Zero trust microsegmentation has emerged as a cornerstone in cybersecurity, serving as a critical layer of defense for hybrid cloud environments and web applications. This innovative approach adopts a data-centric security model, rigorously managing network access between workloads.
In this comprehensive article, we'll unpack the nuts and bolts of zero trust micro segmentation, exploring its importance in reducing vulnerabilities and thwarting lateral cyber threats. Moreover, we'll delve into its indispensable role in enhancing the security framework of web applications across various cloud and on-premises platforms.
Zero Trust Microsegmentation
To understand zero trust micro segmentation, we should break it down into two parts—the zero trust security model and the process of micro segmentation.
What is zero trust? Zero trust is a security model that was developed to better protect networks, particularly complex networks such as a hybrid cloud environment. It works by adopting a ‘never trust’ approach to network security, working under the assumption that all users inside and outside of an organization present a risk, unlike traditional security models.
A zero trust model considers any log-in attempt to be a malicious threat and if access is gained, threat actors would have free reign to conduct activity that could be damaging to an organization. To prevent this type of activity, a zero trust model employs strict user and device verification regardless of their location, but it still needs to work in tandem with other solutions.
What is Microsegmentation?
The infrastructure of a traditional network is typically described as 'flat.' Once a user or device successfully logs in, they can access all data and applications, presenting a security risk. To mitigate this, most organizations use network segmentation, breaking the network into sub-networks or zones. Unauthorized access becomes limited to these zones, minimizing potential damage.
But what happens when the network hosts specialized, industry-specific software? Many small businesses rely on made-to-measure customer relationship management software that are intended specifically for their industries. This software will be used for storing critical client and customer data. For instance, roofing software handles sensitive information like client contracts and proprietary architectural plans. By integrating zero trust microsegmentation, companies can add an extra layer of security to such specialized applications. This granular approach ensures that even within these specific areas of a business, unauthorized access is further contained.
Microsegmentation enhances this by creating even smaller sub-networks based on individual roles. Only verified users and systems requiring access to sensitive data can move within these highly restricted zones. This adds an extra layer of security, minimizing the potential reach of an attack if a data breach occurs.
Implementing Zero Trust Microsegmentation in Hybrid Cloud Environments
From a security perspective, hybrid cloud environments present a number of challenges that require a complex solution. As data and applications are located both on on-site servers and cloud servers, it is difficult to have clear visibility of their configurations and implement security procedures in a standardized way.
The optimal way to solve this problem is to implement a security solution where zero trust methodology and microsegmentation work in unison. Zero trust and segmentation can work alongside each other to tackle three of the main security challenges large hybrid networks may face, which are:
Implementing sufficient authentication and access control to the workload level.
Controlled lateral movement across the network.
Securing workloads in a dynamic and ever-changing environment.
Authentication and Access Control
Zero trust offers a high level of access control, ensuring only verified users, applications, and devices are granted permission to access the network. With the added layer of microsegmentation, this becomes even more granular, with authentication and access control implemented down to the workload level.
Controlling Lateral Movement on a Network
In a zero trust framework, earlier models placed all the focus on access control and authenticating users and devices. However, the zero trust concept has evolved in recent years thanks to microsegmentation, increasing its capability to prevent lateral attacks.
Microsegmentation is effectively a containment mechanism, so if an attacker gains unauthorized access, they can infiltrate other areas of the network, acting as extremely effective damage control. The additional security layer of zero trust also ensures an attacker is hindered by the principle of least privilege (PoLP). PoLP is a key component of zero trust, only giving user accounts the minimum privileges they need to perform their function.
Hybrid cloud environments are becoming the standard for enterprises and larger businesses, while the virtualization of servers has also helped to lower operational costs. However, virtual, cloud-based infrastructure has made zero trust even more crucial.
Internal workloads are relatively easy to monitor but this changes completely when virtual and cloud environments are added to the equation. Implementing microsegmentation means that small zones can be created down to the workload level, with zero trust policies added to them directly. This means a workload can be protected regardless of where it is located, whether that is on-site, in a hybrid cloud environment, a multi-cloud environment, or even on untrusted networks.
As organizations implement zero trust microsegmentation to fortify their network's overall security, attention must also be given to the specific types of data being transmitted. For instance, companies often need to send highly sensitive information in document form, like contracts or financial reports.
The reason is simple: while zero trust microsegmentation ensures the secure transit of data between workloads, encrypted PDF solutions provide a safeguard for the content within those transmissions. They offer functionalities such as e-signatures, time-stamping, and tracking, essentially acting as another layer in a comprehensive, multi-tiered security architecture. Therefore, organizations must seek bespoke solutions for each part of their processes, lest they want to put their trust in large-scale providers that prioritize only user-friendliness and don’t care about security.
Zero Trust Microsegmentation: Use Case
A perfect example of zero trust microsegmentation in action is critical application ring-fencing, protecting the applications that an organization is most reliant on. Most organizations have a number of applications that are absolutely critical to the operational success of their business.
These applications may include key databases that contain sensitive information and CRM web applications. Many SMEs use cloud-based CRM tools to ensure secure communication and transactions for their customers and clients, making them a prime target for cybercriminals.
Some of these applications are tailored for specific business needs, with hyper-specific CRMs becoming absolutely essential to day-to-day operations of any organization. They are thus a perfect target for threat actors, resulting in significant downtime for a business as security teams try to limit the extent of the data breach and bring services back online.
With zero trust microsegmentation, a focused security approach can be applied to critical applications running on a hybrid cloud environment. This works by creating a visual map of how they work so they can be ring-fenced with both microsegmentation and zero trust policies
The key benefits of this include:
Visualizing critical applications in detail to understand how they work and communicate across different environments.
Establishing granular ring-fencing policies for increased control.
Quick attack and data breach identification with immediate response protocols to mitigate any impact.
By merging zero trust and microsegmentation, organizations enhance security across hybrid cloud environments. This combo offers granular access control and limits lateral movement, providing robust defense for digital assets, even in specialized software solutions. It's a comprehensive yet flexible approach to meet today's evolving cyber challenges.