What Is Network Segmentation?

What Is Network Segmentation

Network segmentation improves security by restricting attacker lateral movement and ensuring any malware in one subnet does not spread to others, minimizing impact of breaches and providing quick detection systems that respond quickly and respond efficiently to threats.

Network Segmentation divides your network into parts to protect sensitive data from being accessed inappropriately by hackers, protecting customer databases, credit card accounts and medical records from harm. Online retailers and health care providers utilize network segmentation for this reason.

Traditional methods require engineers to manually program security policies into switches, routers and firewalls – an arduous and error-prone task.

What Is Network Segmentation?

Network segmentation refers to the practice of physically or logically isolating components within a computer network in order to limit access and enhance security. It can be accomplished either through Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) and subnets or physical means like firewalls.

Network segmentation works on the principle of creating barriers between groups of systems that do not need to communicate or share data, thus limiting ransomware spread or attackers moving freely within an organization.

Network segmentation gives security teams greater visibility into their networks to enable context-based policies. For instance, if a bank’s security policy restricts branch employees from accessing its financial reporting system, network segmentation can enforce this restriction by blocking traffic from reaching this system.

Network segmentation is one of the cornerstones of Zero Trust security strategies, making it essential for any business seeking to mitigate cybersecurity risk. By taking preventative steps against breaches before they happen with this proactive approach, businesses can protect themselves before having to react afterward with costly investigations and remediation efforts.

How does segmentation work?

Network segmentation aims to isolate data and applications by physically or logically partitioning flat networks into segments, designed solely to communicate through demarcation points like routers or firewalls – providing the means for traffic inspection as well as security protocols to be applied.

Administrators have several tools at their disposal if a device on one segment monopolizes bandwidth, including placing it on its own subnet to avoid slowing down everything else and creating policies which restrict certain applications or endpoints from accessing certain information systems.

Network segmentation prevents attackers from gaining lateral movement within a network, making it harder for attackers to gain access to valuable assets and sensitive data. It’s particularly helpful in hybrid and multicloud environments that employ various workloads from traditional enterprise apps to IoT devices that may move throughout an organization daily. Network segmentation becomes even more essential in these settings because IT teams can set protective perimeters around individual workloads using DAAS (data and application services), rather than protecting all resources as one single, overarching group.

1. Perimeter-based segmentation

This network segmentation strategy employs firewalls to secure separate networks. This offers an effective layer of defense for sensitive data and reduces ransomware attacks by restricting their damage potential within an isolated environment.

However, this approach can be costly as each segment requires hardware for protection. Furthermore, it does not offer enough protection for internal systems, meaning if hackers breach initial defenses they could still gain entry and cause havoc within your company’s network.

Network segmentation restricts access to applications and data based on a policy of least privilege, meaning only people who need the service can gain entry. This helps protect against insider threats as hackers who gain entry can only cause damage within one section of the network before IT catches up and shuts it down – an invaluable benefit of network segmentation for companies needing to meet regulatory compliance standards.

2. Network Virtualization

Network virtualization involves breaking a physical computer network down into smaller logical segments using software, with each segment connected and protected by virtual firewalls. Each segment can run its own software or services, making it easier to tailor security policies depending on which part of the network requires protection and reduce hardware costs by decreasing touch points between segments as well as costs for individual security measures. This method also minimizes touch points between segments while simultaneously decreasing physical hardware requirements for protecting individual segments.

Companies often set up separate VLANs for each group such as engineering, finance or human resources and then restrict access to them with virtual firewalls to reduce malware infection across critical data servers.

Implementing a network segmentation strategy successfully means avoiding both under- and over-segmenting it. An under-segmented network leaves vulnerabilities that threats can exploit; over-segmented networks create obstacles that hamper productivity for users. To optimize, consider what information employees require for their jobs before designing the network and policies accordingly.

What is microsegmentation?

Microsegmentation is a security practice which divides networks into smaller segments to isolate all elements, such as users, workloads and applications. This prevents cyber threats from moving laterally between segments and limits the damage they can do.

To accomplish this goal, organizations must create granular policies to regulate access for different kinds of data. While this approach may prove challenging for businesses with large volumes of information, its advantages outweigh its difficulties.

One approach for implementing microsegmentation is through the implementation of a zero trust architecture, enabling centralized policy management and visibility across all environments (cloud, on-premise and bare metal). Another is using network-based microsegmentation. Setting up groups based on IP, MAC address or VM name allows for more refined and flexible segmentation as well as traffic control between different devices. Additionally, application context enables security policies to provide greater insight into workflow behavior than user-based segmentation alone can. This approach may prove more successful at detecting anomalous activity.

Benefits of network segmentation

Network segmentation makes it easier to track traffic flows and enforce security policies. By restricting attacker movement, even if threats breached your perimeter they would have more difficulty reaching other parts of your network – much like watertight compartments on ships where each individual section remains protected even if one section submerges, without taking on water as a whole vessel would do.

Network segmentation allows many networks to restrict access to specific types of data based on business requirements. For example, healthcare organizations typically create high-security segments of their network for storing medical records while retailers often utilize PCI-compliant segments to protect credit card data.

Logical topology changes provide network managers with greater flexibility and scalability when it comes to network management. Utilizing VLAN or subnet configuration can allow you to reconfigure network structures without physically moving hardware; this makes reconfiguring much simpler, reduces human error, updates security settings for new devices or apps easier, improve scalability – plus provides better network monitoring & management solutions such as Auvik to help enhance segmentation efforts! Take our free trial of Auvik now to experience what our support can bring!

Network segmentation also reduces network congestion by optimizing traffic flows and improving performance, making compliance with regulations simpler, and helping ensure business continuity.

1. Stronger cybersecurity for sensitive data

Network segmentation helps businesses protect sensitive information against cyberattacks. If an attacker gains entry to one network segment that contains customer databases, they may have difficulty in accessing other areas of an organization due to firewall protection for these databases, making their job much harder for hackers.

This approach can also ensure that if the business experiences a data breach, its effects are less likely to spread from one part of its network to the other – helping IT teams focus on investigating and mitigating damage rather than worrying about spreading an attack across their network.

As more employees work remotely, it’s crucial that strong cybersecurity practices are put in place to safeguard business information. Network segmentation can help strengthen a firm’s security posture and streamline regulatory compliance audits while simultaneously increasing performance – however it should be used sparingly so as not to over-segmenting and decrease productivity by placing unnecessary restrictions or making it hard for users to access resources they require for their jobs.

2. Stronger network security

Network segmentation allows businesses to tailor security for systems and data to actual business requirements, mitigating vulnerabilities that would allow an attacker to enter your flat network and exploiting any vulnerabilities discovered. Furthermore, this technique helps prioritize security efforts and enhance network performance.

Many companies utilize network segmentation as a defense mechanism against insider attacks by segregating employee devices into separate VLANs and subnets based on their roles, then inspecting or restricting traffic from these devices in order to reduce malicious file spread across the network – for instance, malware infection on human resources devices would not compromise servers containing confidential employee data.

Other organizations use network segmentation to maintain access control over sensitive data and meet regulatory compliance requirements. Retailers that store credit/debit card payment information might use network segmentation to protect customer data against PCI breaches; healthcare providers also rely on segmentation to limit patient records access and thus avoid violating HIPAA regulations.

3. Protect vulnerable devices

Network segmentation prevents hackers from accessing critical systems. By adhering to the Policy of Least Privilege, only those with legitimate needs can gain entry to specific parts of the network and limit how much damage an attacker can do once inside.

Traditional flat networks rely on firewalls to monitor all incoming traffic and protect against attacks from outside, but hackers who gain entry through security vulnerabilities could exploit vulnerabilities within internal systems and further spread ransomware, data breaches or other threats across other segments. By segmenting networks accordingly, attackers cannot gain entry through external boundaries so easily and are thus limited in their attempts.

To implement segmentation correctly, start by identifying what assets are most essential to your organization’s mission and use this knowledge to design network zones and set rules around who has access to what data and systems. Start small in order to avoid over-segmenting your network which could create bottlenecks and hamper operations – start small but expand as necessary as you gain experience and discover which approach works best.

4. Easier regulatory compliance

Though it may seem simpler and cost-cutting to use flat networks already in place, these do not provide adequate protection from malicious actors. Implementing microsegmentation offers numerous benefits including enhanced internal security and performance enhancement.

Segmentation reduces the scope of cyberattacks by isolating sensitive devices from other network areas and blocking malware’s spread from one segment to the next, helping administrators respond faster to mitigate attacks. It can prevent damage to other segments while mitigating potential harm quickly.

By isolating payment processing systems from those not related to payments, this network architecture helps reduce compliance costs. Auditing and compliance expenses only pertain to in-scope systems while network traffic is evenly distributed without one segment being overburdened which leads to better quality of service for devices and users boosting productivity when apps can function without being throttled; especially useful for health care where patient safety relies heavily on data privacy.

5. Safer endpoints and user

Network segmentation helps organizations mitigate cyber attacks on endpoints and users by stopping malware from spreading between segments, thus helping avoid costly workarounds or data losses caused by breaches and strengthening their cybersecurity posture.

Segmentation makes it simpler to monitor and respond to threats, as traffic is contained within a more manageable scope. Businesses can quickly identify suspicious activity and occurrences as well as evaluate their effects on other parts of their network.

Network segmentation helps mitigate damage caused by successful cybersecurity attacks by isolating them to one subnet rather than spreading throughout an enterprise. This allows affected areas to be isolated and corrected quickly without impacting other systems or users — an invaluable benefit for business continuity given IoT devices susceptible to ransomware or other threats. Segmentation also facilitates regulatory compliance as it helps limit in-scope systems making it simpler to demonstrate your organization’s security posture.

6. Reduced network congestion

Security teams can use network segmentation to direct traffic where it belongs, helping improve overall network performance by reducing congestion. Furthermore, segmenting helps protect different activities from interfering with each other — for instance medical devices on hospital guest Wi-Fi won’t slow down credit card transactions on business networks and vice versa.

Implemented correctly, an effective network segmentation strategy reduces response times for attacks while mitigating damage caused by them. That is because threats cannot easily spread from compromised networks into other parts of an organization.

Implementing a network segmentation strategy requires an in-depth knowledge of an organization’s IT infrastructure to create segments without gaps or workarounds, while oversegmentation could slow responses and lessen protection from breaches, while highly granular segmentation may prove cumbersome for security staff or IT staff to manage and lead to bottlenecks that reduce productivity.

Network Segmentation Best Practices

Network segmentation reduces your attack surface by restricting how far malware spreads once discovered in one area, and buying time if your company is breached, by making sure criminals can’t move into other segments to gain access to additional systems or data.

But it is crucial not to oversegment, as this could lead to performance issues and traffic jams. Furthermore, it’s crucial that you regularly review your segmentation strategy to ensure the number of segments matches up with your users, systems and business requirements.

Software-defined networking makes it easier for IT teams to implement finer network segmentation policies, as well as monitoring and performance enhancements. This is especially true of zero trust network architectures such as Illumio that make it possible to thwart attacks, enforce security policies and reduce compliance scope for all devices, data and users — even at the host level! Learn about the benefits of network segmentation for your enterprise, such as using microsegmentation using workload telemetry for policy directly on equipment as well as more granular segmentation that meets all unique requirements of an enterprise environment.

1. Don’t Over-Segment

One primary objective of network segmentation is preventing unauthorised network traffic from accessing parts of our network that we don’t want it to, such as IoT devices or databases. Furthermore, traffic can also be restricted based on source or destination – helping reduce network congestion for users in that segment while making monitoring network traffic simpler.

Segmenting networks into separate segments is especially helpful when limiting access to essential company systems. By restricting who has access to essential data and mitigating any breaches that do happen by keeping all damage within a subnet, organizations can limit access to important company systems and reduce any possible financial consequences of any breaches that do happen.

An effective network segmentation strategy can also reduce regulatory compliance costs by minimizing the number of systems subject to compliance monitoring. However, even an effectively segmented network could still be breached by third parties; organizations must implement robust controls around third-party risk management for maximum protection.

2. Perform Regular Audits

Network segmentation can be an invaluable asset in strengthening your organization’s security posture, meeting industry compliance standards and increasing internal performance. However, cybersecurity threats continuously evolve, leaving gaps for attackers to exploit in your network’s architecture that need addressing immediately before any irreparable damage occurs. Regular audits allow you to detect these weaknesses before any significant harm occurs.

An effective network segmentation strategy can also make implementing security policies and identifying anomalies easier. For instance, network traffic between computers within one business unit could be restricted to one subnet so Finance computers don’t communicate directly with those in Engineering.

By segmenting networks, intruders will need to breach more barriers before reaching your assets – even if they breach one segment, their attacks will remain limited to that area and its resources, minimizing damage. By restricting access to certain areas, network segmentation can also help improve network performance by decreasing congestion and speeding application response times; this feature is especially valuable for businesses that must maintain PCI compliance requirements without incurring heavy restrictions across all of your system.

3.Limit Third-Party Access

Network segmentation helps restrict third-party access to crucial company data. By restricting which network segments have access, hackers find it much more challenging to gain entry and steal sensitive information. If they can’t gain entry directly, their efforts will have to focus on breaching other areas, providing time for you to respond and upgrade security protocols before any major damage has been done.

Segmentation also makes it simpler to monitor your internal network for threats. By breaking up traffic into smaller subnets with their own individual rules sets, monitoring log events and failed internal connections from within is simplified considerably.

Implementing network segmentation successfully requires a thorough knowledge of your IT infrastructure in order to determine which systems need mapping and their connections. Without careful planning and understanding, segmentation could leave your network exposed and vulnerable. Over-segmentation could also result in frequent interruptions as users wait for permissions, which reduce productivity.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.