Network segmentation is a security technique that divides a large network into smaller subnets or segments. This security technique improves network performance, enhances network security, and simplifies network management. Many IT professionals understand the benefits of isolating different parts of a network, but few organizations seem to have fully implemented the practice. In this blog, we'll explore the basics of network segmentation and what it means.
Brief explanation of network segmentation.
Network segmentation means dividing a network into smaller segments or subnets. Each has its own security and performance characteristics. This technique allows for more granular control over a network. It also helps minimize the impact of security breaches and other network disruptions.
Importance of network segmentation
Network security is of paramount importance in today's digital world. With the rise of connected devices and the rise of cyberattacks, having a cybersecurity strategy in place is imperative. Network security reduces the attack surface and minimizes the impact of a security breach. It is easier to monitor, control and manage network traffic by dividing a network into smaller segments. This improves the overall performance and stability of the network. Network segmentation also allows for better scalability and management of network resources. This makes it easier to manage and maintain the network infrastructure.
Network segmentation is a crucial part of network security and management. Businesses can improve their network security by understanding the importance and fundamentals of network segmentation. This allows them to improve their performance and better manage their network resources.
What is network segmentation?
Each of the segments created with network slicing is isolated from the rest, allowing for finer control over traffic and network security. This helps minimize the impact of security breaches, network outages, and other disruptions.
Definition and explanation of network segmentation.
Network segmentation consists of dividing a large network into smaller segments, or subnets, with their own security and performance characteristics. This improves network security and performance. Network segmentation makes it easier to manage and maintain a network. Routers, firewalls and other network devices are used to isolate different segments of the network.
Types of network segmentation (physical, logical)
There are two main types of network segmentation: physical and logical. Physical network segmentation means the physical division of different network segments into separate parts of one or more buildings. Logical network segmentation means the logical division of a network by software and hardware, even if everything is in the same physical space.
While physical network slicing is typically used in larger organizations with multiple physical locations, logical network slicing is used in smaller organizations or in situations where physical separation is not practical. Logical network segmentation is generally easier and faster to implement.
Network segmentation is important to improve the security and performance of modern networks. It's easier to monitor, control, and manage network traffic when you divide a network into smaller segments. This improves the overall stability and security of the network.
Network segmentation vs. micro-segmentation
When it comes to network security, network segmentation and micro-segmentation policies need to be implemented. Network slicing focuses on limiting north-south traffic between different networks, while micro-segmentation provides east-west protection within a network. This means restricting access to all devices, servers and applications that communicate with each other. Micro-segmentation is a more granular approach to traffic within the network. While network segmentation can be seen as a general security policy for the entire infrastructure.
Why is network segmentation important?
Network segmentation can be tedious to configure, which is why many organizations may not have it configured for their network. It requires detailed information about network infrastructure, tight security controls, and extensive reviews of network architecture and business processes. In this way, segments can be created without leaving gaps. Network segmentation is not always easy to implement, but it is a critical aspect of modern network design and management. The benefits of network segmentation far outweigh the challenges. It increases network security, improves network performance, and simplifies network management.
enhanced network security
The main benefit of network segmentation is improved security. Dividing a network into smaller segments reduces the attack surface and minimizes the impact of a security breach. Strong network segmentation can help prevent attackers from leaving a system before the vulnerability is contained and their access is blocked. This minimizes the damage caused by a breach.
You can also gain extra time during an attack. An attacker can penetrate a segmented part of the network, but it takes longer or is impossible to gain access to the entire network. Network segmentation makes it easy to protect your most sensitive data. Create a layer of separation between servers with sensitive data and everything outside the network. This reduces the risk of data loss or theft.
Each segment can be monitored and controlled separately, making it easier to identify and contain internal and external threats. Strong network segmentation makes it easy to implement and enforce security policies such as firewalls, access control lists and encryption to protect your most sensitive data.
Improved network performance
Another key benefit of network segmentation is improved network performance. By dividing a network into smaller segments, you can isolate heavy traffic from other parts of the network. This improves overall network performance and stability by reducing the number of hosts and users on a segment. It also makes it easier to manage network resources and allocate bandwidth, further improving network performance.
Make network management easy
Network segmentation makes it easier to manage and maintain your network infrastructure. By dividing a network into smaller segments, you can isolate and manage different parts of the network separately, reducing the risk of network outages. Network segmentation also makes it easier to manage and allocate resources such as bandwidth and processing power. This improves the overall efficiency and scalability of the network.
In short, organizations can better monitor, control, and manage network traffic, improving the overall security and stability of their network.
How does network segmentation work?
Next, we look at the steps involved in network segmentation and the role of VLANs, routers, and firewalls.
Steps involved in network segmentation
Network segmentation steps include:
- Defining Network Segments - The first step in network segmentation is to define the different segments of the network, considering factors such as performance, security, and management requirements.
- Determining the Network Topology – The next step is to determine the network topology to ensure that network segmentation is implemented to meet the specific needs of the organization. By network topology we mean the physical and logical arrangement of nodes and links in the network. Nodes can be switches, routers, and software with switch and router capabilities.
- Create the Segments – The next step is to create the segments using networking technologies like VLANs, routers, firewalls, and more. Choose the right tools by considering factors such as cost, scalability, and performance.
- Configure the Segments - The next step is to configure the segments to ensure that they are properly isolated from each other and that performance and security requirements are met.
- Monitoring and Maintaining the Segments - The final step is to monitor and maintain the segments to ensure they continue to meet performance, security, and management requirements.
The role of routers, VLAN segmentation, segmentation control, SDN segmentation and DMZs
There are several ways to segment your network. Segmentation is usually accomplished through a combination of firewalls, virtual local area networks (VLANs), and software-defined networks (SDN).
The next important technology in network segmentation is routers. They help route traffic between different network segments. Routers use routing tables to determine the best route for network traffic. They can also be configured to enforce security policies and limit traffic flow between segments.
VLAN or Virtual Local Area Network is an important technology that can be used to segment networks. They allow multiple network segments to exist on the same network, but are logically separate from each other. VLANs are created by tagging network traffic, which allows different segments of the network to be isolated. While this approach effectively segments the network, it is often complex to maintain and often requires major re-architecting.
A segmentation control is any device, process, or system used to create network segments to isolate network assets.
Targeting controls must be tested to verify their effectiveness against cyberattacks. These tests check how well the segmentation controls isolate different zones of the network and are usually performed during larger penetration tests. This allows organizations to verify that their network segmentation meets important security standards.
Firewalls play an important role in network segmentation and security as they can be used to filter traffic between two separate nodes on a network. They help protect network segments from outside threats by controlling and monitoring network traffic. The firewall can allow or block specific types of network traffic and can be used to enforce security policies and prevent unauthorized access to network segments. Cloud firewall functionality is also known as FWaaS or Firewall as a Service. This can have financial, network performance, and security benefits.
Access Control List (ACL)
Another network segmentation control is the Access Control List (ACL). ACLs are permissions associated with an object on the network. These permissions determine who can access and use the object and what the object can do. ACLs can be restrictive but also very effective.
SDN segmentation, or software-defined network segmentation, isolates internal network traffic using software-defined network segments and predefined rules. It's basically network segmentation without the need to change infrastructure. SDN segmentation means creating security policies for individual or logically grouped applications, regardless of their physical location. It is a more modern approach to network splitting that applies an automated SDN network overlay. A network overlay is a network over another network that removes the hardcoded limitations of a physical network. This approach is complex and needs to be implemented correctly for successful micro-segmentation.
In short, network segmentation can be achieved through these technologies. By understanding how these technologies work, organizations can better plan and implement network segmentation strategies that meet their specific needs.
DMZ stands for demilitarized zone in network security. It can be a physical or logical subnet (segment) that separates a LAN or local area network from other untrusted networks. This usually means that it is disconnected from the public network. DMZs are also known as perimeter networks because they are defined by two strictly segmented boundaries. One boundary between the DMZ and the external untrusted network and another between the DMZ and the internal network. Typically, these boundaries are firewalls that isolate corporate resources from the internal network and external untrusted networks.
Implementation of network segmentation
It is important to implement network slicing correctly to gain the desired network design and management benefits. We'll examine network segmentation best practices, available tools, and factors to consider for implementation.
Network segmentation best practices
It is important to follow best practices to achieve the desired results when implementing network segmentation. Some best practices for network segmentation are:
- Adhering to the Principle of Least Privilege: The principle of least privilege is one of the key principles of Zero Trust. This involves denying access to the network at all levels and requires all parties to authenticate and verify themselves before being granted access to other parts of the network. It is important to minimize who and what has access based on actual need. This means that not everyone needs access to every part of the network. By following the principle of least privilege, you can prevent hosts, services, users, and networks from accessing data and functions that are outside your immediate responsibility. Only users with the correct permissions can access data within this network. The Zero Trust architecture allows network administrators to identify malicious actors or unauthorized persons trying to infiltrate systems. This strengthens the overall security of the network and makes it easier to monitor and track network traffic.
- Limit third-party access points – It is also important to limit third-party access to your network to minimize exploitable entry points. Giving third parties too much remote access remains one of the biggest vulnerabilities for businesses. It is important to evaluate the privacy and security practices of third parties and ensure that they have sufficient access to fulfill their assigned responsibilities and no more. Third parties can be isolated by creating unique portals with custom access controls for each party.
- Continuously check and monitor your network: Throughout the segmentation process, network traffic and network performance must be constantly monitored to ensure that the architecture is secure and free of gaps or vulnerabilities. This allows you to quickly identify and isolate traffic and security issues. Regular audits and penetration tests are also important to discover weaknesses in the architecture. This allows organizations to reassess and adjust the effectiveness of their current security policies. Auditing and monitoring is also especially important as your business grows and your network architecture may no longer meet your needs. This can help you adapt your network segmentation project to your new requirements, optimal performance and security.
- Visualize your network - To design an effective and secure network architecture, you must first understand who your users are, what components make up your network, and how all systems relate to each other. It would be difficult to plan and achieve your desired state without having a clear picture of your current state. Identify who needs access to what data so you can successfully map your network.
- Create simpler legitimate data paths - You should evaluate and plan your architectural design based on the paths users use to connect to your network. It's important to create secure access points for your users, but you should also be aware of how malicious people can illegitimately try to access the same segments. Legitimate routes should be easier to navigate than illegal routes to improve your security. For example, if you have firewalls between your ISPs and the data they need to access, only a few of those firewalls can block bad actors. This means you need to rethink your architecture.
- Identify and Label Asset Values – Before starting any network segmentation process, you should take stock of your assets and assign values to them. These assets should be organized based on their importance and the sensitivity of the data. An asset can be anything from an Internet of Things (IoT) device to a database. Separating these low and high value assets while maintaining a comprehensive list of business assets allows for an easier transition and implementation of a network segmentation strategy.
- Combine similar network resources - Once your asset inventory is documented, you should start grouping similar network resources into individual databases. This saves time and reduces the security effort. By categorizing data by type and sensitivity level, you can quickly apply security policies and protect your data more effectively. This approach also makes it easier to identify which networks take precedence over others. This makes network monitoring and filtering more accessible.
- Don't oversegment or undersegment your network: A common mistake when implementing network segmentation is oversegmenting or undersegmenting a network. Companies often mistakenly assume that the widest possible targeting creates the highest level of security. You must have enough resources to control and monitor multiple networks without affecting employee productivity. Excessive segmentation causes employees to traverse multiple access points to gain access to data. This creates workflow inefficiencies and restricts traffic flow. It can also create more vulnerabilities as it takes longer to deploy security updates to each individual network. Too many threads add unnecessary complexity, make the entire network more difficult to manage, and increase the risk of errors. On the other hand, sub-segmentation can also be ineffective if there is insufficient separation between the individual systems.
- Implement endpoint security and protection – Endpoint devices are often the target of cyberattacks as they are often unprotected and lack adequate protection. A hacked device can provide an entry point for hackers to penetrate the entire network. Technologies such as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) allow organizations to provide an additional layer of security by proactively monitoring indicators of attacks and compromises.
Choosing the right tools for network segmentation
There are many tools for network segmentation. Let's divide them into two groups, hardware-based solutions and software-based solutions. Examples of hardware-based solutions are routers, firewalls, and switches. Software-based solutions include VLANs and Network Access Control (NAC). It's important to consider factors such as cost, scalability, performance, and ease of use when choosing your network segmentation tools.
Historically, various VPNs have been used to segment networks and protect access to sensitive systems. This leads to many problems like:
- Scalability: When using VPN, it is more forgiving to keep the list of rules at a manageable size.
- Performance Impact – VPNs add complexity to networks, which can increase latency and affect application performance.
- Inadequate audit trails: Not enough detail about who ran each query or command, just that a session occurred.
Factors to consider when implementing network segmentation
There are several factors to consider when implementing network segmentation, including:
- Network Size and Complexity: Understanding the size and complexity of a network is important in determining the most appropriate network segmentation tools and techniques.
- Security requirements: Security requirements determine the types of network segments that must be created and the security policies that must be implemented.
- Performance Requirements - It is important to know the exact performance requirements as they dictate the types of network segments that must be created and the types of tools that must be used to manage network traffic.
- Network Management Requirements - Network management requirements determine the types of tools that must be used to manage and maintain network segments.
Network segmentation is a critical aspect of network design and management, so it is important to implement it properly to achieve the desired results. Organizations can implement network segmentation strategies that meet their needs by following best practices, choosing the right tools, and considering the factors that go into network segmentation.
We have already discussed the importance of network segmentation and the benefits it can bring to companies.
Summary of main points
In summary, we discussed the following main points:
- The importance of network segmentation
- The benefits of network segmentation: increased security, better network performance, and simplified network management
- Various approaches to network segmentation: VLAN segmentation, routers, segmentation control, DMZ segmentation and SDN
Future prospects for network segmentation
Network segmentation will only become more important as threats evolve in the digital landscape. Businesses need to ensure their networks are secure and safe from potential attacks as they become increasingly reliant on technology.
Final thoughts and recommendations
In summary, network segmentation is an essential aspect of network security that should not be overlooked. Organizations can improve security, improve network performance and simplify network management by dividing their network into segments.
You must perform regular security assessments and apply the latest network segmentation techniques to stay ahead of evolving threats.
An attacker can easily penetrate an organization's network perimeter and gain access to local network resources. Hackers can still break into segments created on the corporate network.
Our network isolation ensures secure access to corporate networks through constant authentication of all users and devices. Trust nothing and verify everything provides better security and micro-segmentation. Users only have access to applications, data, and devices explicitly defined by your perimeter, not full network access. This software-level network segmentation eliminates the need for expensive hardware. Micro-segmentation also reduces where threats can travel and where they can attack.
Finally, network isolation makes day-to-day management easier. Instead of performing complex network segmentation, companies can easily segment their own networks. One of the Network Isolation components is our Network Isolation Portal. You can view all app activities and further optimize your network.