Importance of Network Segmentation for Cybersecurity in Small Businesses

importance of network segmentation

Importance of Network Segmentation for Cybersecurity in Small Businesses

Owners and managers of small businesses may think they are immune to attacks from cybercriminals because they believe larger enterprises would seem to be a much more appealing target.

But security through obscurity is not a viable defense against computer hackers who have all the time in the world and plenty of software tools to gain access to systems lacking defenses or whose defense is minimal and outdated. To make a computer system safer, information technology professionals now rely on network segmentation.

What Network Segmentation Is

Essentially, network segmentation is the process of dividing a network into different segments, according to how much protection they warrant. It protects information and also helps you visualize it better. When you connect multiple devices to the same network, they can have insight into the network traffic of all the devices in your setup. Properly segmenting your networks is crucial for increasing the security of your data.

You isolate different parts of your computer network from one another in network segmentation. The idea is that if a criminal hacker penetrates one lower-level network, he or she won’t be able to leverage that access to gain entry into a more valuable network, such as a database holding customers’ payment details.

When you segment your networks, it’s easier to protect them all by applying appropriate levels of security to them.

Why Network Segmentation is Important for Small Businesses

You must adhere to network segmentation best practices because the safety and security of your business are at stake.

You’ll be able to defend your computational infrastructure more effectively. Only users with a need to know will be given access to sensitive databases. After all, customer service representatives do not need to access confidential contracts under negotiation, for example, and tech support doesn’t require access to the customer analytics data used by your marketing department.

Network segmentation gives you enhanced insight into your enterprise, to see where and how data traffic is moving. With segmentation, you can balance the network for better performance (less data congestion slowing things down).

One of the most crucial benefits of network segmentation is that it reduces a criminal’s ability to move around the system at will. A hacker who gets into one employee’s workstation should be kept away from other workstations. The attempt to breach security on other workstations will evident to the IT security team faster when the networks are segmented and separate.

Another benefit is that once you segment your networks, it will be less of a chore to ensure you are staying compliant with privacy regulations. And the critical systems you’ve created will be safer if segmented. All your mission-critical servers deserve the highest level of threat mitigation.

Keep low-level and untrustworthy networks away from valuable and high-level networks. Internet of Things or IoT devices for weather updates, thermostats, and printers have no business being connected to payroll computers.

And speaking of devices over which you have little control, it would be a good idea to examine your company’s “bring your own device” or BYOD policy. It’s not safe to let workers access company servers with their own phone when your IT department can’t control the phone’s security updates.

If employees carry their own phone for use with company data, they will have to grant permission to the IT department the ability to wipe their phone’s memory clean remotely in the event of a hacker intrusion or other computer security threat.

What Happens When Network Segmentation Isn’t Implemented

To help you make the case about pursuing network segmentation with your fellow stakeholders, it’s useful to consider examples of what can happen when companies fail to deploy this basic security.

In 2013, criminal hackers penetrated Target’s defenses, exposing customer data and putting them at risk for identity theft, and drained bank accounts. The attackers were able to get inside Target because the business had not segregated the systems it uses to take care of payment information. It was trivial for criminals to use a password they stole from an HVAC company contracted by Target to perform work.

Unfortunately, seemingly innocuous devices can put an organization at risk, with owners never knowing about the danger until it’s too late. For example, in 2018, a criminal managed to gain access to a casino’s lobby thermometer, which was connected to the Internet to provide real-time reports of changes in the temperature.

From the poorly-protected thermometer, the criminal was able to access the casino’s database. There’s no reason for an IoT device like a simple thermometer to be able to connect with a company’s treasure trove of information about customers and their spending patterns.

These examples underscore the risk small business owners face when they fail to secure their networks against outside intruders. Hackers can strike a company from any point on the planet as long as they have an internet connection and a laptop, tablet, or phone.

How to Get Started with Network Segmentation

Begin by identifying the systems you are using and determine which networks need to be isolated. For example, your payroll information does not need to be stored in the same location as you process customer service inquiries. And a smart thermostat used to govern your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system should not be linked with a computer network that includes notes about all interactions between customers and your help desk.

If your IT department is small or if you only have part-time, outside help for network matters, it’s time to partner with a third-party consultant. Working with experts who focus on network security will save you time and effort and will give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve hired a professional team that can keep your intellectual property and sensitive customer data safe and secure.

Working With IT Professionals to Boost Security With Network Segmentation

As a small business owner, you should know it’s important to use the latest in software and technology to protect your assets. The data you gather and store on your network needs protection from criminal computer hackers. By following network segmentation best practices, you’ll make your business safer against attacks. To learn about our approach to network segmentation or to consult with us about how to protect your company’s sensitive data, contact Millennia today.