What is Micro-segmentation?

Micro-segmentation is a network security technique that isolates different workloads from one another within a data center. By restricting data flows between different workloads and enabling the enforcement of access control policies at the workload level, micro-segmentation enables organizations to implement more granular zero trust security policies.

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What is Micro-segmentation?

Defining Micro-segmentation?

Like all network segmentation techniques, the goal of micro-segmentation is to break an organization’s network into isolated chunks by defining internal network boundaries. By monitoring traffic crossing these boundaries, the organization achieves a higher level of internal network traffic visibility and the ability to apply access control and security policies for traffic attempting to cross between segments.

How Does Micro-segmentation Work?

Micro-segmentation is made possible by software-defined networking (SDN). SDN implements network routing functionality in software, separating the network data and control planes.

 

SDN is useful for micro-segmentation because the use of software for implementing network routing enables easy integration of access control lists and definitions of network boundaries. As a result, SDN provides a lightweight and adaptable implementation of micro-segmentation and eliminates the need to physically define network routes and boundaries.

How Does Micro-segmentation Manage Data Center Traffic?

The goal of micro-segmentation is to isolate workloads from one another within an organization’s data center. This makes it impossible for traffic to cross workload boundaries without undergoing content inspection and having access control policies applied to it.

 

By implementing micro-segmentation, an organization can eliminate unintentional and undesirable data flows between different workloads. This provides a higher level of control over an organization’s network traffic and applications, and reduces the risk of data breaches.

Micro-segmentation vs Macro-segmentation

Macro-segmentation is another term for traditional network segmentation designed to inspect and secure traffic entering and exiting the data center in a north-south direction. With a macro-segmentation approach, an organization uses virtual local area networks (VLANs) and firewalls to break a network up into groups of systems. This enables the organization to achieve visibility and enforce access control policies between these different isolated network segments.

 

Micro-segmentation takes a much more granular approach to network segmentation. Instead of segmenting groups of systems, micro-segmentation isolates each individual workload. This provides a much higher level of visibility and more granular control over the organization’s network traffic that moves laterally in an east-west direction between workloads within the data center.

Benefits of Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation provides organizations with a number of benefits, such as:

 

  • Increased Network Traffic Visibility: Micro-segmentation provides full visibility and control over data flows between workloads. This visibility can help with detecting and remediating cybersecurity incidents.
  • Restricted Lateral Movement: Micro-segmentation makes it more difficult for an attacker to move from one compromised workload to another. This decreases the impact of an attack upon the organization and the risk of a data breach.
  • Higher Application Understanding: With micro-segmentation, security and networking teams can see all data flows between their various workloads. This aids in understanding the interrelationships between these workloads and in identifying any anomalies that may indicate attacks or errors.
  • Improved Operational Efficiency: Micro-segmentation is implemented in software, eliminating the need for individual firewall appliances and access control lists. This shift to SDN can make defining, monitoring, and managing network segmentation and access control policies easier and more efficient.
  • Centralized Policy Management: SDN is typically implemented as a single, centralized solution. This makes it easier for security and networking teams to monitor and update the rules to adapt to changing network requirements or evolving cyber threats.

Implementing Zero Trust with Micro-segmentation

As the cybersecurity threat landscape continues to evolve and enterprise networks become more complex, a zero trust security policy is essential to minimizing an organization’s cyber risk and exposure to cyber threats. Zero trust security dictates that access to enterprise systems and resources should be limited to what is necessary for an employee or application to do their job. After authenticating to the network, all of an employee’s requests should be evaluated based upon predefined access control policies and allowed or blocked accordingly. Similarly, an application’s access should be based upon business logic and restricted to the minimum necessary permissions.

 

In order to be effective, zero trust security must be enforceable. This is why micro-segmentation is an essential component of strong zero trust security. With micro-segmentation, boundaries are enforced between every workload, enabling access control to be strictly enforced. This reduces the exploitability of an organization’s systems and an attacker’s access during a successful attack.

 

As corporate computing infrastructure increasingly moves to private clouds, enterprises require a cloud-based micro-segmentation solution. Check Point’s CloudGuard Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) form factor provides cloud-native protection and security enforcement. To learn more about CloudGuard, you’re welcome to contact us. Or, you can schedule a demonstration to see how micro-segmentation can simplify and strengthen your organization’s network security in the cloud.

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