What is Micro Segmentation? Micro-Segmentation 101

Micro-segmentation is an approach to network security that requires security architects to create a logical distinction of the data center into unique security segments and down to specific workload levels. After that, define all necessary security controls and deliver services for the individual segment.

With micro-segmentation, IT teams can provide flexible, goal-focused security policies within a data center with the help of network virtualization technology rather than installing multiple physical firewalls. Micro-segmentation can also help secure all enterprise virtual machines (VM) within their network with application-level security features. Utilizing micro-segmentation software will help to significantly enhance an organization’s resistance to attack as security policies are applied to different workloads.

Micro-segmentation software considers network virtualization technology as an avenue to enhance granular security zones in cloud and data centers, isolate individual workloads, and offer separate protection. This helps to mitigate or halt threat acts within a network, thereby minimizing the effect of a potential cybersecurity incident.

Micro-segmentation has immense potential, but some significant challenges have made it difficult for broader adoption.

Essential Types of Micro-segmentation

Micro-segmentation has three key types, each offering distinct roles in securing the cyber environment. These key classes of micro-segmentation are:

1. Network Micro-segmentation

Network micro-segmentation has a very close semblance to the older forms of micro-segmentation. It often separates data center resources into Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) and determines user access utilizing IP or Access Controls Lists (ACLs) constructs.

When managers seek to enhance visibility and control within a network, IP or ACL constructs can become essentially costly and unwieldy, thereby leading to network bottlenecks. This effect has resulted in alternative micro-segmentation options for cost, control, and speed balancing.

2. Hypervisor Micro-Segmentation

In this micro-segmentation setup, every data flows through a hypervisor to create a virtualized security environment with an overlay network security architecture. Virtual machines emulate Software Defined Networks with the possibility of delivering great segmentation solutions for networks requiring VMware infrastructure.

However, Cloud-dependent networks do not find this approach suitable and don’t function smoothly with bare metal systems. Hence, it can only be regarded as a niche solution suitable in VMware environments.

3. Host Agent Micro-Segmentation

The host agent micro-segmentation locates Software Defined Networking agents in networking hosts and endpoints to provide device-level access control, deliver feedback to centralized management tools, and give room for organizations and network managers to monitor how data flows across the enterprise network.

Managers can install agents in Cloud, bare metal, or hybrid settings; every host will need the support of an agent to instill total security. With the position of the host agent, managers can set access privileges for multiple roles and segment networks as desired or required. However, host agent segmentation may appear complex when they are proliferated, leading to network throttling as an increase in device numbers occur.

Host managers should also ensure that as the systems evolve, agents should be updated. However, with remote working devices being involved, host agents are conveniently considered and can be integrated with existing security tools on the devices.

How Does Micro-segmentation Work?

As already revealed, micro-segmentation varieties tend to work in similar ways. For instance, most host-based or hypervisor solutions depend on Software-defined Networking controllers that reside in the primary data center but deliver secure segments to be dispersed around the complete network.

SDNs create a virtual overlay or network, emulating physical networks and distributing necessary security policies to all required endpoints – applications and devices. In addition, tunneling protocols promote secure connections within a virtual environment between the data center and the hosts.

While individualized security policies describe user access within a network, access control to data center resources is managed through multi-factor authentication. In essence, any breach will instantly create an alarm.

Micro-segmentation occurs at the workload level. And any form of a breach can be mitigated with the availability of security reams, speedily and efficiently, to limit the effect. This also implies that network managers can protect data centers and remote workstations, a significant consideration as home working expands.

Since Micro-segmentation is software-based, it enables security managers to put controls in place to showcase digressions within the network architecture. The managers can also include lockdown Cloud resources or extra devices as required — promoting edge protection and total flexibility. In general, hardware-based firewalls are unnecessary, and the security perimeter can adjust anytime.

How Does Micro-Segmentation Help in Networking?

Micro-segmentation bolsters networking by delivering “demilitarized zones” for security across multiple data centers and within a single data center. The software restricts attacker movement around a data center by attaching fine-grained security policies to workloads. Hence, their activities are curtailed even when an attacker infiltrates the perimeter defenses.

Micro-segmentation removes server-to-server threats within the data center, safely separates networks, and limits the network security incident of a total attack surface.

Micro-Segmentation Benefits

Flexibility: You can scale or reshape networks regardless of your choice of segmentation — whether hypervisor or host-based — without jeopardizing internal security.

Reduce Attack Surface: Micro-segmentation limits a network attack surface in a way that will make it practically difficult to implement a successful cyber-attack. In addition, software agents around data centers situated in every endpoint are significantly an alternative to VLAN-based and firewall options.

Breach Containment: Potential attackers within a network will be unable to move freely around to use sensitive resources. Network managers can also isolate, locate, and contain malicious activities as soon as they occur.

Strong and Healthy East-West Network Traffic Control: Micro-segmentation restricts traffic movement within a network perimeter, unlike VLAN-based systems. SDNs (or ACLs) will secure how resources are distributed to users. Managers can allocate given privileges, and attackers will find it difficult to move laterally from weak endpoints to sensitive databanks.