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October 9, 2018 10:14 am

Micro-Segmentation vs. Firewall: Benefits of a Software-Defined Solution

Author Shivram Nayak

The latest statistics derived from the top five data breaches prove that the traditional firewall mechanism is no more effective. According to a report published by Fox Business, more than 43% of breaches are accomplished through internal attacks, which could not be detected by traditional firewalls. Breaches not only compromise data but also result in huge financial losses. As per the study from American Society for Industrial Security, the loss triggered by data breaches is estimated at around US$24 billion annually.

Why Traditional Security Solutions Fall Short

Traditional security solutions are largely focused on external attacks. These include perimeter firewall solutions which have been used by data centers for a long time. But recent security breaches prove that sophisticated attacks can be carried out despite investing on the latest perimeter security solutions. Some of the biggest breaches, which include Equifax, Uber, Anthem, JP Morgan Chase and Yahoo, stand testimony to this fact.

Perimeter Security is No Longer Effective

Breaches occur not because perimeter firewall solutions have become weaker, but because the security solutions beyond that have remained unchanged for years. Once the attacker gets in, the security solution beyond the perimeter consists of hardware-centric solutions like firewalls, routers, and switches. In a dynamic business environment, updating thousands of firewall rules and ACLs is cumbersome and error-prone.

Lack of Network Visibility

This combined with a lack of complete network visibility makes it easier for attackers to stay undetected and traverse laterally across the network. Due to these inherent weaknesses in traditional security solutions, security analysts, CIOs, and security architects who spend millions on perimeter technologies are now being forced to look at alternative security solutions to combat threats.

While security experts have weighed in on options which could be effective in preventing past breaches, one promising option was to compartmentalize data and confine it to a particular region. Even if an attacker gets into the network, compartmentalization makes a lateral movement to different regions within the network difficult, thereby reducing the attack surface to a minimum. This idea gave traction to the concept of micro-segmentation which allows you to segment a network down to an individual host, isolating the attack surface to a single host. With software-defined micro-segmenting, organizations can prevent lateral threats like advanced persistent threats, malware, zero-day attacks, and other sophisticated threats.

What is Micro-Segmentation?

Micro-segmentation is a security mechanism that enables detailed implementation of security policies for specific application segments, driven down to the workload level. Micro-segmentation can result in a deeper implementation of security policies focusing on the East-West traffic, in comparison to perimeter security solutions that protect only the North-South traffic. It’s worth noting that almost all recent sophisticated attacks happened on the East-West traffic within the data center.

Software-defined micro-segmentation is based on multiple approaches, but it primarily aims at implementing policies that will enable zero trust security for the network. Zero trust takes a “never trust unless explicitly allowed” approach. With this underlying principle, data centers and applications are segmented as per the defined business needs. The impact of the segmentation is then visualized, and security policies are implemented across the segments.

Benefits of Shifting to a Software-Defined Solution

The basic architecture of hardware-based security solutions has remained the same for many years. They are very rigid! This has given hackers enough time to find ways through or around them. Moreover, hardware-based solutions are more reactive, than being proactive. In contrast, software-based micro-segmentation eliminates the need for a hardware-based firewall, as it gets integrated directly to the defined security policies. These policies can be defined for any kind of environment. This includes bare metal servers, virtualized, on-premise, and multi-cloud datacenters.

Solutions that are software-defined create scalable as well as future-proof security solutions which can detect lateral threats including malware and APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) by performing segmentation at the subnet level, firewall level, and VM level. This not only makes lateral traversal of threats difficult but also helps in early detection of APTs thus preventing any future data breaches.

ColorTokens software-defined security solutions can help you create zero-trust networks to efficiently secure your dynamic application environments in minutes. Here’s more information on how we can help protect your company from cyber threats.

Categorized in: Micro-segmentation

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