Adaptive Segmentationmicro-segmentation February 18, 2021

5 Reasons Your Auditor Will Love Micro-Segmentation

Nathanael Iversen, Chief Evangelist

Auditors perform an important task for any information security team. Outside perspective gives the whole organization a chance to question stated and unstated assumptions around how things work and should work, and how the organization is secured. Often, this process is slow and cumbersome because the only way to talk about segmentation is in the language of IP addresses and TCP ports. When this level of detail is hard for internal team members to explain, it is nearly impossible for auditors to do their best work. Micro-segmentation removes the complexity of network-based firewall rules and provides a clear, easy-to-understand, pictorial representation of application connectivity.

Any auditor that audits a micro-segmented environment will have an easier, faster, and higher quality result. Here are five benefits auditors will love.

  1. Tighter controls. Micro-segmentation isolates assets by location, environment, application, role, and even port or process. This unprecedented granularity means that identified risk can be addressed with precision. Each application has the protection it needs, and more critical applications can have layered segmentation policies that tighten the closer one gets to the core services it provides. Micro-segmentation provides comprehensive segmentation policies that cover user access, data center core services, and all communication within the data center. This ensures that the whole application is protected on every communication pathway.
  2. Know exactly what is protected and how. Traditionally, auditors get handed long lists of IP addresses and network connections when they ask about firewall rules or how an application functions. At even a modest scale, this becomes difficult to understand. After all, one is barely familiar with the environment, let alone its network addressing and host-to-IP mappings! Micro-segmentation eliminates the endless tables of data and replaces it with a simple application dependency map. The map shows every flow clearly and distinguishes between external and internal application traffic. It also shows exactly how the segmentation policy covers the communications of the application. Micro-segmentation gives immediate and complete visibility into how the application functions and interacts on the network, and it demonstrates how the policy matches those patterns, making it easy to know exactly what is protected.
  3. Know every person and policy affecting the asset. Provided that the segmentation policy tightly controls the asset at risk, any auditor would turn attention towards the stability and permanence of the policy. Who can adjust the policy? Did they? Have any changes been made to the policy since the last audit? In an increasingly automated world, it is common for automation or API calls to manage parts of security policy. With a quality micro-segmentation solution, every API access is auditable in the exact same way as human administrators. If the policy protecting an asset has bits inherited from a data center level policy, then seeing all the policies in one place gives a complete picture of the protection for an asset. With micro-segmentation, an auditor can ensure that only authorized people, programs, and policies have interacted with the security control for a given asset.
  4. Easily verify the implementation of the control. So far, we have considered how to know what is protected, how, and by whom. Next, consider the implementation itself. Where is the control active? And can I know that it was indeed active the entire time? With micro-segmentation, the implementation covers every server in the application. This distributed protection ensures that no single point of failure exists. Each component of the application has its own protection, ensuring great resiliency in the face of even a breach or compromise. It will be easy to know that the entire policy has been successfully implemented on every application server, VM, or containerized process.
  5. It’s easier! Auditing network security has been burdensome for far too long. Micro-segmentation removes the need to comb through tables of IP addresses and TCP ports. The segmentation policy is written in plain language. When the rule simply says, “The processing tier of the ordering application can talk to the database cluster on port 3306,” everyone knows what that means immediately. Micro-segmentation works on a strict Zero Trust model. Anything not permitted is denied. This means that no one has to think of all the things that should be blocked. The only focus is on least-privileged access. This focus makes the segmentation policy compact and simple. Everything not specified is denied. Audits require attention to detail and extreme thoroughness, but they don’t have to be hard.

With micro-segmentation, understanding and quantifying the controls placed on a given asset are easy and fast. Micro-segmentation provides tight application, port, and process level controls to restrict communications to the bare minimum. When coupled with a Zero Trust policy model and an application dependency map, these controls are easy to understand, visualize, and confirm. Detailed policy controls ensure that only the valid administrators, API calls, and policies affect the active controls. Distributed enforcement means that the implementation of the segmentation policy spreads across every application component. A micro-segmentation policy is durable and resilient. When the essential information for an audit is presented cleanly and clearly, attention rises from merely seeking to understand to adding value through insight. Micro-segmentation helps every auditor deliver their best value to the client organization.

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