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What is microsegmentation and how does it work?

Charlie Treadwell
December 29 2022

One way to enhance network security is through microsegmentation, a method that involves breaking up a network into smaller segments, known as "micro-segments," to better manage and protect data traffic.This is becoming increasingly important in today's interconnected and complex digital landscape, as traditional network segmentation methods are no longer sufficient to protect against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

In this article, we will provide an overview of the key concepts and technologies involved in microsegmentation, and explain why it is important for modern organizations.

Table of Contents of What is Microsegmentation:

What is microsegmentation?

Microsegmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller, more granular segments. Each segment, or "micro-segment," is isolated from the rest of the network and has its own security controls, policies, and permissions. This allows organizations to better control and secure data traffic within their networks, as well as reduce the attack surface and improve compliance.

Microsegmentation differs from traditional network segmentation in that it is much more granular and precise. While traditional network segmentation typically involves dividing a network into larger segments, such as by department or location, microsegmentation allows for even more precise segmentation down to the level of individual applications and workloads.

The key benefits of microsegmentation include improved security, reduced attack surface, and better compliance. By dividing a network into smaller segments and applying granular security controls, organizations can better protect against cyber threats and reduce the risk of data breaches. Additionally, microsegmentation can help organizations meet regulatory requirements and improve compliance with industry standards.

How does microsegmentation work?

There are several technologies and tools that can be used to implement microsegmentation. These include firewalls, virtual local area networks (VLANs), and network access control lists (ACLs).

Firewalls are network security systems that monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. In the context of microsegmentation, firewalls can be used to enforce security policies and controls at the micro-segment level.

VLANs, or virtual local area networks, are logical networks that operate within a larger physical network. They can be used to segment a network into smaller, logical segments, which can then be secured using security controls such as firewalls and ACLs.

ACLs, or access control lists, are used to specify which users or systems have access to specific resources on a network. In the context of microsegmentation, ACLs can be used to specify which users or systems have access to specific micro-segments within a network.

Microsegmentation policies are defined and enforced using these technologies and tools. These policies can be created and managed manually, or through the use of micro-segmentation software. Micro-segmentation software is designed to automate and manage the process of microsegmentation, including the creation and enforcement of policies, and can make it easier for organizations to implement and maintain microsegmentation in their networks.

Challenges and considerations of implementing microsegmentation

Andrew Lerner from Gartner recently published an article titled Campus Network Security and NAC Are Ripe for Market Disruption in which he discusses the challenges posed by hybrid work to traditional methods of securing campus networks. Campus networks are networks that cover a single physical location such as a university or office, and they are currently secured using a combination of switching features and network access control (NAC). However, as more employees shift to hybrid work, using multiple products to secure access to campus networks becomes inefficient and creates a market opportunity for zero trust access (ZTA) products. ZTA products offer benefits such as unified policy, enhanced visibility, and consumption-oriented licensing.

Implementing microsegmentation can present a number of challenges for organizations. One common challenge is the complexity of the process, as it involves dividing a network into smaller segments and applying granular security controls. This can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, and may require specialized knowledge and skills.

Another challenge is the cost of implementing microsegmentation. While the long-term benefits of microsegmentation, such as improved security and compliance, can outweigh the initial costs, organizations may still need to invest in new technologies and tools to implement microsegmentation.

There may also be potential disruptions to existing network infrastructure when implementing microsegmentation. This can be particularly challenging for large, complex networks with many interconnected systems and applications.

To overcome these challenges and successfully implement microsegmentation, organizations can follow a few best practices. These include:

  1. Start small and scale up: Instead of trying to implement microsegmentation across the entire network at once, it may be more manageable to start with a small, well-defined segment and gradually expand from there.
  2. Use micro-segmentation software: As mentioned earlier, micro-segmentation software can help automate and manage the process of microsegmentation, making it easier to implement and maintain.
  3. Work with a trusted partner: Partnering with a trusted vendor or service provider can help organizations navigate the complexities of microsegmentation and ensure a smooth implementation process.
  4. Test and validate: Before rolling out microsegmentation across the entire network, it is important to thoroughly test and validate the implementation to ensure it is functioning as intended and not causing disruptions to existing systems and applications.

How do network policies work with microsegmentation?

Network policies are an essential component of microsegmentation, as they define the rules that determine which types of traffic are allowed to flow between different segments of a network. These policies are typically created and enforced by a network security policy engine, which is responsible for monitoring and controlling the flow of traffic within a network.

Some key points to consider when it comes to network policies and microsegmentation include:

  • Network policies allow for more precise security control
  • Network policies can be used to specify exactly which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked
  • Network policies can be particularly useful in complex environments such as multi-tenant cloud environments
  • Network policies can help to reduce the attack surface of a network
  • Network policies can help to contain the damage in the event of a security breach

Overall, the use of network policies is an essential aspect of microsegmentation, as they allow organizations to define and enforce security policies at a granular level and reduce the attack surface of their networks. By carefully crafting and enforcing these policies, organizations can effectively protect their networks and data from external threats.

How does microsegmentation limit lateral movement?

Lateral movement is a common tactic used by cyber attackers to spread malware or gain unauthorized access to sensitive data within a network. By using microsegmentation, organizations can limit the ability of attackers to move laterally within a network and reduce the risk of a successful attack.

One of the key ways that microsegmentation limits lateral movement is by segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments. This makes it more difficult for attackers to move between different parts of the network, as they must first overcome the security controls in place within each segment. This can help to slow down or even stop an attack in its tracks, as attackers are unable to easily move between different parts of the network.

Another way that microsegmentation limits lateral movement is by allowing organizations to define and enforce security policies at a much finer level of detail. For example, rather than simply allowing or blocking all traffic between two network segments, microsegmentation allows organizations to specify exactly which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked. This can be particularly useful in environments with a high degree of complexity, such as multi-tenant cloud environments, where different tenants may have different security requirements.

Overall, the use of microsegmentation can significantly limit the ability of attackers to move laterally within a network, making it more difficult for them to gain access to sensitive data or spread malware. By implementing microsegmentation, organizations can take a proactive approach to protecting their networks and data from external threats.

Some key points to consider when it comes to microsegmentation and lateral movement include:

  • Segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments can make it more difficult for attackers to move between different parts of the network
  • Allows for more precise security control, enabling organizations to specify exactly which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked
  • Can be particularly useful in complex environments such as multi-tenant cloud environments
  • Can significantly limit the ability of attackers to move laterally within a network

How does microsegmentation reduce the attack surface?

Microsegmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments, or micro-segments, each with its own set of security controls. One of the key benefits of microsegmentation is that it can help organizations to reduce the attack surface of their networks.

The attack surface of a network refers to the total number of ways in which an attacker can potentially access or compromise a system. By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the number of points of entry that are available to attackers, thereby reducing the overall attack surface of the network.

In addition to reducing the number of points of entry, microsegmentation can also help organizations to better protect their networks by limiting the spread of malware or other security threats. By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the ability of malware to move laterally within the network, thereby reducing the risk of a successful attack.

Overall, the use of microsegmentation can significantly reduce the attack surface of a network, making it more difficult for attackers to gain access to sensitive data or spread malware. By implementing microsegmentation, organizations can take a proactive approach to protecting their networks and data from external threats.

Some key points to consider when it comes to microsegmentation and reducing the attack surface include:

  • Segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments can limit the number of points of entry available to attackers
  • Can limit the spread of malware or other security threats within the network
  • Can make it more difficult for attackers to gain access to sensitive data or spread malware
  • Can significantly reduce the attack surface of a network

What are the best microsegmentation methods?

While Virtual LANs (VLANs) and Network Access Control (NAC) systems were once popular methods for implementing microsegmentation, they may no longer be ideal or sufficient for the modern networks of the enterprise.

VLANs, while easy to set up and manage, have limitations when it comes to scalability and flexibility. As networks continue to grow and evolve, VLANs may struggle to keep pace, resulting in a less effective and efficient microsegmentation strategy.

NAC systems, while able to dynamically update security policies based on changing user and device attributes, may also struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of modern enterprise networks. As the number of devices and users increases, NAC systems may become overwhelmed, leading to gaps in security coverage.

In today's fast-paced and constantly evolving digital landscape, organizations need a microsegmentation strategy that is both scalable and flexible. Software-defined networking (SDN) technologies including but not limited to Software-defined perimeter (SDP) solutions, which allow for real-time control of traffic flow based on data and analytics, may be a more suitable solution for modern enterprise networks.

Overall, while VLANs and NAC systems may have been effective in the past, they may no longer be sufficient for the modern networks of the enterprise. To ensure the best possible security coverage, organizations should consider implementing a microsegmentation strategy that is both scalable and flexible, such as SDN technologies.

What can microsegmentation do that a firewall cannot?

Micro-segmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments, or micro-segments, each with its own set of security controls. This technique can provide a more granular and precise level of security than traditional firewalls, which tend to operate at a higher level of abstraction.

Key advantages of microsegmentation over Firewalls at a glance:

  • Allows for more precise security control
  • Allows for specific types of traffic to be allowed or blocked
  • Reduces attack surface of a network
  • Can help improve compliance with industry regulations
  • Provides a more flexible and robust security posture
  • Can be used in conjunction with firewalls to provide an additional layer of security
  • Can be particularly useful in complex environments such as multi-tenant cloud environments

One key advantage of micro-segmentation is that it allows organizations to define and enforce security policies at a much finer level of detail. For example, rather than simply allowing or blocking all traffic between two network segments, micro-segmentation allows organizations to specify exactly which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked. This can be particularly useful in environments with a high degree of complexity, such as multi-tenant cloud environments, where different tenants may have different security requirements.

Another advantage of micro-segmentation is that it can help organizations to reduce the attack surface of their networks. By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the spread of malware or other security threats. This can be particularly useful in cases where a security breach occurs, as it can help to contain the damage and prevent the breach from spreading.

In addition to these benefits, micro-segmentation can also help organizations to improve their compliance with industry regulations and standards. By providing a more granular level of control over network traffic, micro-segmentation can help organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS.

Overall, micro-segmentation can provide organizations with a more robust and flexible security posture, enabling them to better protect their networks and data from external threats. While it is not a replacement for traditional firewalls, micro-segmentation can be used in conjunction with firewalls to provide an additional layer of security and further reduce the risk of security breaches.

Advantages of Microsegmentation over Network Access Control (NAC)

Microsegmentation and Network Access Control (NAC) are both security technologies that are used to protect networks from external threats. While both approaches have their own unique benefits, there are several key advantages that make microsegmentation a more effective security solution in certain situations.

Key advantages of microsegmentation over NAC at a glance:

  • Granular level of security control
  • Ability to reduce attack surface of a network
  • Improved compliance with industry regulations
  • More effective in situations where high level of precision and control is required
  • Can be used in conjunction with other security technologies such as firewalls
  • Can be particularly useful in complex environments such as multi-tenant cloud environments

One key advantage of microsegmentation is its ability to provide a more granular level of security control. Unlike NAC, which tends to operate at a higher level of abstraction, microsegmentation allows organizations to define and enforce security policies at a much finer level of detail. This can be particularly useful in environments with a high degree of complexity, such as multi-tenant cloud environments, where different tenants may have different security requirements.

Another advantage of microsegmentation is that it can help organizations to reduce the attack surface of their networks. By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the spread of malware or other security threats. This can be particularly useful in cases where a security breach occurs, as it can help to contain the damage and prevent the breach from spreading.

In addition to these benefits, microsegmentation can also help organizations to improve their compliance with industry regulations and standards. By providing a more granular level of control over network traffic, microsegmentation can help organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS.

Overall, microsegmentation offers a number of benefits over NAC, including a more granular level of security control, the ability to reduce the attack surface of a network, and improved compliance with industry regulations. While both technologies can be used effectively to protect networks, microsegmentation may be the better choice in situations where a high degree of precision and control is required.

What are the benefits of microsegmentation?

Microsegmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments, or micro-segments, each with its own set of security controls. This technique can provide a number of benefits to organizations looking to improve the security of their networks and data.

Some key benefits of microsegmentation include:

  • Granular level of security control: Microsegmentation allows organizations to define and enforce security policies at a much finer level of detail. This can be particularly useful in environments with a high degree of complexity, such as multi-tenant cloud environments, where different tenants may have different security requirements.
  • Reduction of attack surface: By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the spread of malware or other security threats. This can be particularly useful in cases where a security breach occurs, as it can help to contain the damage and prevent the breach from spreading.
  • Improved compliance: Microsegmentation can also help organizations to improve their compliance with industry regulations and standards. By providing a more granular level of control over network traffic, microsegmentation can help organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS.
  • Enhanced security posture: Overall, microsegmentation can provide organizations with a more robust and flexible security posture, enabling them to better protect their networks and data from external threats. While it is not a replacement for traditional security technologies, microsegmentation can be used in conjunction with other security measures to provide an additional layer of protection.

In summary, microsegmentation can offer organizations a number of benefits, including a more granular level of security control, the ability to reduce the attack surface of a network, improved compliance with industry regulations, and a more robust and flexible security posture. By implementing microsegmentation, organizations can take a proactive approach to protecting their networks and data from external threats.

How does microsegmentation fit in with a Zero Trust strategy?

Microsegmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments, or micro-segments, each with its own set of security controls. This technique can be an important part of a Zero Trust security strategy, which is a proactive approach to security that assumes that all users, devices, and networks are potentially untrusted until they have been properly authenticated and authorized.

One of the key benefits of microsegmentation in a Zero Trust environment is that it allows organizations to define and enforce security policies at a much finer level of detail. For example, rather than simply allowing or blocking all traffic between two network segments, microsegmentation allows organizations to specify exactly which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked. This can be particularly useful in environments with a high degree of complexity, such as multi-tenant cloud environments, where different tenants may have different security requirements.

Another way that microsegmentation can support a Zero Trust strategy is by reducing the attack surface of a network. By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the spread of malware or other security threats. This can be particularly useful in cases where a security breach occurs, as it can help to contain the damage and prevent the breach from spreading.

Overall, the use of microsegmentation can be an important part of a Zero Trust security strategy, as it allows organizations to define and enforce security policies at a granular level and reduce the attack surface of their networks. By carefully crafting and enforcing these policies, organizations can effectively protect their networks and data from external threats.

Some key points to consider when it comes to microsegmentation and a Zero Trust strategy include:

  • Allows for more precise security control, enabling organizations to specify exactly which types of traffic are allowed and which are blocked
  • Can be particularly useful in complex environments such as multi-tenant cloud environments
  • Reduces the attack surface of a network
  • An important part of a proactive approach to security that assumes all users, devices, and networks are potentially untrusted until properly authenticated and authorized

Can microsegmentation help with regulatory compliance?

Microsegmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller segments, or micro-segments, each with its own set of security controls. One of the key benefits of microsegmentation is that it can help organizations to improve their compliance with various industry regulations and standards, including NIST, HIPAA, JEC 62443, NERC CIP, PCI DSS, and HHS 405(d) HCIP.

By providing a more granular level of control over network traffic, microsegmentation can help organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS. HIPAA, for example, is a regulatory framework that sets standards for the protection of personal health information, while PCI DSS is a set of standards that applies to organizations that accept credit card payments. By implementing microsegmentation, organizations can take a proactive approach to meeting these and other regulatory requirements.

In addition to helping organizations to meet regulatory requirements, microsegmentation can also help to reduce the risk of a security breach. By segmenting the network into smaller, more isolated segments, organizations can limit the spread of malware or other security threats. This can be particularly useful in cases where a security breach occurs, as it can help to contain the damage and prevent the breach from spreading.

Overall, the use of microsegmentation can be an important tool for organizations looking to improve their compliance with various industry regulations and standards, such as NIST, HIPAA, JEC 62443, NERC CIP, PCI DSS, and HHS 405(d) HCIP. By providing a more granular level of control over network traffic and reducing the attack surface of a network, microsegmentation can help organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks and reduce the risk of a security breach.

Some key points to consider when it comes to microsegmentation and regulatory compliance include:

  • Can help organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks such as NIST, HIPAA, JEC 62443, NERC CIP, PCI DSS, and HHS 405(d) HCIP
  • Provides a more granular level of control over network traffic, enabling organizations to meet the requirements of various regulatory frameworks
  • Reduces the attack surface of a network, helping to contain the damage in the event of a security breach
  • Can be an important tool for organizations looking to improve their compliance with various industry regulations and standards

Microsegmentation in practice: Key takeaways for organizations

In summary, microsegmentation is a security technique that involves dividing a network into smaller, more granular segments and applying granular security controls. It offers a number of benefits, including improved security, reduced attack surface, and better compliance. While implementing microsegmentation can present challenges, such as complexity, cost, and potential disruptions to existing infrastructure, it is an important consideration for modern organizations looking to protect their networks from cyber threats.

If your organization is considering implementing microsegmentation, it is important to carefully evaluate the potential benefits and challenges, and to work with a trusted partner to ensure a smooth implementation process. By taking these steps, your organization can effectively implement microsegmentation and better protect itself against cyber threats.

Benefits of Elisity’s Identity-Based Microsegmentation Solution

Elisity is a solution that provides identity-based microsegmentation for an existing access layer switching infrastructure. It is designed to be non-disruptive, meaning it can be easily implemented without affecting existing infrastructure or operations. This is especially important for organizations that rely on their networks for critical functions, as it allows them to maintain business continuity while improving security.

Elisity also offers rapid time to value, meaning organizations can begin seeing the benefits of the solution almost immediately after implementation. In addition, it provides north-south and east-west microsegmentation, which allows 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.

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.

Get Expert Guidance on Implementing Microsegmentation in Your Organization

Ready to see how microsegmentation can benefit your organization? Our team of experts is here to help. Simply request a complimentary consultation to learn more about how microsegmentation can enhance your security posture and help you meet your regulatory compliance requirements.

During your consultation, one of our experts will discuss your specific security needs and provide recommendations on the best approach to implementing microsegmentation in your organization. Whether you are just starting to explore the benefits of microsegmentation or are looking to fine-tune your existing strategy, our team is here to help.

In addition to requesting a consultation, you can also visit our resource center to watch the latest product videos and learn more about how microsegmentation can benefit your organization. These videos provide a deep dive into the features and capabilities of our microsegmentation solutions, and can help you understand how microsegmentation can enhance your security posture.

Don't wait any longer to see the benefits of microsegmentation for yourself. Request a consultation with one of our experts today and take the first step towards a more secure and compliant organization.

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