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The Benefits of Identity-Based Microsegmentation for Network Security

Charlie Treadwell
December 28 2022

As cyber threats continue to evolve, organizations must constantly adapt their network security strategies to stay protected. One crucial element of modern security strategies is network segmentation, which involves dividing a network into smaller, isolated segments to limit unauthorized access to sensitive resources. Identity-based microsegmentation takes this concept a step further by focusing on the identity and attributes of users, devices, and applications. This approach enables organizations to apply granular access controls to specific identities, improving network security and protection against unauthorized access. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of identity-based microsegmentation, best practices for implementation, and how it can strengthen your network security posture.

Table of Contents:

What is Identity-Based Microsegmentation and How Does It Enhance Network Security?

Identity-based microsegmentation is an advanced approach to network security that goes beyond traditional network segmentation methods. Instead of relying on rigid network boundaries such as IP access lists and firewall rules, identity-based microsegmentation segments a network based on the identity and attributes of users, devices, and applications. This enables organizations to apply granular access controls to specific identities, providing a more flexible and adaptable security posture.

In the context of microsegmentation, identity-based microsegmentation is considered a best practice for improving network security. It offers a more dynamic way of segmenting the network, allowing organizations to adapt to the ever-changing threat landscape. To gain a deeper understanding of microsegmentation and its various applications, we recommend reading our comprehensive blog post, What is microsegmentation and how does it work?.

By leveraging identity-based microsegmentation, organizations can enhance their network security in several ways:

  1. Improved protection against unauthorized access: By focusing on the identity and attributes of users, devices, and applications, identity-based microsegmentation helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive resources.
  2. Reduced attack surface: By limiting the scope of network segments, identity-based microsegmentation reduces the attack surface, making it more difficult for attackers to move laterally within the network.
  3. Better visibility and control: With identity-based microsegmentation, organizations gain a clearer view of who and what is on their network, as well as greater control over the access granted to different identities.
  4. Enhanced adaptability: As new threats emerge and the network environment evolves, identity-based microsegmentation allows organizations to adjust their security posture more easily, ensuring continued protection against emerging threats.

Best Practices for Implementing Identity-Based Microsegmentation

Assessing the network architecture and understanding its usage

Before implementing identity-based microsegmentation, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your network architecture and how it's used. This includes:

  1. Identifying all assets on the network, such as servers, workstations, and network devices.
  2. Mapping traffic flows to understand how data moves within and across network segments.
  3. Analyzing the identity and attributes of users, devices, and applications that access the network.

By gaining a comprehensive understanding of your network, you can develop a more effective and tailored identity-based microsegmentation strategy.

Defining and refining security policies based on identity

The next step is to define your security policies and determine how they will be applied based on identity. This may involve:

  1. Segmenting the network into different zones based on the sensitivity of the data or resources they contain.
  2. Assigning appropriate access controls to specific identities or groups of identities.
  3. Continuously reviewing and updating policies as needed to ensure they remain effective and aligned with organizational goals and compliance requirements.

By establishing clear and granular security policies based on identity, you can create a more robust and adaptable security posture.

Utilizing tools and technologies that support identity-based microsegmentation

To effectively implement identity-based microsegmentation, it's essential to leverage tools and technologies that support this approach. Some considerations include:

  1. Network infrastructure: Choose switches, routers, and other network components that can enforce microsegmentation policies based on identity.
  2. Security platforms: Implement security solutions that provide identity-based access controls and policy management capabilities.
  3. Automation and orchestration: Utilize tools that enable automation of policy enforcement and orchestration of security workflows.
  4. Monitoring and analytics: Deploy monitoring and analytics tools that provide real-time visibility into network traffic and user behavior, allowing for continuous verification of identities and attributes.

By using the right tools and technologies, you can streamline the implementation of identity-based microsegmentation and ensure its ongoing effectiveness in enhancing network security.

Real-World Examples of Identity-Based Microsegmentation

The benefits of identity-based microsegmentation become even more apparent when looking at real-world examples of organizations that have successfully leveraged this approach to enhance their network security. In this section, we will explore three different industries – healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and oil & gas – and discuss how each organization met specific compliance standards and adapted to the increasingly stringent requirements for rising cyber insurance.

Clinical Healthcare Provider

A clinical healthcare provider needed to meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements for securing electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). They implemented identity-based microsegmentation to granularly control access to sensitive patient data. By segmenting the network based on users' roles and devices, the organization could apply strict access controls and minimize unauthorized access, thereby achieving HIPAA compliance and reducing the risk of data breaches. This approach also helped them meet the rising cyber insurance requirements in the healthcare industry.

Pharmaceutical Company

A global pharmaceutical company faced the challenge of complying with multiple regulatory standards, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). They adopted identity-based microsegmentation to secure their research data and intellectual property. This approach allowed them to create secure zones within their network based on users' identities, ensuring that only authorized personnel could access sensitive information. As a result, the company not only met regulatory requirements but also reduced the risk of intellectual property theft and demonstrated a strong security posture for cyber insurance purposes.

Oil and Gas Organization

An oil and gas organization operating in an air-gapped environment needed to comply with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards. They turned to identity-based microsegmentation to enforce strict access controls on sensitive systems and resources. By segmenting their network based on the identity and attributes of users and devices, they could limit access to critical infrastructure and minimize the risk of cyberattacks. This approach not only helped them achieve NERC CIP compliance but also strengthened their network security posture to meet the increasing demands of cyber insurance providers.

These real-world examples demonstrate the power of identity-based microsegmentation in enhancing network security across various industries. By implementing this approach, organizations can comply with strict regulatory standards and adapt to the evolving requirements for cyber insurance, ensuring a robust and secure network.

Overcoming Challenges in Identity-Based Microsegmentation Deployment

Deploying identity-based microsegmentation can be a complex process, and organizations often face challenges related to policy management, infrastructure integration, and balancing security with user experience and performance. However, by following best practices and learning from real-world implementations, these challenges can be overcome, resulting in a more secure and efficient network. In this section, we will discuss key strategies for addressing these common challenges, drawing upon recommendations from Forrester's report, "Best Practices For Zero Trust Microsegmentation".

Addressing Complexity and Policy Management

To manage the complexity of identity-based microsegmentation and ensure effective policy management, organizations should follow a structured, iterative process. Forrester recommends a six-step approach that includes cultivating a C-level champion, classifying data, collecting asset and flow information, analyzing and prioritizing suggested policy, and engaging application owners. By following these steps, organizations can minimize false positives and create a robust microsegmentation policy that meets their specific security needs.

Ensuring Smooth Integration with Existing Infrastructure

Integrating identity-based microsegmentation into existing network infrastructure can be challenging, but it is critical for ensuring a successful implementation. Organizations should utilize tools and technologies that support microsegmentation, such as network sensors for collecting traffic data, configuration management databases (CMDB), and asset inventory tools. These tools can help with tagging and annotation of network resources, ensuring accurate information for policy creation and enforcement.

Balancing Security with User Experience and Performance

Striking the right balance between security and user experience is essential for the success of any identity-based microsegmentation deployment. To achieve this balance, organizations should start small, deploying microsegmentation in noncritical, nonproduction environments before moving on to more critical applications. By iterating and refining their approach, organizations can minimize the impact on user experience and ensure optimal network performance. Moreover, conducting periodic penetration tests can help validate the effectiveness of the microsegmentation policy and identify areas for improvement.

By understanding and addressing these challenges, organizations can successfully implement identity-based microsegmentation and enhance their network security posture. By following best practices and learning from real-world examples, they can overcome common obstacles and create a more secure and efficient network environment.

Common Reasons for Identity-Based Microsegmentation Project Failures

Despite the potential benefits of identity-based microsegmentation, many projects fail to deliver on their promise. According to Forrester's report, "Best Practices For Zero Trust Microsegmentation", there are several common reasons for these failures, including analysis paralysis, going too big too soon, lack of visibility, enforcement anxiety, and lack of a nontechnical business driver. In this section, we will explore these challenges in more detail and discuss ways to overcome them to achieve a successful microsegmentation implementation.

Analysis Paralysis

Organizations often struggle to choose the right microsegmentation solution due to the diverse range of options available for on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud environments. To avoid analysis paralysis, organizations should focus on their specific requirements and prioritize solutions that best align with their network architecture, security goals, and available resources.

Going Too Big Too Soon

Attempting to implement microsegmentation across an entire network at once can lead to overreach and failure. To avoid this pitfall, organizations should start small, focusing on noncritical, nonproduction environments first. By gradually expanding the scope of their microsegmentation efforts, they can manage complexity and ensure a smoother implementation process.

Lack of Visibility

Microsegmentation projects can go off track when organizations lack a clear understanding of their network environment. To address this challenge, organizations should invest in tools that provide comprehensive visibility into their network assets, applications, and flows. By gaining a thorough understanding of their network environment, organizations can better scope and plan their microsegmentation projects.

Enforcement Anxiety

Many organizations are hesitant to enforce microsegmentation policies due to concerns about causing disruptions or breaking valid connections. To overcome enforcement anxiety, organizations should leverage simulation and testing tools to validate the impact of their policies before enforcement. This approach can help to build confidence in the microsegmentation solution and minimize the risk of connectivity issues.

Lack of a Nontechnical Business Driver

Without a clear business driver for microsegmentation, organizations may struggle to justify the investment and gain executive buy-in. To address this challenge, organizations should focus on the broader benefits of microsegmentation, such as improved security, compliance, and risk management. By demonstrating the tangible value of microsegmentation, organizations can build a compelling case for adoption and secure the necessary support for a successful implementation.

By understanding these common challenges and implementing strategies to overcome them, organizations can increase the likelihood of a successful identity-based microsegmentation deployment and achieve the desired improvements in network security and efficiency.

What are the key benefits of identity-based microsegmentation?

One key benefit of identity-based microsegmentation is its ability to provide more effective security. Traditional network segmentation methods are often ineffective at stopping bad actors from exploiting vulnerabilities and moving throughout the network. By segmenting the network based on identity, organizations can better protect against these threats and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive resources.

Another benefit of identity-based microsegmentation is its flexibility and adaptability. With this approach, organizations can easily adjust their security posture as needed to protect against new threats. This is especially important in today's complex, evolving threat landscape, where new threats are constantly emerging. By segmenting the network based on identity, organizations can quickly and easily adapt their security posture as needed.

A third benefit of identity-based microsegmentation is its ability to provide continuous verification of identities and attributes. This ensures that network policies are always applied to the correct identities, and helps to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive resources. It also allows organizations to detect and respond to security threats more effectively, as they have a clear view of what assets are on the network and the traffic flows that are taking place.

If microsegmentation is a new topic for you, I recommend you begin by reading my recent post The Ultimate Guide to Microsegmentation: Benefits, Challenges, and Implementation.

Conclusion: Strengthening Network Security with Identity-Based Microsegmentation

In today's complex cybersecurity landscape, organizations must constantly adapt and innovate to protect their networks against emerging threats. Identity-based microsegmentation offers a powerful solution for enhancing network security by applying granular access controls based on the identity and attributes of users, devices, and applications. As we've explored throughout this blog, adopting this approach can lead to numerous benefits, including improved data protection, reduced attack surface, and increased compliance with industry regulations.

Recap of the benefits and best practices for identity-based microsegmentation

To fully reap the benefits of identity-based microsegmentation, organizations should follow best practices such as assessing network architecture, defining security policies based on identity, and utilizing tools that support this approach. By learning from real-world examples and overcoming common challenges, organizations can successfully implement identity-based microsegmentation and enhance their overall security posture.

Encouraging organizations to adopt this approach for robust network security

Ultimately, the adoption of identity-based microsegmentation can help organizations build more robust and resilient networks, better equipped to withstand the ever-evolving cyber threats. By leveraging this innovative security strategy, organizations can take a proactive stance in safeguarding their sensitive data and critical assets, ensuring a more secure future for their business operations. We encourage organizations to consider identity-based microsegmentation as a vital component of their comprehensive network security strategy.

How Elisity can help you secure your network with identity-based microsegmentation

Elisity is a solution that provides identity-based microsegmentation for an existing access layer switching infrastructure. It offers a number of benefits, including non-disruptive deployment, rapid time to value, north-south and east-west microsegmentation, adaptability and scalability, and visibility. It is also simple to deploy and manage, making it an ideal solution for organizations of all sizes.

  • Elisity provides identity-based microsegmentation for existing access layer switching infrastructure
  • Benefits include non-disruptive deployment, rapid time to value, north-south and east-west microsegmentation, adaptability and scalability, and visibility
  • Elisity is simple to deploy and manage, making it suitable for organizations of all sizes
  • Non-disruptive deployment allows for maintenance of business continuity while improving security
  • Rapid time to value means organizations can see benefits of the solution almost immediately after implementation
  • Provides both north-south and east-west microsegmentation for granular control of network access
  • Highly adaptable and scalable for constantly evolving networks and threats
  • Offers visibility into assets on the network and traffic flows for effective security monitoring and response
  • Simple to deploy and manage, allowing IT teams to focus on strategic initiatives

One of the key advantages of Elisity is its ability to be deployed without disrupting existing infrastructure. This means that organizations can implement the solution quickly and easily, without worrying about downtime or other negative impacts on their operations. This non-disruptive deployment is especially important for organizations that rely on their networks for mission-critical functions, as it allows them to maintain business continuity while improving security.

In addition to its non-disruptive deployment, Elisity also offers rapid time to value. This means that organizations can begin seeing the benefits of the solution almost immediately after implementation. This can be particularly valuable for organizations that are under pressure to improve their security posture in a short period of time.

Another key feature of Elisity is its ability to provide both north-south and east-west microsegmentation. This means that the solution can segment the network in both directions, allowing for more granular control of network access. This is especially important in today's complex, evolving threat landscape, where traditional security methods such as network segmentation based on IP access lists and firewall rules are no longer sufficient to protect against threats.

Elisity is also highly adaptable and scalable, making it well-suited for constantly evolving networks. This is important because threats are constantly evolving as well, and organizations need security solutions that can adapt to these changing threats. With Elisity, organizations can easily adapt their security posture as needed to protect against new threats.

One of the most valuable features of Elisity is its ability to provide visibility into assets on the network and traffic flows. This visibility is essential for effective security monitoring and response. By having a clear view of what assets are on the network and the traffic flows that are taking place, organizations can more effectively detect and respond to threats.

In addition to these core features, Elisity is also designed to be simple to deploy and manage. This is especially important for organizations that do not have large IT teams or resources. With Elisity, organizations can easily implement and manage their network security without the need for specialized expertise. This can save time and resources, and allow IT teams to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Overall, Elisity is a powerful solution that provides identity-based microsegmentation for an existing access layer switching infrastructure. It offers a number of benefits for organizations of all sizes, including non-disruptive deployment, rapid time to value, north-south and east-west microsegmentation, adaptability and scalability, and visibility. It is also simple to deploy and manage, making it an ideal solution for organizations looking to improve the security of their networks. If you are responsible for securing your organization's network, Elisity is definitely worth considering. So, it is the best solution for implementing identity-based microsegmentation.

Seeking Expert Guidance on Implementing Microsegmentation? We Can Help

Microsegmentation can greatly improve the security posture of your organization, but it's important to approach it with a well-thought-out strategy. That's where our team of experts comes in. With a complimentary consultation, we can assess your security needs and provide recommendations on the best way to implement microsegmentation in your organization. Whether you're just starting to investigate the benefits of microsegmentation or looking to refine your current strategy, we're here to help.

In addition to requesting a consultation, you can also visit our resource center for more information on microsegmentation. Our product videos offer a thorough understanding of the features and capabilities of our microsegmentation solutions, and can demonstrate how it can improve your security posture. Don't wait any longer to see the benefits of microsegmentation for yourself. Contact one of our experts today and take the first steps towards a more secure and compliant organization with the help of microsegmentation.

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