save time and reduce security overhead. As you review your network, categorize data by type and degree of sensitivity. This will allow you to apply security policies and protect data more efficiently.
- Don’t segment too much.
According to Gartner, organizations often over-segment their networks or create too many zones, which adds unnecessary complexity and makes it more challenging to manage the network as a whole.
You must create policies that define what has access between each pair of zones. As you create more zones, your security management scope will become more extensive, making it costly and inefficient. Oversegmenting can make your security management more expensive and inefficient. To group similar network resources, it is essential to ‘build a fence around a parking lot and not a fence and gate around each car.’
- Create a network visualization
It is essential to understand who your users are, what components make up your network, and how each system interacts with the others before you can design an effective and secure network architecture. It will be challenging to plan and achieve your desired state if you do not have a clear picture of your current state.
Make use of a network diagram to see all the moving parts and identify which data needs to be accessed to map your network effectively.
Benefits of Network Segmentation
A report by IBM depicted the rising costs of data breaches from $3.86 million to USD 4.24 million in 2021. These rising costs and the expansion of remote work have pushed cybersecurity to the forefront of organizations’ priorities. Segmentation is becoming a critical strategy for organizations looking to secure complex networks.
Following are some network segmentation benefits:
- Establish a wireless network for guests
Corporate information can be protected from malicious guests or contractors in a guest network. By segmenting its network, a company can offer visitors and contractors access to the Internet, not the company’s network. Thus, anyone logging into its network with guest credentials will have access to the Internet but not to the organization’s communications or files.
- Access Limits for Users
The threat of insiders is real. They can be unhappy employees or spies. Companies protect their secrets by issuing each department its subnet. Group members within that subnet have varying access levels. Administrator privileges are usually reserved for those in the highest positions. If a user attempts to access files he or she isn’t supposed to, an alert is triggered, and an investigation begins.
- Implement security measures for public clouds
In most cases, cloud service providers are responsible for protecting their customers’ infrastructure. At the same time, their clients are responsible for protecting their operating systems (OS), platforms, access, data, intellectual property, source code, and content. Isolation of applications in cloud environments can be achieved through network segmentation.
- Maintain regulatory compliance
For companies that maintain credit card numbers for their customers, organizations may be required to adhere to strict regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Segmenting the network can isolate credit card information into a secure zone, and only authorized users can gain access.
As well as minimizing the risks of attackers gaining access to critical corporate information, network segmentation is vital for organizations to secure their resources, systems, and users. To achieve this, businesses must deploy modern alternatives to traditional segmentation technologies that have been used to segment their networks for years.
Businesses can segment network traffic using traditional technologies like VLANs, which enable better traffic management, and access control lists, which act as firewalls across subnets. The network effect of business-to-business value chains should be leveraged along with modern solutions like Jumpstart Security, which make it easy and affordable for small businesses to access and use cyber security tools, resources, and advice.
Is network segmentation the same as VLAN?
A logical network segment is a part of a more extensive network that is isolated from the rest of the network for security or performance reasons. Logical segments can be created using virtualization technologies such as virtual LANs (VLANs) or VPNs. They can also be created by physically isolating network parts using switches, routers, or other hardware.
Is subnetting a network segmentation?
Subnetting is a segmentation technique that allows large networks to be divided into smaller, more manageable sections. Network administrators can better control traffic flow and optimize network performance by creating subnets. Additionally, subnets can also be used to isolate different types of devices or users from each other.
What is the primary security objective of segmentation?
The primary security objective of segmentation is to create multiple security domains, each with its own security perimeter. Breaking up a network into smaller segments makes it much more difficult for attackers to gain access to sensitive data or systems.