March 23, 2020 8:01 pm

Micro-Segmentation: The First Step to Zero-Trust Security

Author ColorTokens

Businesses across the world are going digital, and an increasing number of workloads, applications, and data are moving to the cloud. Remote users and global business partners need access to corporate applications and data, which is making it harder for security teams to define a perimeter.

Historically, however, companies have invested heavily in perimeter defense solutions — the assumption was that the threat is always outside the network, so the stronger your castle wall, the more impenetrable you were. But the shift to digital, remote, and global access means that companies often need more than perimeter controls and traditional security models. The recent uptick in breaches and compromised records is evidence of that.

Whether it’s Yahoo, Equifax, Target, or any other major company that’s fallen victim to a cyberattack, each had security controls in place. But the breach happened nonetheless, and they will continue to happen since most existing controls are inadequate against ransomware, malware, phishing, or stealthy lateral threats (APTs).

Defend Against Sophisticated Threats With Zero Trust

The common fix to security vulnerabilities has been to add more products at different network layers. However, this traditional band-aid approach just does not work; multiple-point products create blind spots and expand the attack surface. Defending against modern and sophisticated threats requires a paradigm shift in the way security is approached.

Zero trust is a security framework that requires organizations to authenticate and authorize every user and every device inside and outside the perimeter before allowing access to applications and data. This micro-level perimeter control is in contrast to existing security models which “trust” everything inside the network. The zero-trust framework is built on least privilege access – this avoids any lateral movement either intentionally or inadvertently.

Zero Trust takes a data-first approach to achieve security using micro-segmentation. This approach increases security through obfuscation techniques, limits the blast radius of the attack, and aids in faster incident response and remediation. To achieve zero trust, the framework should encompass workload, network, devices, people, and data monitored by a uniform visibility & analytics layer with policy automation and orchestration built for multi-cloud and bare metal servers.

Why Micro-Segmentation is the First Step to Zero Trust Security

Micro-segmentation is a method to logically create network segments and completely control traffic within and between the segments. It provides the ability to control workloads in a data center or a multi-cloud environment with granular policy controls, and restricts the spread of lateral threats in the data center.

The concept of network segmentation is not new, and traditionally, network firewalls and VLAN ACLs were deployed to carry out segmentation with static IPs and subnets. But there are challenges and limitations to this approach, including the inability to segment and protect cloud workloads.

Fortunately, the emergence of software-defined micro-segmentation has made granular segmentation at the host level a reality. A software-defined framework also allows segmentation of workloads in hybrid multi-cloud environments, enabling security teams to maintain a consistent security posture across the entire network.

This unprecedent ability to define security policies at a granular, host level makes it possible for organizations to implement zero-trust security within their security infrastructure, regardless of whether the workloads/applications are in the data center or the cloud.

Secure Access with Zero Trust Architecture

One of the key principles of a zero-trust approach is to never trust and always verify first. Micro-segmentation at the host level enables security teams to isolate environments and segment workloads and applications that are distributed. Once segmented, fine-grained security policies can be applied based on a zero-trust approach.

With the right micro-segmentation solution, high-level policies can even be defined based on real-world constructs such as user groups, access groups, and network groups, and can be applied to multiple applications. Consistent policies can be applied even in a dynamic VM environment, which was almost impossible with traditional segmentation.

With software-defined micro-segmentation, the application is obscure, and only authorized users can access it. Any connection which cannot be verified by the policy parameters is blocked, ensuring lateral movement and unauthorized access are not only prevented but immediately flagged for investigation and remediation. This builds a zero-trust security micro perimeter around applications and reduces the attack surface to a minimum.

Micro-Segmentation for Your Business

The changing IT landscape is making it increasingly difficult for traditional security solutions to protect the network from cyber threats. As business embrace the future with digital transformation and cloud adoption, security will be a primary concern, especially with stringent regulations and compliance requirements coming into force across the world.

Software-defined micro-segmentation enables zero-trust implementation in the existing infrastructure to deliver security that is granular, consistent, and scalable to meet the dynamic business needs of the future.

See the benefits of micro-segmentation for your business by signing up for a free trial of Xshield, ColorTokens’ award-winning micro-segmentation solution. Get started today!