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Network Segmentation: What Is It and How It Works?

Network Segmentation

We have started hearing the term network segmentation more and more lately. In a nutshell, network segmentation is physically and conceptually dividing a computer network into several smaller pieces known as network segments. It has been getting popular among cybersecurity practices because if one of your assets is compromised, the danger of access to other data is lower because of network segmentation.

What is network segmentation?

Network segmentation is an architectural strategy that separates a network into several segments or subnets, each of which functions as a separate little network. It is used by organizations to strengthen security, increase performance, and improve monitoring. Today, segmentation is made easier by software-defined access technology, which groups and tags network traffic. The segmentation policy is thus enforced directly on the network hardware via traffic tags, but without the complexity of conventional methods.

How does network segmentation work?

Network segmentation divides a network into several zones, and gives organizations the opportunity to manage each zone or segment independently. It also covers security protocols for each zone in order to handle security and compliance.

Network segmentation can be done in two ways: virtual or physical. Physical segmentation creates segments using specialized technology. Each section needs its own internet connection, physical wiring, and firewall, a process also known as perimeter-based segmentation. Physical segmentation is unsafe. Once hackers or other bad actors have gotten past the firewall, there is very little that can be done to stop them from moving about the network.

Virtual network segmentation, however, applies to the whole network, not just the perimeter. Switches control the virtual local area network environment, and shared firewalls lower the amount of hardware needed. Security rules are now considerably more detailed and fine-grained, and physical segmentation has been mostly virtualized and dispersed.

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The benefits of network segmentation

There are many network segmentation benefits for your organization and some of them are explained below.

Makes Zero Trust security easier

The concept of a trustworthy network inside a predetermined corporate boundary is eliminated by a Zero Trust architecture. Security experts are urged by Zero Trust to adopt a fresh perspective and not to trust any traffic or user unless it has been confirmed. Whether it originates from an internal or external source has no bearing. Zero Trust requires security to implement micro-perimeters of control around assets and work with the presumption that any activity, even internal traffic, might be a bad actor. Zero Trust can be much more easily applied to contemporary settings thanks to network segmentation technology.

Makes cybersecurity compliance easier

Network segmentation aids businesses in easing the cost of compliance, producing insightful reporting and analysis, sharpening their focus on threat hunting, and lowering overall company risk. Since it is much easier to track the bad actors in an organization’s cybersecurity environment with network segmentation in place, companies find that they can keep better track of the compliances they need to follow.

Protects the cloud

Today, a lot of businesses use network segmentation in their cloud environments to improve security and guarantee compliance. The important thing is to make sure that the change management procedure is as quick to adapt as your cloud environment. In order to automate the tracking of all objects in your network, not only IP addresses but also users and security groups, you must incorporate network security policy into change management.

The challenges of network segmentation

Performance

As could be predicted, performance bottlenecks might be caused by network segmentation. Strategically segmenting portions of a company network that would not significantly affect everyday productivity is one way to get around this. Employee devices would then be able to access cloud-based collaborative programs. In the meanwhile, multiple copies of critical data can be maintained isolated from the internet to safeguard it from online threats like ransomware.

Staff, maintenance, and deployment requirements

Maintenance can be difficult if your company isn’t using next-generation technology that automates duties for you, such as access control management. Network segmentation can be challenging to execute if you’re short on time and trained personnel, especially if you need to do it to comply with regulations.

Network segmentation best practices

Keep track of who is connecting to your network

If you don’t know precisely who has network access or what information they need access to in order to accomplish their duties, you can’t segment appropriately. To avoid having to redesign the segmentation process later, you should determine which data must be viewed by whom before you start any segmentation projects.

Avoid under or over-segmenting

A decent segmentation strategy will include a few distinct and required subsections. Too many can become very complex and less than necessary might jeopardize the security of your system. According to Gartner, over-segmentation forced more than 70% of segmentation initiatives to be redone. The previous best practice comes into play in this one as well. If you know your network and who accesses which data well, you can segment your network more effectively.

Perform regular audits on your network

Network security and preventing attackers from accessing your data depend on regular network audits. You run the risk of overlooking holes in your architecture that a bad actor may exploit if you don’t routinely monitor your network. You can upgrade your architecture so that it continues to serve you rather than the other way around by routinely monitoring your users and network.

Conclusion

As your organization develops, network segmentation is a continuous process driven by new requirements and possibilities. As a result, your network security policies will constantly change. By restricting access rights to those who need them, defending the network from mass cyberattacks, and improving network performance by lowering the number of users in particular zones, network segmentation can improve your overall security strategy.

Think carefully as you go and gather knowledge. Compliance and cloud security will be your prize for all the effort you and your team put into this. Keep in mind that cybersecurity is a process rather than a destination, and don’t forget to update your system as your network grows.

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About the author

Tom

Tom

Tom is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and 2 cats. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on phones, tablets, wearables and more. You won’t see Tom anywhere without his ANC headphones and the latest smartphone. Oh, and he happens to be an Android guy, who also has a deep appreciation for iOS.