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Network Segmentation

Data security is one of the most pressing concerns for businesses today. Year by year, the problem only gets worse. Recent statistics from Forbes suggest that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion each year.  This is certainly a concerning figure. To decrease the risks of hackers and insider attacks on your network, you’ll need the latest security measures. One of these measures is network segmentation. With network segmentation, your sensitive data will be far more secure than it would be otherwise. This guide will explore network segmentation and how it can aid in your overall network security strategy.

What is Network Segmentation?

While you might think a perimeter firewall is enough to protect valuable company data, this is not the case. A perimeter firewall is only the first line of defense between a hacker and your network. If they get past this layer, they will have complete access to all the data on the network. Attacks on this scale can be costly. According to CNBC News, cyberattacks cost companies $200,000 on average, including companies of all sizes. For small businesses, an attack of this scale can be especially devastating, and it has even caused some to go out of business shortly afterward.

This is where network segmentation comes in. Rather than having just a single perimeter firewall to protect the network, the network itself is split up into different segments. Each user can be configured only to have access to a certain segment, preventing attacks from insiders. Even if the perimeter firewall were hacked, the hacker would have to hack each segment to have access to the data on it.

Network Segmentation

How Does Network Segmentation Work?

Network segmentation can be implemented in a few different ways. One common method is to use virtual local access networks (VLANs)—a VLAN groups certain devices based on certain criteria. For example, you could choose to put users in a single department on a common VLAN since each user would generally need to contact each other and access the same information. If users try to cross to a different VLAN, they will face another firewall (also known as a microperimeter). This extra layer of protection makes it more difficult for hackers to access the entire network.

Some networks will use subnets instead, which work similarly, but they restrict access through IP addresses instead. Others will add network segments on the physical level, but this generally takes more time and can be more costly. Nonetheless, however, network segmentation is implemented, it adds an essential layer of security that companies simply can’t afford to go without.

What is the Zero Trust Security Model?

Network segmentation is part of the Zero Trust security model. Zero Trust is a term coined by John Kindervag, an analyst at Forrester Research. The Zero Trust security model is designed to eliminate the assumption that everyone on a network can be trusted. Zero Trust recognizes that threats can come from the inside of a network as well as the outside. It works by limiting access to data for individual users– the only data they have access to is what they need. Many businesses implement this strategy, including Microsoft. To help your business comply with modern security best practices, implementing the strategies found in Zero Trust, including network segmentation, will make this possible.

What are the Benefits of Network Segmentation?

Network segmentation has several benefits, including:

  • Limited Insider Attacks— While any insiders could potentially access all data on the network without segmentation, adding segmentation restricts their access, preventing them from acquiring sensitive data.
  • External Threat Containment— If a hacker gets past the perimeter firewall, they will have to get past the firewalls around the segments. Even if they gain access to a certain segment, then, they still won’t access the entire network.
  • Quicker Response Times— If there is suspicious activity on a specific network segment, monitoring these segments will make it more clear where the threat is coming from. Detection is the first step to removing access as quickly as possible and mitigating further damage.
  • Increased Network Efficiency— Grouping devices together increases the network’s overall efficiency since there are fewer users on any particular network segment.

Is it Possible to Have Too Many Network Segments?

While network segmentation is beneficial for security, unfortunately, it is possible to over-segment your network. This can make it more difficult to manage since more segments need to be monitored. Instead, your network should have as many segments as necessary– no more, no less. Usually, a good rule of thumb to avoid over-segmentation is to group segments by department. This can be simplified further if two departments are in close contact with each other and use similar data sets. You should also consider which users should access the most sensitive company data and group them accordingly.

Should I Get Professional Help with Network Segmentation?

If you’re looking to implement network segmentation for the first time, this process can look daunting. Whether you’re looking to use VLANs or other means, it’s best left in the hands of a professional. IT professionals will know the best way to segment your network and know how to monitor it for suspicious activity. They will also be able to implement it promptly.

The cost of not using a professional can be detrimental to your company. If physical measures are used to implement segmentation, doing this incorrectly could hinder the performance of your entire network, costing time and money to fix. Even if you use VLANs or subnets, these also need to be configured correctly. Otherwise, low-level employees could still access sensitive company data. Rather than making the network more secure, improper segmentation will allow the same security issues to continue as before, if not worse. Because there are so many aspects that could go wrong, it’s generally not recommended to segment your network without the expertise of IT professionals.

At Acom Networks, our team of IT professionals will be able to help you with all your network segmentation needs. Contact us today for a free consultation.