In large companies and enterprises, IT networks often become too big, complicated, and difficult to maintain. Techniques like network segmentation can be quite useful for breaking up your network into smaller, more manageable chunks. When coupled with tools like the best zero trust network access (ZTNA) solutions (opens in new tab), network segmentation can also help you manage user permissions.
In this article, we take a closer look at our top five best practices for network segmentation. This includes adding a ZTNA program to your toolkit, among other things.
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1. Use ZTNA to secure your network
ZTNA is an increasingly popular security solution that enables you to manage your network on a granular level. It uses a trust no one approach, which means that every user who attempts to access your network will have to pass verification checks before they can log in.
One key aspect of ZTNA is that users are required to sign in to their account every time they access your network, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
When security issues are identified, access may be blocked to ensure your network isn’t compromised. Following the principles of least privilege, you can also block some users from parts of your network. This will help ensure that sensitive information and company data aren’t ever at risk of being compromised.
If you don’t have some sort of zero-trust security solution like ZTNA implemented, we’d recommend adding one to your network as soon as possible. Learn more about ZTNA and why you need it in our article What is Zero Trust Network Access? (opens in new tab)
2. Don’t over-segment your system
Network segmentation is about breaking your network into smaller sub-networks that can have specific rules applied to them. However, there is such a thing as over-segmentation, and it’s something that you should never do.
Over-segmentation happens when you split your network into too many small groups. Small network groups can be useful, as they can reduce the size of a potential attack zone, improve your ability to contain security breaches, and help you provide granular permissions to specific users.
However, micro-segmentation can also result in issues such as workflow bottlenecks, poor implementation of security measures, and as a result, general system vulnerabilities. It can also make your operation much more complicated in general, which can lead to excessive mistakes and other issues.
The right balance will depend on your company. Ensure your IT teams have a clear network segmentation plan that has assessed the risk of over-segmentation and consult with them whenever you’re considering implementing new changes. You also need to make sure that your operations teams are appropriately trained and understand every aspect of their roles.
3. Implement strong endpoint protection
Network endpoints (such as laptops and smartphones) are often the target of attacks, and you should pay special attention to ensuring that they’re secure. These devices often contain sensitive information and are up there with the most frequent points of weakness in company networks.
One of the best ways to secure your endpoints is via an endpoint protection solution (opens in new tab). These generally include a range of protective measures, including robust access controls, enabling you to strongly secure your network.
On top of this, endpoint protection programs can be controlled from a central IT hub. You won’t have to install a security program on every endpoint device, which is very useful from a time and human resources point of view.
4. Scrutinize third-party access points
Most companies partner with at least a couple of third-party vendors or software programs to streamline specific workflows. But if they aren’t configured properly, third-party access points can become a major vulnerability for your network.
We’d recommend periodic checkups to ensure your access points are appropriately secured. There are a few best practices that can help you reduce vulnerabilities, including the addition of access notifications and/or access approvals.
It’s also worth ensuring that you limit the actions that external users can perform. This is one example of where micro-segmentation can become very useful, as it enables you to provide specific permissions to people like IT support professionals and other external contractors.
For example, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to employ an outside professional to help you deploy a new program. By restricting their network access to exactly what’s required to perform their job, you can ensure they don’t pose any risk to your organization.
5. Perform regular network audits
Regular network auditing will help you ensure your network segmentation efforts are effective. It will also help you keep an eye out for anything going wrong with your network, enabling you to address segmentation, security, or performance issues in a timely manner.
In simple terms, network auditing involves collecting data about the health and performance of your networks. This can be analyzed and studied to inform future management decisions and may provide insights into how successful past management actions have been.
To get started, you should create a full audit plan. Some common actions include reviewing your network access logs, ensuring all software updates are installed, reviewing your securing processes, and checking for unauthorized access.
Above all, a network audit will help you identify any vulnerabilities in your network. You can also use a technique that’s known as penetration testing to attempt to break into your network. This is another great way to identify issues that require attention.
Network segmentation can be extremely useful for larger companies that are having trouble managing their networks. It adds much more granular control while ensuring your company is fully protected in the case of a security breach or attack—when it’s set up properly, of course.
To find out more, you might like to read more about the growing importance of network segmentation for everyday businesses. (opens in new tab) You should also read about the benefits of integrating secure access server edge (SASE) with your network (opens in new tab) and how this relates to network segmentation.