What are the common myths behind microsegmentation, and is it actually as hard to achieve as some people say?
The history of network segmentation is a complicated one with a plethora of semi-truths and anecdotal tales about the industry, practices, and methods used to defend against attackers. Facts are important, and we still hear the same old arguments and cybersecurity horror stories that can stop organizations from embracing new technology, and none more so than about microsegmentation.
It’s fair to say that microsegmentation has emerged as a bit of a buzzword, surrounded by a halo of genuine praise and misconceptions. As organizations work to protect their digital assets, separating the facts from outdated opinions and fiction is now critical when so many frameworks, standards, and legislation are calling on microsegmentation to meet best practices.
Let’s try to debunk some common myths and shed a little light on whether achieving granular security is actually as challenging as some naysayers seem to think.
What is Microsegmentation?
Before diving into the myths, let’s clarify what microsegmentation actually is – because this is sometimes the first and most critical misunderstanding.
Basically, microsegmentation means dividing an environment into smaller, isolated segments, each with its own security standards. A granular approach means that even if one segment is compromised, a breach doesn’t spread to other parts of the environment.
Boom. Done. That’s it in a nutshell.
Common Microsegmentation Myths and Misconceptions
Myth 1: Microsegmentation is just another name for network segmentation
While the two are related, they’re far from the same. Traditional network segmentation invariably involves dividing the network based on broader criteria, like separating the HR department from Finance, and it’s normally done by putting a firewall between two different locations. Microsegmentation, on the other hand, can divide networks down to individual workloads, applications, or processes, offering a far more refined and controllable level of protection.
Myth 2: Implementing microsegmentation is too complex
This may have been true historically, but not anymore. Yes, like any advanced security measure, microsegmentation does require a strategic approach. However, with the right tools and planning, it can be implemented and running in only a few hours. Modern microsegmentation solutions, like our own, come with intuitive interfaces, tons of implementation support, automated rule recommendations, and visualization tools that have drastically simplified deployment.
Myth 3: It’s only for large enterprises
While large organizations might have more to gain due to the complexity of their networks, businesses of all sizes can reap the benefit from the enhanced security that microsegmentation has on offer. Small and medium-sized enterprises, often explicitly targeted due to perceived weaker defenses, can significantly boost their security posture with microsegmentation, and it’s rapidly becoming the de facto standard when implementing zero trust frameworks.
Myth 4: Microsegmentation is expensive
There’s a cost to everything; that‘s just the nature of business. Vehicle insurance costs money, but we wouldn’t dream of leaving the garage without it. The return on investment of microsegmentation far outweighs any expenditure. It reduces the attack surface, identifies misconfigurations and poor practices, simplifies network maintenance, and significantly reduces the extent of security incidents. It eases compliance with various mandates like NIST and PCI-DSS by providing the evidence to speed audits and avoiding hefty fines. It promotes infrastructure efficiency, minimizing dependency on traditional firewalls and reducing incident response overhead. Beyond the tangible savings, microsegmentation even provides the business with insight into operations while future-proofing security measures as businesses grow. Given the escalating costs of ransomware and the potential outages they cause, microsegmentation is worth its weight in gold. See our recent eBook for more information on the ROI of going granular.
Isn’t Granular Security Hard to Achieve?
While it’s true that achieving granular security can sometimes be a challenge for already busy security teams, it’s far from insurmountable. Here are some considerations:
- Clear Understanding of the Network: To successfully implement microsegmentation, organizations need a comprehensive understanding of their network’s topology, traffic flows, and interdependencies. This knowledge provides the foundation for designing effective segmentation policies. Clear visibility is the path to success, with minimal friction.
- Right Tools for the Job: Choosing the right microsegmentation solution is crucial. Look for platforms that offer visualization, support hybrid environments (on-premises, cloud, containers), and integrate with other security tools. If you have existing EDR agents already at work, look for a platform that will work in symbiosis to enhance coverage and complexity and give faster time to value.
- Continuous Monitoring and Iteration: As with any security strategy, microsegmentation isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution. Regular reviews and adjustments ensure that the segmentation policies remain effective as the organization evolves.
- Skillset and Training: There’s no denying that microsegmentation requires specific expertise. Investing in training for your security teams or hiring specialists can make the process even smoother. Look for a platform that will be there to facilitate the transition and have a support team in place to make the move to granular as seamless as possible – It’s about getting a solution, not getting another headache.
The Reality: Advantages of Microsegmentation
- Enhanced Security: Microsegmentation reduces the attack surface. Even if cybercriminals infiltrate one segment, they’re contained and can’t move laterally across the network to take advantage of the likes of service accounts.
- Compliance: For industries bound by strict data protection regulations, microsegmentation can help meet compliance requirements by ensuring sensitive data is isolated and protected.
- Improved Network Visibility: The process of implementing microsegmentation often leads to better visibility into network traffic, helping organizations understand and optimize their operations.
- Flexibility: Microsegmentation supports dynamic security policies. This means that as an organization’s needs change, the security measures can be adjusted without overhauls.
Embracing Microsegmentation Responsibly
The key to effective microsegmentation is a strategic approach.
- Start small, focusing on critical assets or particularly vulnerable segments.
- Expand gradually, learning from each phase.
- Ensure that microsegmentation is part of a holistic security strategy, complemented by other measures like intrusion detection, endpoint protection, patching, and regular audits.
Microsegmentation, despite the myths, is a powerful tool in an organization’s cybersecurity portfolio. While yes, it does require an investment in time, tools, and training, the benefits — from enhanced security to improved compliance — make it a worthy endeavor. The only negatives are for the bad actors out there who make disruption and black hat tactics their hobby.
One glaring truth is undeniable. Cyber threats continue to evolve and are becoming more sophisticated. Embracing granular security measures like microsegmentation means that organizations will stay one step ahead, safeguarding their assets and reputation.
Statistically, attackers will eventually get in – go granular, so they’re going nowhere.