What Is Microsegmentation?
Microsegmentation is a security technique that partitions a network into small, isolated sections to reduce the attack surface and reduce an organizations risk. Each microsegment is typically defined by specific security policies, accessible only to authorized users and devices.
Microsegmentation is often seen as a more effective security strategy than traditional network segmentation because it can significantly limit the ability of attackers to move laterally across a network and access sensitive data or systems. Additionally, microsegmentation can help organizations more easily comply with industry-specific security standards and regulations by providing more precise control over sensitive data access.
Unlike traditional network segmentation, which typically involves dividing a network into larger segments based on factors such as geographic location or departmental functions, microsegmentation is more granular and based on factors such as the type of data being accessed, the application being used, or the user's identity.
Microsegmentation often involves using advanced technologies such as virtualization, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and network overlays to provide more flexible and dynamic constituent parts that can adapt to changing network conditions and security threats.
How Does Microsegmentation Work?
There are five general steps to implementing microsegmentation:
- Identify the network segments: The first step in microsegmentation is to identify the different areas of the network that need to be protected. This can be based on different factors such as application type, user roles, or data sensitivity.
- Define the security policies: Once the segments have been identified, security policies need to be defined for each. These policies dictate what traffic is allowed or blocked from each segment. For example, policies might be defined to only allow specific types of traffic to flow between segments, or to block traffic from certain IP addresses or ports.
- Deploy the microsegmentation solution: After the security policies have been defined, a microsegmentation solution needs to be deployed. This can be done through a Software-Defined Network (SDN) controller, which can dynamically adjust network access policies based on changing conditions.
- Monitor and enforce the policies: The microsegmentation solution needs to continuously monitor the network traffic and enforce the security policies. This involves inspecting the packets that are flowing through the network and comparing them to the defined policies. If a packet violates a policy, it will be dropped or redirected.
- Adjust the policies as needed: The policies should be adjusted as needed. For example, new security threats may arise that require new policies to be implemented or existing policies to be updated.
Microsegmentation Use Cases
APIs are a key component of modern application architectures, providing a way for different software components to communicate with each other. However, they also represent a potential security risk, as they can be targeted by attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or perform other malicious activities.
Microsegmentation can help alleviate API security challenges by creating specific segments of the network that are dedicated to API traffic. Each segment can then be assigned specific security policies that limit access to API endpoints, ensuring that only authorized traffic is allowed.
For example, policies can be defined to only allow traffic from specific IP addresses, limit the number of requests per second, or block traffic that matches certain patterns or payloads. This approach can help organizations better protect their APIs and reduce the risk of security breaches.
Cloud environments can be complex and difficult to secure, especially as workloads move across different cloud providers and virtual machines. Microsegmentation can be used to provide more granular control over network traffic in cloud environments by creating dedicated network segments for specific workloads or applications.
For example, a microsegmentation policy can be defined to only allow traffic between a specific application and database server, while blocking all other traffic. This approach can help organizations improve the overall security of their cloud environment, reduce the attack surface, and limit the risk of data breaches.
As adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) increases, many organizations are struggling to secure their networks against attacks on IoT devices. Microsegmentation can be used to secure IoT devices by creating dedicated network segments for specific devices or types of devices.
For example, IoT devices can be grouped into different segments based on their type, manufacturer, or location, with each segment assigned specific security policies. This can help prevent unauthorized access to IoT devices, limit the risk of data breaches, and ensure that any compromised devices are contained within their own segment and cannot spread to other parts of the network.
Many organizations are subject to regulatory requirements around data privacy, data protection, and network security. Microsegmentation can help organizations meet these compliance requirements by providing more granular control over network traffic.
For example, a microsegmentation policy can be defined to limit access to sensitive data or applications to only authorized personnel, while blocking all other traffic. This can help organizations demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and reduce the risk of data breaches or other security incidents.
DevOps environments are characterized by frequent changes, rapid deployment cycles, and a high degree of automation. This can make them vulnerable to security threats, as changes to the environment can introduce new vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Microsegmentation can be used to secure DevOps environments by creating dedicated network segments for different stages of the software development pipeline.
For example, a separate segment can be created for development, testing, and production environments, assigning specific security policies to each segment. This can help prevent unauthorized access to DevOps resources, limit the risk of data breaches or other security incidents, and ensure that changes to the environment are properly controlled and monitored.
Microsegmentation Security Best Practices
Here are important best practices for implementing microsegmentation:
Define Boundaries Carefully
When implementing microsegmentation, it's important to carefully define the boundaries of each segment. Boundaries can be defined based on a variety of factors, including application type, data sensitivity, or user role. It's important to make sure that each segment is well-defined and that the security policies assigned to each segment are appropriate for the data and applications contained within it.
Start with Applications
When implementing microsegmentation, it's often best to start with specific applications or services that are critical to the organization's operations. This can help organizations gain a better understanding of the network traffic patterns, security requirements, and potential risks associated with different applications. By focusing on specific applications, organizations can also ensure that the microsegmentation policies are tailored to the specific needs of each application.
Identify Levels of Access
In microsegmentation, it's important to define different levels of access for different users, devices, and applications. This can help ensure that each segment of the network is only accessible to those who need it, and that access is restricted to only the minimum necessary privileges. It's important to define these access levels carefully, taking into account factors such as user roles, job functions, and data sensitivity.
Gradually Implement Segmentation
Microsegmentation is a complex security technique that requires careful planning and execution. It's often best to start with a small number of segments and gradually expand the segmentation over time. This can help organizations identify and address any issues or challenges as they arise, and ensure that the microsegmentation policies are effective and aligned with the organization's security requirements.
Microsegmentation is a powerful security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller logical pieces and enforcing security policies at a more granular level. By providing more fine-grained control over network traffic, microsegmentation can help organizations reduce their attack surface, limit the lateral movement of attackers, and improve their overall security posture.
About the author:
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.