Cyber-security is slowly dominating boardroom discussions and news headlines over the past few years. Barely a week goes without a firm having to announce a recent data breach. The list of the most significant cyber-attacks has not spared even the most prominent tech firms like Google and Facebook.
To make it worse, bad actors in the industry are coming with more sophisticated and dangerous attack methods each time. Cases of hacking, espionage, soring, and social engineering are in an all-time high, not forgetting the threat of insiders.
Where does this leave small businesses? Antivirus and firewalls are no longer sufficient to protect organizations. Security professionals must combine different tools and strategies to avert cyber-attacks.
One tactic that can improve data security is network segmentation, which we shall discuss in more detail.
Network Segmentation: What Is It?
In brief, network segmentation involves splitting an expansive computer network into multiple sub-networks that work in isolation. Through this practice, businesses separate critical systems and resources from the internet and public sub-networks. You can achieve segmentation using virtual local area networks (VLANs) and firewalls, among other techniques.
Information Technology experts have always acknowledged the benefits that come with isolating different portions of a corporate network. Despite the commendation, only 25 percent of organizations implement network segmentation.
The reason could be the intricacy of setting it up. You require detailed information about the network infrastructure to create segments and control points without loopholes through which intruders can access the system. This problem usually arises when organizations want to segment their networks when they have overgrown.
Advantages Of Network Segmentation
Regardless of the size of your network, it’s best to segment it the earliest possible. Network segmentation brings more value in the long run than avoiding the challenges of implementing it. Here are four key benefits.
Attackers Find Hard To Penetrate
Let’s say a cyber-criminal has successfully invaded your network, but you have segmented it. At first, they will have breached a portion of your system.
It will take the attacker more effort and time to break the security measures in that sub-network and reach the targeted resources. This delay can allow for your security team to discover suspicious activity and thwart it.
Damage Control If Attacked
As we have seen, network segmentation makes it harder for hackers to explore the entire network after penetrating a network segment. Swift action allows you to contain the breach before it spreads.
If intruders meddle with the breached portion alone, the damage is far less than in an attack on the entire network. When it comes to the finances, time, and effort necessary to recover from a breach, network segmentation brings immense savings.
Enhanced Data Security
With network segmentation, you can emphasize security on the network segments with critical data and resources. You can apply a security layer to separate your servers from other zones and the internet, further reducing the risk of a data breach.
Effective Implementation Of Network Policies
When appropriately configured, network segmentation heightens user access restrictions to sensitive systems and data. If an unauthorized individual gets hold of your credentials, they might not manage to access the system from a restricted network segment.
Ultimately, network segmentation can prevent internal and external intrusion even when someone steals or attempts to abuse your credentials.
Network Segmentation And Compliance
Segmentation can enable organizations to demonstrate the best industry practices. See below how it can help businesses to comply with various standards.
PCI DSS Compliance
The Target Breach in 2013 taught the corporate world how simple it could be for intruders to traverse a corporate network unnoticed. The intrusion took place after cybercriminals stole the credentials of Fazio Mechanical Services, an HVAC vendor who served Target. They would then break into the retailer’s POS system.
It turned out that Fazio had access rights to Target’s network to remotely perform tasks like energy consumption and temperature monitoring at various stores.
The intruders used the Fazio’s credentials to infiltrate the network and upload malware on Target’s POS systems. The attacker managed to steal data from 40 million payment cards.
According to experts, the whole saga was a result of Target’s failure to implement network segmentation properly. If Target had isolated the POS system from the rest of the network, the attack wouldn’t have succeeded.
The case demonstrated the role of network segmentation in PCI DSS compliance. PCI DSS encompasses several security standards that businesses that accept, process, transmit or store payment card data must observe. They must operate in a secure environment to prevent unauthorized access to cardholder information.
Businesses that collect customer data in the European Union must align themselves with the rules of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR seeks to give consumers more control over their data. Network segmentation can help with setting up policies to control how organizations handle data on individuals.
IT managers can begin by splitting the corporate network into security zones or segments. They can then limit access to information in specific zones as necessary. Most important, network administrators should monitor the entire system and remove any unnecessary access rights.
Network Segmentation Is Continuous
There’s not such a time you can relax and say you have concluded the work of network segmentation. Over time, you will keep on updating your network systems, requiring you to revisit your setup.
It could be a result of changing hardware and software or business requirements. For smooth network management, IT managers sometimes resort to microsegmentation.
As your company grows and the network expands, segments will also swell. The most practical solution to managing a ballooning network is splitting particular zones further into microsegments.
You can divide the network to the user and application levels. It’s possible to restrict data access to specific security groups as you go lower.
It’s time to Segment Your Corporate Network
Network segmentation is an effective security measure which modern organizations should implement. It might look complex and expensive to set up, but it pays off in the long term.
By securing your network, segmentation will save you from the cost and effort associated with recovering from a successful attack. A data breach can hurt the reputation of your business forever, even when the stolen data was useless to the hackers.