Effective Network Segmentation Practices in Cybersecurity

Effective Network Segmentation Practices in Cybersecurity

Network segmentation is fractionating a computer network into numerous subnetworks to enhance security and performance. Effective network segmentation prevents a single point of failure, making it challenging for cyber-attackers to breach the network. 

More importantly, malicious traffic will only actively access part of the infrastructure when the network is segmented. Threat actors can only breach into the initial section of the network, offering businesses to decelerate the intrusion impacts. Here are a few effective network segmentation practices organizations must consider.

Regularly Audit and Monitor Network

Yearly network audits are critical in allowing businesses to reassess the effectiveness of the existing security policies. New business requirements, users, or processes stationed during the year can be integrated into network segmentation plans.

All the segmentation deployments should encompass regular network traffic and performance monitoring to ensure no gaps or vulnerabilities in the network infrastructure. Penetration tests and network risk assessments are vital to identifying security issues needing prompt attention.

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Avoid Over Segmenting or Under Segmenting

Prevention of over and under-segmenting remains a challenge during implementation. Organizations often segment the networks as much as possible to establish the highest security level. However, a solid balance between having resources to control and numerous network surveillances that do not impact employee productivity is vital.

Over-segmentation requires the employees to navigate multiple access points to procure data access leading to inefficient and restricted traffic flow. This creates vulnerability issues when every unmanaged network system. At the same time, security updates would take longer to implement within individual networks maximizing the risks of making errors.

Furthermore, under-segmenting is only effective when there are more fractions among systems. Separating only one network into two or three will not offer adequate security. Hence, having enough networks to limit the attack surface efficiently is essential.

Restrict Third-party Access Points

Organizations must restrict and manage their third-party risk and secure access points. Since all third-party vendors do not offer complete access to the company servers to operate at total capacity, businesses must only allow restricted access levels for vendors to prevent the impacts of a potential data breach.

 Businesses must isolate third-party access by building unique portals with customized access controls for every vendor. Simultaneously, regular assessments for third-party risks can help intercept future data breaches and leaks. 

Visualize Network and Label Asset Values

For an effective and secure network architecture, businesses must have clarity on –

  • who are the users?
  • components encompassing the networks
  • how do the systems complement each other?

A clear image of the existing state is essential to plan, implement, and achieve the desired shape. Network visualization with a network diagram to get a complete view of all the moving parts will help identify who requires access to data to map the network successfully.

Before initiating the network segmentation process, businesses must assess the stocks of their assets and assign values. From IoT (Internet of Things) to databases, each asset must be organized according to its importance level and data sensitivity. Dividing higher and lower value items and maintaining an extensive list of company assets allows businesses to transition and implement network segmentation strategies.

Integrate Identical Network Resources

A crucial step is to group similar networks after documenting the asset inventory. Organizations must assemble lower security items in the same network while higher security assets are in another. Businesses can station accelerated security protocols on networks with increased critical data to secure as the network architecture forms.

This practice simplifies every network’s creation and policy updates and determines which network priorities. This also makes the tracking, monitoring, and filtering protocols much better and more accessible.

Deploy Endpoint Security and the Principle of Least Privilege

Threat actors actively target endpoint devices due to their lack of adequate protection. A single breached device establishes an entry point for cyber attackers to breach the leading network. Businesses must implement technologies like endpoint detection and response (EDR). This technology offers a supplementary layer of security by monitoring IOCs (indicators of compromise) and IOAs (indicators of attacks).

Organizations must ensure that each network follows the zero-trust model and principle of least privilege after the network segmentation implementation. This restricts network access at each level with the help of parties within the network perimeters that offer robust verification and authentication before granting access to numerous parts of the network.

Network administrators can efficiently identify cyber-attackers or questionable attempts to infiltrate the systems, allowing only authorized users with adequate permission to view or use the data within a network.

Establish Simplified Admissible Data Paths and Automation When Required

During network segmentation, it is essential to contemplate the data paths of an authorized user in contrast to the firewalls securing the data. An admissible third party or the user should not have to go through extensive access points requiring cyber attackers to break through. Businesses must ensure that the network architecture has solid protection to combat cyber threats rather than firewalls between the vendors and the data they require access to.

Construing a network segmentation policy is challenging, and attempting to employ all the processes manually is a huge task. It is essential to leverage automation capabilities when required to overcome these challenges. Moreover, automation is vital, especially during the discovery and classification phases. When a network contains vulnerabilities, automation assists organizations in identifying new assets; their communication flows on the network by implementing segmentation policies.

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Why is network segmentation a Must?

Network segmentation is vital for an organization working with multiple complex networks and finding robust ways to secure them. According to a recent report by Acronis, “Acronis Cyber Protection Operation Center Report: Cyberthreats in the second half of 2022“, in 2023, the average data breach cost is anticipated to reach USD 5 million.

Businesses must employ effective network segmentation practices to avoid unnecessary costs and questionable data breaches. It offers strengthened security, diminishing security risks by building a multi-layer attack surface that avoids lateral network attacks. Furthermore, it enhances security monitoring efforts since the network is divided into segments making it easy for businesses to detect intrusions.

Lastly, it minimizes the compliance scope since segmentation allows businesses to divide regulated information from other systems. This process allows easy compliance management and policy applications with a targeted approach.

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