Boosting security, streamlining performance, and other benefits of network segmentation
In this current era of ever-evolving cyber threats, adopting robust security measures is no longer optional for organizations. One such essential measure is network segmentation, a practice that splits a computer network into subnetworks, each being a network segment or subnet.
Let’s explore some of the key benefits of network segmentation and why it’s a strategy that every CISO and CTO, regardless of their industry and the size of the organization, should seriously consider.
- Enhanced network security
The first and most critical benefit of network segmentation is, obviously, the enhanced security it offers.Isolation of Potential Threats: By splitting the network into separate segments, an attack on one segment doesn’t necessarily jeopardize the entire network. It’s akin to closing the doors in a house; if a burglar enters, they can’t easily access all the rooms.
Improved Threat Detection: With network segmentation, irregular activities are easier to detect. If a segment designed for a specific type of traffic suddenly experiences a different traffic pattern, it’s a clear sign that something is amiss.
Restricted Lateral Movement: Segmentation effectively curtails the lateral movement of cyber threats within the network. This can be crucial in preventing the spread of attacks like ransomware, as was evident in the 2017 WannaCry attack, which exploited the lack of network segmentation with terrifying results.
- Improved network performance
Network segmentation does more than bolster security – it also enhances network performance.
Reduced Network Congestion: By compartmentalizing network traffic, segmentation reduces congestion, providing a smoother, faster experience for users.
Optimized Network Usage: Segmenting allows for more effective control over network resources, enabling prioritization of critical applications and services.
- Regulatory compliance
For many organizations, network segmentation isn’t just a best practice; it’s a compliance requirement.
Compliance Standards: Standards like PCI DSS extol the benefits of network segmentation as a means to protect cardholder data. Non-compliance can lead to penalties and reputational damage, and zero trust is mandated best practice for many modern data compliance standards across many industries and sectors.
Data Protection: By segregating sensitive data, network segmentation helps protect this data and ensures its integrity, a key requirement in regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.
Network segmentation in practice
The benefits of network segmentation can clearly be seen in its implementation within the healthcare industry. With the need to protect sensitive patient data, many hospitals and healthcare providers have turned to network segmentation. For instance, medical devices, which are often targets for cyber-attacks due to their outdated software, can be isolated on a specific segment. This separation protects the rest of the network if a device is compromised. This is a strategy that has been advocated by the FDA and other regulatory bodies, and the mapping of devices and applications, with a view to implementing network segmentation best practices, has become a regulatory necessity.
In our interconnected world, the question isn’t if a cyber-attack will occur, but when. Network segmentation, while not a silver bullet, is a significant step toward a layered defense strategy.
Going deeper, with zero trust microsegmentation, is network and allocation segmentation best practices:
- Zero Trust is a security model that operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” It’s a paradigm shift from the traditional approach of trusting everything within the network perimeter. In the Zero Trust model, trust is neither assumed nor given freely, regardless of whether the access request comes from inside or outside the network.
- Microsegmentation is an advanced form of network segmentation. Instead of dividing the network into a few large segments, microsegmentation splits it into many small segments, often down to the individual workload or application level.
When you combine these concepts, you get Zero Trust microsegmentation. This means that each microsegment of the network operates under the Zero Trust model. No communication or data exchange is allowed unless it’s explicitly verified and permitted.
By enhancing security, improving network performance, and aiding regulatory compliance, network segmentation offers substantial benefits that CISOs, CTOs, and cybersecurity practitioners can’t afford to ignore.
The road to implementing network segmentation may be complex, but the resulting enhancement of the organization’s security posture and network performance is well worth the journey. After all, in cybersecurity, the best offense is a good defense – and the benefits of network segmentation are clear for all to see.