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DevSecOps

What Is Micro-segmentation? Guide By Wallarm

What Is Micro-segmentation? Guide By Wallarm

You invested in a firewall to safeguard your network and systems years ago, but this is no longer an effective security strategy. A classic firewall is hard outside but soft inside, like a crab's exoskeleton. Suppose the firewall is gone. How safe is your soft middle? 

These days everything is "armored" with its own firewall, providing far more protection. Micro-segmentation makes this kind of protection feasible at a lower cost than would be conceivable with conventional firewall hardware solutions. 

Learning Objectives

What Is Micro-Segmentation?

By Microsegmentation definition, it is a form of workload-level segmentation used for security in modern data centers and cloud infrastructures. Micro-segmentation is used by businesses to protect themselves against cyberattacks, comply with regulations, and limit damage from any data leaks.

By utilizing the host workload firewall to impose policy across east-west communication as well as north-south, micro-segmentation decouples segmentation from the network.

Micro-segmentation is also known as host-based segmentation and security segmentation. In recent years, this cutting-edge strategy has emerged to provide superior segmentation and visibility to facilitate compliance.

How Does Micro-Segmentation Work?

Micro-segmentation replaces traditional hardware setups like firewalls and virtual local area networks (VLANs) with software policies for network segmentation management and creation. The policies specify how and where the security zones are to be located, how the subsets are to be accessed, and how the users and applications will be granted permission to use only the resources and services they require.

There are many methods for enacting micro-segmentation, but next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are by far the most popular. Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) provide visibility across the Open Systems Interconnection model's many layers, letting businesses create a logical access control policy for each networked application. Micro-segmentation is becoming more widely available as part of software-defined wide-area network product suites, allowing for its easy deployment to off-main-network locations. In addition to traditional network switches, fabrics, hypervisors, and agents can all be used to provide network Micro-segmentation.

The Importance of Micro-Segmentation and Who Needs It?

It has emerged as a common practice for regulating horizontal access between private networks and the cloud. This is significant because it facilitates the adoption of zero-trust policies across IT departments, hence improving the security of workloads. While it has many advantages, it also has certain drawbacks.

Not all companies benefit from the approach of micro-segmentation. Existing container macro-segmentation methods may be enough in specific circumstances. Splitting up host agents could increase traffic and conflict with essential resources. In spite of this, many cutting-edge businesses today employ segmentation technology to protect their sensitive information.

When it comes to dealing with vast amounts of sensitive information, businesses that use micro-segmentation excel. Companies in the healthcare industry that handle patient records are included. It includes institutions concerned with student privacy as well as networks that process financial information.

Companies juggling data storage and cloud infrastructure can also benefit from network micro-segmentation. Companies who are nimble and use SaaS solutions for payments and other essential functions will gain substantial plunders. In these cases, the traditional notion of a network's perimeter no longer applies. Micro-segmentation, whether performed by a host agent or a hypervisor, is a more flexible and powerful option.

Challenges of Micro-Segmentation

The following difficulties can arise during the implementation of micro-segmentation, which necessitates consistency and careful planning:

  • Constant scrutiny of the rules is required to ensure their relevance.
  • The achievement of goals requires a thorough examination of performance.
  • Observing and responding to shifts in user behavior caused by new software or traffic patterns is essential. It's possible that micro-segmentation isn't a good fit for every use case, especially those that are especially performance-conscious.
  • Creating a micro-segmentation model is difficult. Connectivity and availability issues can be avoided if application behavior and workloads are modeled accurately.
  • The importance of support cannot be overstated. It can only be implemented successfully with the help of several different departments within IT, such as the computing, networking, cloud, and security departments. It is crucial that there is mutual understanding, communication, and engagement.

There has been a rise in the use of micro-segmentation as a means for businesses to fortify their networks against threats. With micro-segmentation, businesses may enforce stringent security measures across their networks even when workloads and resources are spread across numerous sites (both internal and external).

Types of Micro-Segmentation

The following are some of the more frequent methods:

  • Application Segmentation

Micro-segmentation of this kind creates ring fences around applications in order to safeguard sensitive communication. This covers the regulation of traffic between applications that run in private data centers, public cloud environments, or hybrid cloud environments (regardless of whether they use containerized workloads, hypervisors, or bare metal).

Protecting high-value apps is necessary because they either provide essential services, hold sensitive or personal data, or are subject to rules (such HIPAA, SOX, or PCI DSS). Application segmentation is a technique that can help businesses improve the security of their applications and stay in compliance with regulations.

  • Environmental Segmentation

Keeping environments such as development, testing, and production separate is important. This eliminates communication between environments, which is normally not required during regular operations but might be used by an attacker to their advantage. Due to the fact that environments are dispersed throughout various data centres, both on-premises and in the cloud, traditional methods of segmentation are unable to be used to create this type of segmentation.

  • Process-Based Segmentation

If the attack surface is divided into smaller pieces, the resulting segmentation will be more fine-grained. This means that each server, whether it be a virtual machine (VM) or a physical system, is handled separately. This can be used in both private data centers and public cloud setups.

To successfully deploy process-based nano-segmentation, specific outgoing and inbound security rules for each task must be dynamically programmed. The platform can then construct an individually tailored adaptive perimeter around each running instance of the software.

By integrating process-based nano-segmentation with an allowed policy model, you may define permissible workload interactions for your applications independent of the underlying network. After that, you can narrow your categories even further. Instances of the same process running on the same machine can be partitioned, for instance, to create two completely autonomous working environments.

  • Tier-Level Segmentation

Common components of N-tiered applications include the application, web, and database layers, all of which may benefit from isolation from one another. At the application tier, micro-segmentation separates workloads according to their roles to stop unauthorized lateral movement.

For instance, the policy may allow the processing tier to talk to the database tier but not the web or load balancer tier. Taking this measure helps lower the target's vulnerability.

  • User Segmentation

Using identity services like Microsoft Active Directory, user segmentation restricts access to applications to only those in a given group. No alterations to the current infrastructure are required as user segmentation is based only on group membership and user identity. Depending on your user segmentation policy, each user on your VLAN could be granted varying degrees of network access.

Benefits of Micro-Segmentation

It provides genuine value to businesses that implement it. More particularly:

Numerous threats exist, and many of them are difficult to identify. They can cripple businesses that store critical information, making them easy targets for theft. APTs, or advanced persistent threats, are malicious cyberattacks that are methodically planned and executed by a human or computer program to target a specific entity across a network.

Decreased dwell time can be achieved by stopping malware from spreading to neighboring networks and resources. In addition to this, micro-segmentation increases security, which ultimately denies the danger of access to vital resources. Data exfiltration can be stopped, allowing timely containment and faster remediation, if only CNC communications can be cut off.

  • Comfortable Conformity

It might be difficult to ensure compliance even when using robust systems and security measures. Micro-segmentation is useful in this context as well. It streamlines the process of complying with laws and mandates like PCI-DSS (including the forthcoming PCI-DSS 4.0), HIPAA, and regional mandates like GDPR.

Compliance requirements can be met more easily by businesses thanks to micro-ability segmentations to specify the possibility and restrict lateral movement. It offers features including risk analysis and management, audit scope reduction, and electronically protected health information (ePHI) security, all of which contribute to HIPAA compliance. As a result, PCI-DSS-related policies can be generated, enforced, monitored, and refined automatically across all locations and platforms in an auditable manner.

  • Security Simplicity

The best micro-segmentation software will allow you to easily develop and share security policy templates that govern who may access which data and applications in which settings. Considerable time savings may result from doing so. Businesses can save a lot of time and effort by using configuration templates to apply company-wide safety and obedience standards to new and existing environments.

With the correct micro-segmentation solutions, it is no longer necessary to use numerous visualization and monitoring tools to gain insight into data center resources and cross-segment traffic. Continuous evaluation is required in bare metal server and hybrid cloud environments, which might result in lengthy periods of remediation. Having complete, centralized oversight of the data center's security infrastructure can cut down on these delays and assist keep the facility secure.

  • Simplified Policy Management

The transition to a micro-segmentation zero trust security architecture or a micro-segmented network can streamline policy administration. Automatic software detection and policy recommendations based on observed application behavior are features provided by some micro-segmented platforms.

Micro-Segmentation Security Best Practices

When it comes to practical applications, it has a huge potential impact and is just growing. Some examples of micro-segmentation are as follows:

  • Incident response

Parallel development of threats and the impact of penetrations are constrained by micro-segmentation, as mentioned above. Its setups also provide log data for episode reaction teams to better understand attack methods and telemetry for identifying instances of plan infringement inside specific applications.

  • Managed hybrid clouds

The principle of least privilege enables standard security policies across hybrid environments comprised of multiple cloud service providers and data centers, providing consistent assurance to applications that span multiple clouds.

  • Protection of intangible assets

Companies have massive monetary and reputational pressure to guarantee soft resources, for example, confidential employee and customer information, firm financial data, and intellectual property. It provides an additional layer of protection against data exfiltration and malicious actions that can disrupt operations and wreak havoc on productivity.

  • Development and production systems

In an ideal environment, organizations carefully isolate test circumstances and occurrences from production systems. However, these safeguards may not prevent irresponsible behavior, such as designers accessing client data from production databases for experimental purposes. MS can make it possible to create a split that is more concentrated by granularly reducing connections between the two requirements.

Firewalls Vs Microsegmentation

Users are safeguarded by firewalls, which are an offshoot of the client-server paradigm of network architecture. Firewalls examine each packet that joins and leaves a network security micro-segmentation in order to determine whether or not it poses a threat. In order to decide whether or not a packet poses a threat, they consult a predetermined set of guidelines. If the firewall identifies a malicious packet, it will prevent that packet from accessing the network.

In order to keep up with the requirements of today's networks, firewalls have gotten increasingly complex. In addition to doing deep packet inspections, current firewalls are also able to trace traffic over time, filter applications at the application layer, and perform deep packet inspections, amongst other features. NGFWs are equipped with sophisticated intrusion protection technologies and have the ability to employ external intelligence sources to locate possibly malicious traffic with increased accuracy.

Individual networks or users are protected by firewalls, and the protection they provide cannot be extended to external data centers or clouds.

It takes a totally different method than conventional segmentation. It does this by dividing a network into zones that may be defined, and then it employs policies to decide who can access the assets that are included within each zone. It places more emphasis on traffic between servers than it does between clients and servers. In addition, it can be utilized in either an internal or an external context, irrespective of the location in which applications or services may be kept.

Firewalls Vs Microsegmentation
Firewalls and Microsegmentation

Microsegmentation And Zero Trust Strategy

Occasionally there is insufficient alignment between tactics and goals. When it comes to cyber security, a zero-trust architecture combines strategic planning at the highest levels with personal goals for access and risk reduction. Alternatively, it fills in the blanks by giving rise to a means of carrying out a zero-trust strategy's implementation.

Single sign-on and other authentication methods provide the granularity necessary for zero trust to function. The SOC team has visibility into the identities of all known devices and users, as well as their permissions, group memberships, and policies. MS allows for finer granularity by creating isolated micro-perimeters for isolated application workloads and regulating communication between them.

With zero trust, only the bare minimum of consent is granted to an individual in order to carry out an operation. There is an effort built into the model to lessen potential dangers. It fits nicely with the zero-trust framework thanks to traffic-limiting restrictions. Controls can be enabled by security teams in a manner that is specific to each application, infrastructure tier, and environment type. MS’s software defines segments and separates micro-segmentation security controls from the underlying infrastructure. Therefore, policies and procedures that address risk can travel with people and their devices throughout the network and the cloud.

Microsegmentation And Zero Trust Strategy
Microsegmentation And Zero Trust Strategy

Implementation Of Microsegmentation 

There are typically six stages of a micro-segmentation rollout:

  • Locate and catalog each and every program using the data center's resources. Learn how much bandwidth and access control are needed.
  • Establish which programs will benefit from being able to talk to one another.
  • Create a structure of logical levels for categorizing policy objectives in API security. The inaccuracy of your policies will increase if you don't carefully define your categories.
  • Following the establishment of these conceptual classifications, policies can be developed, tried out, and fine-tuned separately for each of the subsets.
  • Apply rules to the most important workloads and software packages.
  • Each port and all east-west traffic should be able to be monitored with this approach.

Conclusion 

Security teams face increasing difficulty in keeping a uniform security posture as the network expands in size and intricacy, which makes it more difficult to monitor traffic and enforce regulations. To consistently and proactively defend against the progressive cyber threats faced by businesses today, a software-defined micro-segmentation framework allows security teams to gain deep visibility, make segmentation granular down to the host level, and enforce policies that could follow workloads across dispersed and dynamic environments.

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