Micro-segmentation: The Ins and Outs of East-West Security
Ransomware is emerging as network security's largest new specter. Attacks are increasing at a startling rate, and concern has reached the level of national sercurity threat. Follow a series of notable ransomware attacks, the White House issued a warning last week to business leaders regarding the serious threat that they pose, urging further action by organizations to protect themselves. Following an executive order for governments themselves to enact heightened precautions, the federal government released a list of best practices for protecting corporate America.
Network segmentation is listed prominently in the best practices memo, and arguably the most granular approach to segmenting a network is micro-segmentation. Here’s an introduction to micro-segmentation and why it might be one of the next big safeguards to bulk up your cybersecurity plan.
What is micro-segmentation?
Essentially, network micro-segmentation is an emerging cybersecurity best practice that can significantly increase security defense. Different from network segmentation and application segmentation, micro-segmentation focuses on a very granular division of individual workloads to protect them separately.
How does micro-segmentation work?
Typically, cybersecurity setups center around north-south external traffic – attackers moving in and out of a network. By contrast, micro-segmentation technology centers on internal east-west network traffic – attackers moving around within a network. Beyond stationing monitoring tools on the edge of a network, this approach adds additional visibility to traffic even within the same subnet for further security.Instead of only deploying firewall rules to a particular IP or network, security policies apply to the virtual machine itself and allows intra-subnet traffic filtering. As a workload migrates from one location to another, that security follows it throughout the entire application lifecycle. In other words, if an intruder gains network access, micro-segmentation applies more barriers and safeguards throughout the environment.
What are the benefits of micro-segmentation?
There are two notable advantages to a micro-segmentation approach. First, it provides extra security to critical application deployments. Additional lateral movement security decreases the network attack surface, making the entire operation safer. Second, the approach creates firewall protocols that are more tailored, with unique security settings for different types of traffic. The additional contextual details added to the security policies also prevent the policy sprawl that is sometimes prevalent in traditional North-South firewall rules.
Who should think about micro-segmentation?
Most prominently, the micro-segmentation market is most applicable to sectors like energy, government, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail, for a few different reasons. To start, the more granular application of security measures lends itself to organizations with sensitive workloads. Next, the higher visibility afforded by the method is valuable for companies with high regulatory compliance. Finally, the way micro-segmentation allows for dynamic and seamless tracking across environments is perfect for those using a hybrid cloud setup.
As networks move beyond traditional segmentation, micro-segmentation may prove to be a rising star for network security in months and years to come.
Walter Horton, Director of Cloud and Network Infrastructure, is responsible for the infrastructure supporting NFINIT's could and network services, ensuring that they are resilient and highly available for our client's critical applications.