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Zero Trust Segmentation

10 Reasons State and Local Governments Should Implement Zero Trust Segmentation

It’s easy to assume that threat actors prioritize commercial targets over government — private sector organizations are perceived to have more valuable data and deeper pockets to exploit.  

But that’s simply a myth. Government resources make tempting targets for several reasons, including ideological views, propaganda, infrastructure disruption, dismantling trust, and financial gain. State and local governments are critical to their communities, and it’s critical that they’re secure against inevitable breaches and ransomware attacks. That's why it's essential for state and local governments to implement Zero Trust Segmentation (ZTS), also called microsegmentation.

Here are 10 reasons why state and local governments need to implement Zero Trust Segmentation.

1. Microsegmentation gives consistent, end-to-end visibility across the entire attack surface

You can’t enforce what you can’t see. An essential first step to seeing your agency’s vulnerabilities and containing inevitable breaches is being able to visualize current network traffic.

Zero Trust Segmentation enables a complete view of all application behavior across all resources across all agency environments, revealing all dependencies. This is the first step in deciding what to segment.

Microsegmentation: A screenshot of a computer description automatically generated
Illumio visualizes all traffic between all agencies, discovering all dependencies

2. Protect critical data and resources

Once you get complete visibility into network connectivity, you can start securing your most important data, applications, systems, and resources with Zero Trust Segmentation.

Microsegmentation is foundational to any Zero Trust infrastructure, allowing you to push the trust boundary directly to every workload without relying on any existing network boundaries. You can segment anything from the entire data center all the way to a specific process on a specific workload.  

When breaches and ransomware attacks inevitably happen, Zero Trust Segmentation immediately contains the attack at its source, protecting critical elements and limiting the attack's impact. During an active breach, Zero Trust Segmentation helps protect data and keep operations up-and-running by helping security teams understand access to systems, implement security policies to limit systems access, and report and analyze all traffic that doesn't match rules.  

3. Dramatically reduce ransomware risk

All attacks, including ransomware, share one thing in common: they like to move. Whether ransomware is created by an international cybercrime gang or an opportunistic, small-scale hacker, they all want to propagate between workloads as quickly as possible.

Nearly all attacks use a small set of known ports, including protocols RDP, SMD, and SSH. Threat actors use these ports because they’re usually left open on most modern operating systems but often go unnoticed and forgotten by IT teams. This makes them an easy, quiet place to access the network.

With Zero Trust Segmentatation, security teams can enable security policies that immediately block these ports on all resources, dramatically reducing ransomware risk. Teams can easily make exceptions to allow only resources that need to communicate with the ports to get access.

Doing so will dramatically reduce vulnerability risk. If one workload is infected, it won’t be able to spread through the rest of the network and impact other resources in the agency.  

4. Test policies before deployment

With many public sector agencies relying on limited budgets and personnel, it’s important that security gets implemented right the first time — without the need for constant rollbacks and adjustments.  

Security teams can avoid this problem with Illumio’s simulation mode. Illumio will simulate the effects new rules would have once deployed without the need to ever deploy them. This enables teams to modify and fine-tune policy while in simulation mode.

With Illumio’s simulation mode, security teams can reduce the time spent on policy fixes, maintain positive relationships with application owners, and ensure security doesn’t impact agency operations.

5. Automate incident response to ransomware

In any security architecture, the slowest link in the workflow chain is between the keyboard and the chair. Most modern cyberattacks will spread faster than any human — and sometimes detection tool — is able to respond to and contain the attack. Attack response requires an automated solution.

Zero Trust Segmentation offers automated modification of policy changes from external sources through integration with SOAR solutions.

For example, if Splunk receives an alert about a new zero-day malware using a port which is currently allowed between workloads, Illumio’s SOAR plugin for Splunk will send API calls from Splunk to Illumio. Illumio will automatically deploy Enforcement Boundaries to close the port without requiring any manual intervention.  

6. Get Zero Trust security for remote users

Just a few years ago, most public sector critical resources were accessed by secure on-premises data centers. But today’s reality is that many of these resources are now accessed from anywhere — remotely.  

While many agencies are replacing legacy VPN access methods with ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) solutions, it’s not enough to stop and contain the spread of breaches and ransomware attacks when they inevitably happen.

By pairing ZTNA with ZTS, security teams can ensure that workloads have least-privilege access both at the network perimeter and inside the network. Zero Trust Segmentation easily integrates with your existing ZTNA solution, like Appgate, to provide end-to-end Zero Trust security.  

7. Secure legacy and end-of-life resources

Many government agencies continue to operate using legacy and end-of-life resources that often don’t support third-party software deployments. Or, even if deploying software is possible, there are compliance regulations that prohibit it.  

Zero Trust Segmentation enables a Zero Trust security architecture with or without an agent.  

Illumio can also integrate directly with IBM hardware via tools such as Precisely. This enables Illumio to consume telemetry from the IBM server and then push policy directly to the server, enabling IBM hardware to be fully integrated into a complete Zero Trust security architecture.

8. Avoid legal consequences from paying ransom

When ransomware hijacks an organization, it’s often perceived as easier and cheaper to pay the ransom. But for public sector agencies, doing so runs the risk of violating government sanctions.

U.S. agencies, in particular, risk federal legal consequences for “doing business” with terrorists if they transfer ransom money to any countries on the U.S. government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions List. And in October 2023, 40 countries, including the U.S., agreed to not pay ransom to cybercriminals. While this statement didn’t lay out the groundwork for specific mandates or consequences, it may lead to further action by global governments.  

Even though ransomware attacks are inevitable, Zero Trust Segmentation contains ransomware and stops it from accessing the data and resources agencies need to maintain operations. This means agencies have time for remediation after a breach rather than being pressured to pay a ransom to get systems back online.  

9. Fulfill compliance requirements

Nearly all state and local agencies fall under some kind of regulations that require compliance to certain security requirements.  

Oftentimes, these requirements are based on the recent OMB Zero Trust Memo issued by the White House in January 2022. This mandate requires federal agencies to implement the Zero Trust security model as defined in the CISA Zero Trust Maturity Model (ZTMM). While the mandate is not specifically for state and local governments, many public sector agencies follow these guidelines.  

CISA’s model includes five pillars of protection, including identity, devices, networks, applications and workloads, and data. Zero Trust Segmentation enables agencies to secure all five of the pillars via one unified security platform. This allows agencies to implement the same level of cybersecurity as that used by federal agencies.

10. See efficient, measurable ROI

With limited funding and resources, it's more important than ever that the agencies can ensure maximum return on their security investment.   

Zero Trust Segmentation provides reliable, scalable, and fast breach containment, giving you quick wins and the peace of mind that security breaches won't become disasters. Even better, ESG research shows that organizations who have adopted ZTS are able to avert 5 cyber disasters annually, can accelerate 14 more digital transformation projects, and are 2.7 times more likely to have a highly effective attack response process. Read how Illumio customers are seeing reliable security ROI.

Get more information in our brief: Illumio for State and Local Governments.

Ready to learn more about Zero Trust Segmentation? Contact us today for a free consultation and demo.

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