What Is Network Segmentation?

What Is Network Segmentation?

Network segmentation has many benefits, including increased security, improved performance, greater compliance, and easier management.

When a network is segmented, it is broken down into more manageable chunks. The goal is to strengthen the safety and efficiency of the network. Separating networks is sometimes referred to as segmenting networks and isolating networks.

What Is Network Segmentation?

Network segmentation divides a larger network into smaller networks, called segments or subnets. This enables network managers to regulate data transmissions between subnets according to fine-grained regulations. Businesses separate their networks to better keep tabs on activity, increase performance, pinpoint the source of technical problems, and, most critically, increase security.

Customers’ private information, company finances, and highly confidential intellectual property are just some “crown jewels” that can be protected from unauthorized users and static IP addresses with the help of network segmentation.

In What Ways Does Network Segmentation Function?

When a network is segmented, it is split up into smaller networks, each of which might have its own set of rules for maintaining data privacy and integrity. These subnetworks isolate networks that have a similar level of trust, such as applications or endpoints.

Segmenting a network can be done in several ways. We will examine VLAN-based, perimeter-based, and network-virtualization-based approaches to network segmentation.

  • Segmentation using a perimeter With perimeter-based segmentation, you may divide your network into trusted and untrusted zones based on their respective perimeters. Internal resources, which often run on a flat network with nothing in the way of internal network segmentation, are thus free from many external constraints. Filtering and partitioning occur at predetermined nodes in the network. Virtual LANs (VLANs) were initially designed to segment networks into smaller, more manageable pieces by partitioning their broadcast domains. While virtual local area networks (VLANs) have become increasingly popular, they were never designed to serve this purpose. The main issue with VLANs is that they don’t have any kind of intra-VLAN filtering, therefore everyone can access everything.
  • Virtualizing Networks Today, many businesses keep separate networks for different purposes, necessitating segmentation at various network nodes. There are now many kinds of endpoints the network must accommodate, and they all have varied degrees of trustworthiness. Thus, it is no longer adequate to rely solely on perimeter-based segmentation. There are no longer distinct boundaries due to the proliferation of technologies like the cloud, bring-your-own-device, and mobile. To improve security and network performance, we need to implement more segmentation, further into the network. In addition, further network segmentation is required to accommodate the current east-west traffic patterns. Here’s where network virtualization comes in, as it’s the next logical step after segmentation.

Why Do We Need Network Segmentation?

Network security is a must for any company that relies on internal systems, whether they are real or virtual. The greater the complexity of the architecture, the more vital it is to divide it up into smaller parts. Businesses that run entirely offline or without the usage of IT services are the only ones that won’t require network segmentation for their operations.

If you’re trying to reduce the complexity of your network by using fewer switches, you’re inviting trouble. A flat network may be easier to put up initially, but it will wind up costing you more in the long run. The bad guys will be able to travel wherever they want with little to no resistance if they can just move laterally throughout the entire network.

The degree of segmentation needed to serve each individual consumer will vary. Segmenting a network has no equivalent. Although setting up micro-segmentation can take some effort, the payoff is substantial.

How Does Network Segmentation Serves Businesses?

One of the most valuable resources for modern businesses is a safe and secure IT infrastructure. One effective strategy for accomplishing this goal and cutting costs on cybersecurity is network segmentation. Plans for segmentation based on perimeters are giving way to more cutting-edge options that can better meet the demands of modern businesses. Data leaks can be avoided and security regulations can be enforced by network segmentation. It also aids in traffic distribution, which boosts performance across the board.

Types Of Network Segmentation

The question now is how you can determine which network zones your organization need. Consider the many sorts of users and data you possess, as well as who require access to which information and why.

The following is a list of some examples of the various network zones that you might want to set up:

  1. Users Individual users constitute a network in their own right. Ensure that the active directory that contains your users has the appropriate access control in place. Who on your network can get by with the fewest privileges? The user’s role in the switching administration should determine the level of privileges that they have access to. How many administrative users have complete access? Check that you have fewer than a handful in your possession. Access control lists are often already present on your active directory server when you first install it. The concept behind this is that you are going to implement that procedure across additional nodes of your network.
  2. Screened Subnet This refers to the subnetworks of your network that do not disclose their systems to the outside world. This is the part of your network where the handshakes take place. Websites geared at the general public and other online resources that may be accessed over the internet are two possible examples. You will want to maintain a wall between the parts of your local area network (LAN) that are available to the general public and the private information that must be kept secure.
  3. Guest Network The Wi-Fi service provided to guests ought to be kept separate from the Wi-Fi service provided to employees. Although it would appear to be a no-brainer to some, I’ve found that many smaller firms don’t even try to set this up. Even domestic routers come equipped with this feature, making it simple to establish a wireless network for visitors in the home.
  4. Workstations for IT This area is designated as the development network zone for IT. It is the location in which your IT personnel performs tasks that are not administrative, and it is recommended that testing be split there. A dedicated internet circuit for testing purposes is something else that I would consider offering IT. This could be an alternative link that is less expensive. It is imperative that only the IT department in the organization be granted access to the network in question.
  5. Servers by Department Is it necessary for servers in different departments to communicate with one another? Build a public drive-in addition to a private drive, and then restrict access to the private drive to members of the specific groups or departments that you’ve created. Because of this, the spread of malware may be slowed.
  6. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Communications Putting communication technologies in their own network zone improves both performance and quality. However, in terms of network security, as communications move towards more application programming interfaces (APIs) that are specific to your most utilized software as a service (SaaS) platform, this network will become a more prevalent attack surface.
  7. Network Zones Cameras, ID card readers, and other similar devices need to be located in their own network zone for traditional physical security. This is not something to be taken lightly, as the possibility of a physical breach can be more damaging than the possibility of a digital breach. There are several examples of this in the real world, one of which occurred in 2017 when the closed-circuit camera network in Washington, District of Columbia, was hacked. As a result, the city’s police cameras were rendered inoperable for three days.
  8. Industrial Control Systems HVAC, for example, should have two-factor authentication and be segmented. This is because the non-segmented network at Target was breached, and it was similar to the network that was compromised.
  9. Customer Databases Because of the regulations that govern compliance, customer databases need to be protected with a higher level of vigilance than, for example, your print server. The level of segmentation and cybersecurity that constitutes best practice in terms of implementation will be determined by data legislation such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, HiTRUST, FINRA, and GDPR, amongst other pieces of data legislation.

Advantages of Network Segmentation

  1. More secure networks Isolating network traffic by segmentation reduces the attack surface and impedes lateral movement by dividing the network into smaller subnetworks. Attacks can be contained before they can spread thanks to segmentation. A malware attack in one segment of the network would not spread to the other segments.
  2. Reduced traffic means increased efficiency Segmenting a network helps ease traffic. Congestion happens because too many packets are being sent across the network when there are too many hosts. There are situations where performance is so bad that no packet is sent or received. Congestion can be greatly reduced by subnetting, or dividing the network into smaller portions.
  3. Reduced need for regulatory oversight Network segmentation helps lower the cost of regulatory compliance by reducing the number of systems that must be brought into conformity.
  4. Detailed observing Subnets are easier to monitor for threats than entire networks because they have fewer nodes.
  5. Increased productivity The more a network gets, the more it slows down. More efficient and easy to load-balance are smaller subnets.
    • Safer networks and endpoints
    • Traffic is not throttled from one segment to another, allowing businesses to run smoothly even during peak usage periods.

The ability of threats to spread to endpoints is greatly reduced in a safe network. Instead, just the endpoint is vulnerable, hence the network as a whole is safe.

Challenges of Network Segmentation

While there is no denying the advantages of network segmentation, getting ready for and carrying it out can be challenging. There are several obstacles to consider before introducing it into your company.

  • Oversegmentation Smaller networks are less of a target for cybercriminals, but this should be done reasonably. It’s simple to over-segment your network, which takes effort to implement but yields no real benefits. To strike the right balance between how small segments should be profitable and not damaging, strategic foresight can be invaluable.
  • Mismanagement of resources Complete network restructuring is a major project for any business. That’s why it’s crucial to anticipate whether there will be enough people to pull it off. Not to mention all the skillets that will be required for this and other commercial endeavors. The project’s success could be jeopardized by the failure to properly plan for it.
  • Thinking of network division as a completed task Avoid thinking of cybersecurity as a task that has been completed and can be ignored. Network segmentation is the same way. It is important to conduct regular audits of network segmentation, even after it has been completed. The reason for this is that there is a perpetual need to upgrade your security in response to the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats.

Final Words

As the number of cyber threats continues to rise, corporations have begun exploring a wide range of countermeasures. In certain cases, technology doesn’t need to be ground-breaking to make a substantial impact on the company.

The administrative practice of network segmentation can aid in an organization by dividing the network into subnetworks. Access can be restricted for specific users or groups, and additional security levels can be introduced for specific networks.

Several methods exist, including hardware-based physical segmentation and software-based virtual segmentation. Thus, virtual segmentation can be broken down even further into subcategories like VLAN segmentation and firewall segmentation.

Businesses can implement stronger isolation between sub-segments, guarantee stricter access control, implement monitoring, streamline network performance, and achieve regulatory compliance status thanks to segmentation. It’s a major step forward in network security, and yet so easy to implement.

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