A new security approach for the modern network

Issue 1 2021 Information Security

In a digitally transforming world, where a large portion of an organisation’s crucial data and applications reside in the cloud, the traditional firewall is no longer as effective as it used to be. Firewalls have been gatekeepers, preventing cybercriminals from accessing the corporate network, however, these have become ineffective on their own and cannot protect businesses from rapidly evolving cyber threats. Security breaches are now becoming a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

Although traditional firewalls are important in any security strategy, as they protect the north/south flow of traffic, today some 85% of organisational traffic runs east/west – in other words, across the network, rather than in and out of it, and that poses a serious problem for organisations.

Patrick Assheton-Smith, CEO of Symbiosis IT, explains that while perimeter defence remains important, many of today’s threats come from within. Whether this is a machine compromised externally that has since been brought in and connected to the corporate network, or a criminal gaining access through a successful phishing attack, obtaining clear visibility of your east/west traffic is more critical than ever.

“This is where micro-segmentation comes in. Micro-segmentation creates secure zones across cloud and data centre environments, allowing you to isolate application workloads and secure them individually, using a zero-trust security approach to reduce attack surfaces,” he says. “This means less traditional firewalling and VLANs, with more control.”

Micro-segmentation, he points out, enables you to control the flow of traffic more easily and securely. The reason it is not well known and used more widely is simply that it is generally viewed as a complex undertaking.

Symbiosis IT is able to reduce this difficulty by using Guardicore, which is significantly easier to implement than most other micro-segmentation solutions. Being software, it essentially allows you to put an agent on every machine, server and workstation in your organisation. This gives you control at a level below the ports and destinations secured by firewalls, allowing you to secure where the processes running on each machine can talk.

“Guardicore is designed for the way we build networks today, which are too agile and dynamic for static firewalls to cope with on their own. Not only does this micro-segmentation tool enable agility, it also reduces complexity from a networking perspective, and the enormous security benefits it offers far outweigh whatever complexity it does add.”

Assheton-Smith notes that by virtue of having an agent on every machine, it becomes possible to finitely control and thoroughly visualise the network traffic right down to the process level and to create security policies to govern every machine.

“Statistics show that the average dwell time to discover a breach is 191 days, which is a long time for the bad guys to have access to your systems before you learn about it. Remember, any breach has the potential to damage your business, your earnings and your reputation significantly.

“Micro-segmentation is recommended to reduce not only attack surfaces, but also the so-called ‘blast radius’ – if a criminal gets in, they are unable to get further into the network. Guardicore is, therefore, key to eliminating blind spots, improving detection time and reducing dwell time.”

What sets this solution apart, he indicates, is that it is possible to deploy some form of security within a matter of weeks. The company’s security expert can then tweak and improve this over the following weeks, making the network even more secure. This is possible thanks to a dashboard that allows them to clearly visualise the entire network and create policies quickly, accurately and effectively.

“Micro-segmentation may not be simple, or necessarily cheap, but the value it offers is such that my advice to organisations of all sizes is this: if for any reason you cannot start big, then start small, but the sooner you start with micro-segmentation, the safer you will be,” concludes Assheton-Smith.

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