Importance of Network Segmentation

What kind of internal network does your company have? If it is a flat network, you’re putting your company and its valuable data at risk. While a flat network infrastructure may be easy to manage, it provides an excellent opportunity for malicious and even accidental activity to happen, putting your business at risk. One of the best ways to protect your network is through network segmentation.

With network segmentation, you have a powerful tool to prevent unauthorized users, whether curious insiders or malicious attackers, from gaining access to valuable data, such as customers’ personal information, corporate financial records, and highly confidential intellectual property.

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What’s Network Segmentation?

Network segmentation, also known as network segregation, network partitioning, or network isolation, is the practice of dividing a larger computer network into several small subnetworks that are each isolated from one another. You are essentially separating groups of systems, users, or applications from each other to ensure better network security and to protect sensitive company data.

Segmentation works by controlling how traffic flows among the parts. You could choose to stop all traffic in one part from reaching another, or you can limit the flow by traffic type, source, destination, and many other options.

The traditional flat network infrastructure has all the servers and workstations on one local network (LAN). Putting such systems on one local network provides intruders with the opportunity to access the entire network, since all they have to do is hack into one system that gives them access to the whole network. By splitting the network into small groups, network segmentation makes it difficult for hackers to access your entire network from one point and cause damage by limiting the interactions and communication within your network.

Benefits of Segmenting Your Network

Organizations can expect to reap massive rewards from implementing network segmentation as part of their comprehensive information security plan. These benefits include:

  • Reduces damage from successful attacks: Segmentation limits how far an attack can spread. In the event of a major attack like a data breach, the damage will be contained to only the particular segment of the network that’s been compromised, rather than jeopardizing each node on the entire network. This means that intruders will only access the resources of the segment that they have broken into – the other segments will be safe, and the resources within them uncompromised. There’s a world of difference between the time, money, and effort it takes to recover from a breach where the attacker was only able to compromise a single workstation and a breach involving thousands of company records across your entire network.
  • Slows down attackers: One of the most significant benefits of network segmentation is that it can buy you extra time to upgrade your security during an attack. Basically, when a hacker successfully breaches a segmented network, it’s like turning a corner within a hedge maze to find a dead end: they will have to work their way backward and attempt to find other access points to the systems and data they are trying to compromise, giving you precious time to beef up your security.
  • Improved operational performance: With a network segmentation strategy, you’ll have fewer hosts per subnet, minimizing local traffic and improving performance. It also makes it easy to fix errors in the network since they’re contained in a single location.
  • Better monitoring: With a segmented network, you can log events, monitor allowed and denied internal connections, and detect suspicious behavior, allowing you to notice patterns of malicious activity and make the proper alterations to those areas to prevent future breaches. Concentrating resources in more sensitive portions of the network can prioritize incidents likely to have the biggest impact on the organization.
  • Simplifies information security compliance: Segmentation reduces the costs associated with regulatory compliance, such as PCI-DSS, by limiting the number of in-scope systems. For example, segmentation separates the systems that process payments from those that don’t. That way, the expensive compliance requirements and audit processes apply only to the in-scope systems, not the entire network.
  • Improved overall security: A strong segmented network makes it easier to isolate untrusted networks, protect critical enterprise systems, and restrict user access to your most sensitive information and systems. When your business creates a layer of separation between servers containing sensitive data, you drastically reduce the risk of data loss and theft.

Types of Network Segmentation

Segmentation has long been carried out by creating segments in networks with VLANs or subnets. However, these traditional approaches to network segmentation require a great deal of manual effort and don’t scale well. That’s because the networks must often be re-architected to accommodate segmentation needs, and in complex environments that have existed for years, implementing network segmentation may be impossible without disrupting business operations. To address these issues, new approaches are now used, allowing more granular control and easier administration.  These are:

  • Micro-segmentation: Allows control of network traffic down to the application or workload level.
  • Firewall segmentation: Firewalls are deployed inside a network or data center to create internal zones to segment functional areas from each other in order to limit attack surfaces, thereby preventing threats from spreading beyond a zone.
  • SDN(Software-defined networking): Enables multi-tenancy by presenting different virtual networks to different customers while utilizing the same underlying physical infrastructure.

Who Needs Network Segmentation?

Organizations of all types and sizes can benefit from network segmentation. Everyone running internal systems, whether physical or virtualized, to meet business needs to put network segmentation in place to protect their environments from breaches by restricting attacker lateral movement. The more complicated the architecture, the more crucial the need for segmentation. However, if you rely 100% on SaaS solutions or operate offline/without IT services, network segmentation may not be for you.

4it Can Help Segment Your Network

Network segmentation is an effective security measure that organizations need to put in place to keep their systems safe and data secure. It can boost your overall security policy by limiting access privileges to those who need it, protecting the network from widespread cyberattacks, and enabling better network performance by reducing the number of users in specific zones.

At 4it Inc. we have years of experience helping businesses implement a network segmentation strategy that helps protect their business interests. Our network segmentation experts can help you identify the parts of your network where vital data is being stored to build an effective segmentation strategy. We make it easy to define and enforce network segmentation throughout your network and across all leading firewall platforms. Contact us today to learn more about how you can segment your network to increase security without impacting your business.

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